Friday, 18 June 2021

The Duchess of Cambridge Reveals Plans for Early Childhood Research Centre

The Duchess of Cambridge has announced the next step in her early years work: the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which launches tomorrow. The centre will study the root causes of multiple social issues, including violence and addiction, and focus on three areas: promoting and commissioning high-quality research to increase knowledge and share best practice; working with people from across the private, public and voluntary sectors to collaborate on new solutions; and developing creative campaigns to raise awareness and inspire action, driving real, positive change on the early years.

The Duchess said, "Working closely with others, the centre hopes to raise awareness of why the first five years of life are just so important for our future life outcomes, and what we can do as a society to embrace this golden opportunity to create a happier, more mentally healthy, more nurturing society. By working together, my hope is that we can change the way we think about early childhood, and transform lives for generations to come."

The BBC reports:

'The centre will focus on research, working with people across the private, public and voluntary sectors on new solutions and campaigning to raise awareness.'

The center, at Kensington Palace, will be run by the Royal Foundation. People writes:

'The center, which will be staffed initially with half a dozen people, aims to promote and commission research, work with the public, private and voluntary sectors to come up with answers and create imaginative campaigns to raise awareness and inspire change.'

Alongside tomorrow's launch, the centre has completed its inaugural report, 'Big Change Starts Small', bringing a wealth of leading research together in one place. It also sets out "recommendations on how all aspects of society can contribute positively and make a difference on this important issue". Writing in the report's foreword, Kate said:

"Our first five years lay important foundations for our future selves. This period is when we first learn to manage our emotions and impulses, to care and to empathise, and thus ultimately to establish healthy relationships with ourselves and others.

"It is a time when our experience of the world around us, and the way that moulds our development, can have a lifelong impact on our future mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, what shapes our childhood shapes the adults and the parents we become."

A video shared by the Palace entitled 'Ten years in the making' includes images of the Duchess from the past decade with captions from Kate reflecting on the journey. "My early years journey began by meeting people rebuilding their lives from addiction, homelessness and family breakdown. Listening to these experiences I came to understand that poor mental health and a traumatic childhood shaped their lives". Kate continued: "I wanted to do more to help prevent those social challenges by improving mental health", adding recent years have led to the "realisation that we need to change the way we think about early childhood. And that starts now..."

The news was teased on the Cambridges' Instagram page last week when the Duchess joined First Lady Dr Jill Biden for a roundtable discussion with leading experts on the topic. Sharing that the "major announcement" would elevate the "importance of early childhood and continue the conversation" on the issue. The engagement, which was held against the backdrop of the G7 Summit, coincided with the release of a joint piece for CNN by Kate and Jill: 'This is what our kids deserve'. In the piece, the pair wrote, "We both believe that part of this vision for the future must include a fundamental shift in how our countries approach the earliest years of life. If we care about how children perform at school, how they succeed in their careers when they are older, and about their lifelong mental and physical health, then we have to care about how we are nurturing their brains, their experiences and relationships in the early years before school."

The G7 appearance with Dr Jill Biden was followed closely by an exclusive article written by the Telegraph's Camilla Tominey, who was granted interviews with several leading figures in early years and Palace aides, including a name many of you will recognise from Kate's first years as a member of the Royal family -- Rebecca Priestley.

The then Rebecca Deacon, with her cut-glass accent and attention to detail, landed her big break in 2007 when she worked on the Concert for Diana as an assistant to the producers. Over the next several years she worked for William and Harry. Shortly after the royal engagement, it was decided Rebecca was the ideal person to fulfill the position of private secretary for the newlywed Duchess.

Now an executive coach, Rebecca spoke to Tominey on the record for the first time about those earliest days. Recalling a visit to Anglesey, where the Cambridges resided primarily following their wedding, she revealed:

"I remember going up to Anglesey, where they were living after the wedding, to have a conversation with the Duchess about her royal life.

At that point, she had the philanthropic world at her feet. She could have done anything she wanted in the charitable arena. Typically, she had put a lot of thought into it already. Addiction was an issue she was instinctively thinking about – but she was also genuinely interested in understanding what support was there and what role that played in the bigger picture of mainstream societal issues."

A 2012 visit to Action on Addiction's Clouds House would strengthen Kate's growing interest in the importance of the earliest years of a child's life.

