Meghan Markle is kicking off the year with a major to-do list.
The Duchess of Sussex, who is expecting her first child this spring, has officially chosen the causes she will champion in her royal life, her office at Kensington Palace announced on Thursday. As expected, they encapsulate some of her established interests in the arts, empowering young women, supporting girls’ education and animal welfare.
Her experience as an actress led to the National Theatre being named as one of her patronages. It is one of the roles handed to her by her grandmother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. The National Theatre is one of the U.K.’s most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues.
The Association of Commonwealth Universities was also named as one of her patronages, and it is an organization she visited last month — one of many that she made as she planned her royal work. Established in 1913, the Association of Commonwealth Universities is the world’s first international university network, and remains the only accredited organization representing higher education across the Commonwealth.
The other two are Smart Works, which helps longterm unemployed and vulnerable women regain the skills, confidence and tools to succeed at job interviews, return to employment and transform their lives, and the animal welfare charity Mayhew. It is a grassroots charity working to improve the lives of animals and people to better communities both in London and internationally.
Her office at Kensington Palace said in a statement, “The Duchess is delighted to become Patron of both national and grassroots organizations that are part of the fabric of the U.K., and is very much looking forward to working with them to bring wider public attention to their causes. Her Royal Highness feels she can use her position to focus attention on, and make a particular difference to these organizations and, more widely, the sectors they each represent.”
Meghan has long been a vocal feminist, working with organizations like One World Vision to learn about the challenges women and girls living in Dubai and Mumbai. She also served as an ambassador for United Nations Women. And when she was just 11 years old, she wrote to Procter and Gamble because she thought one of their advertisements was sexist. Her tactic was effective: the company ended up changing their slogan to make it more gender inclusive.
In December, Meghan spoke with a group of students and leaders at King’s College London as part of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) to discuss the importance and impact of higher education. She also got personal about her own college experience during a speech from her royal tour in Fiji back in October.
The former Suits star, 37, is also championing the theater. She first hinted that it was an area of interest during her December visit to Brinsworth House, a residential nursing and care home for British entertainers run by the Royal Variety Charity.
Reacting to the news, Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre thanked the Queen for “long and unwavering support and service,” and added, “The Duchess shares our deeply-held conviction that theatre has the power to bring together people from all communities and walks of life. I very much look forward to working closely with Her Royal Highness in the years to come.”
Dr. Joanna Newman, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU, said Meghan “shares our passion for the transformational power of higher education, and Her Royal Highness’ support will help champion higher education as a force for good in the Commonwealth and beyond. We would like to thank Her Majesty The Queen for her support, and we look forward to working closely with The Duchess as our Patron.”
At Smart Works, Chair and Founder Juliet Hughes-Hallett, said, “An acknowledged champion of women and their rights worldwide, the Duchess will motivate ever more women to come to our centres and get the job that will transform their lives. The Duchess’s patronage will inspire the women we serve and help them reach for the stars.”
Caroline Yates, CEO of Mayhew said they were “excited” to welcome Meghan as patron. “Mayhew works to improve the lives of dogs, cats and the people in our community, tackling the root cause of animal abandonment and neglect and supporting vulnerable people to stay with their companion pets. The Duchess has spent many years championing animal welfare, and we are honored to have our charity represented by such a passionate Patron.”
Meghan’s move mirrors Kate Middleton’s action of choosing an initial set of patronages in January 2012 – the first new year after she had wed Prince William in April 2011. At the time, Kate signaled many of the areas that would guide her current working life, including East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, Action on Addiction and the Art Room, both of which help vulnerable young people, and the National Portrait Gallery. She also became a supporter of the Scouts.