The Duchess of Cambridge will become the first member of the Royal Family to take on one of Prince Harry’s patronages when she is announced as the new figurehead of English rugby.
Kate, 40, is due to be unveiled as the patron of the Rugby Football Union ‘imminently’, sources told the Daily Mail. Her role sets her up in direct competition with William, who became patron of the Welsh Rugby Union in 2016. The move comes ahead of England’s Six Nations campaign, which begins next week.
Harry was forced to step down from the role of RFU patron last year after he and Meghan confirmed to the Queen that they would not be returning as working royals. Their decision followed a year-long ‘cooling off’ period after they acrimoniously quit royal life and settled in the US.
Harry himself took over the patronage from the Queen in 2016. Before that he was vice patron from 2010 and was seen as a committed ambassador for the England side. He even went on an alleged 25-hour drinking session with the team in Paris in 2007 after they lost the World Cup.
But Buckingham Palace made clear that the Queen had no choice but to ask Harry and Meghan to relinquish their ties with the charities and organisations she had given them due to their decision to pursue commercial careers. The palace’s statement, released last February, said their ‘honorary military appointments and royal patronages’ will be ‘returned to Her Majesty before being redistributed’.
Until now, no member of the Royal Family has been handed one of the Sussexes’ patronages. Some suspect the Queen did not want to risk antagonising her grandson, who has spent much of the past two years taking pot-shots at his family from across the Atlantic. ‘People just tread a bit carefully when it comes to them,’ one source remarked.
But with the Six Nations Championship coming up next week, the need for a figurehead is pressing.