"It was a profoundly powerful moment,” recalled Mrs Priestley. "You go in there with this preconceived idea that these women have done things wrong, that it was their fault. Then one woman started speaking to the Duchess about her earliest memories of seeing needles on the floor of her home.

She had always thought addiction was a misunderstood issue, but after this, she became concerned that there was a pre-destiny about those affected – an inevitability about it. These women were born into it and there was very little chance of escape."

The visit to Clouds House, Tominey writes, would "set in train a sequence of events" culminating today with Kate "stepping up her ambition in driving awareness and action on the impact that early childhood can have on society at large". The Royal Foundation's chairman, Lord William Hague, described the "ambitious" project as "equal in stature" to William’s £50 million Earthshot Prize. Hague believes it is the "central plank" of Kate's efforts, adding it's a "hugely significant moment". The former leader of the Conservative Party told The Telegraph, "While politicians are often in a rush to make a difference during the comparatively short time they have in office, royals are there for life, which perhaps explains why Kate has taken 10 years to get to this point."

In a speech on the importance of early years following the 5 Big Questions survey, the Duchess said, "People often ask why I care so passionately about the early years. Many mistakenly believe that my interest stems from having children of my own. While of course I care hugely about their start in life, this ultimately sells the issue short. Parenthood isn't a prerequisite for understanding the importance of the early years. If we only expect people to take an interest in the early years when they have children, we are not only too late for them, we are underestimating the huge role others can play in shaping our most formative years too." Kate concluded: "Because I truly believe, big change starts small."

In the image shared above, the Duchess wore her LAUREN Ralph Lauren Nadalia top (with thanks to Kate's Closet). The £99 puff sleeve top is described: "This top from Lauren Ralph Lauren puts a new spin on the jersey top with a ribbed texture. Neat fitting with gentle puff sleeves, the square neckline adds an ultra-feminine twist." It's currently sold out.

Kate accessorised with her Freya Rose pearl hoop earrings and Daniella Draper personalised G, C & L necklace.

We will see the Duchess for the official launch tomorrow (Friday)! We'll also hear about the launch of a new website helping to raise awareness about early childhood. It will also act as a home for the centre's research.


  1. Susan in Florida18 June 2021 at 01:49

    This is a wonderful day for the Duchess, she has brought her concerns to fruition .

  2. Catherine has just shown everyone how to set and accomplish small step goals that are cumulative to a big milestone that has the potential to shape and improve so many lives. Best wishes as her Centre opens. I wish her the very best in all this entails.

    Border Terrier lover

  3. ILoveElephants18 June 2021 at 03:11

    I love this project and opening of the new research center. I think many people tend to overlook how much a person’s childhood affects their adult life. I am studying to become a dietician and food is the same way. If you feed your kids unhealthy foods in childhood they most likely will continue to eat unhealthy in adulthood which can astronomically increase their chances of developing diabetes heart disease etc. On the contrary feeding and introducing your kids to healthy foods can benefit them throughout their life. I hope Kate or somebody else does a nutrition spin off of early years.

  4. This is wonderful. I’ve experienced this problem first hand. The biggest barrier for many families is the cost of quality childhood education and care. Countries like Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany have invested in their children and their governmental budgets reflect this priority. As a result, many programs are free or heavily subsidized for families. It’s such a no brainer because the research on brain development and the most effective programs and training already exist. If the UK and the US governments are willing to prioritize funding, the templates are there.

    -a big YES to quality, free early childhood programs.

    1. Yes. But there is the other side of the question. How to allow parents to care for their children in those early years when the thing they need most is unconditional love.

    2. I don’t understand your question. Please explain what you mean by unconditional love? VS. conditional love? Are working parents with young children and unconditional love the issue?

      I love my children and I also work because rent payment, car payment, food, electricity, childcare, taxes all have to be paid. There’s no question about love- conditional or unconditional- because the practicalities of life dictates work. Plus I like my job and now with covid, it’s essential work according to the government.

      Working mums are capable of doing both just like working dads. But it seems dads don’t get the “unconditional love” question. Why is that? Other countries like France value parents by making sure support is available by budgeting accordingly. The problem parents face is finding quality and affordable childcare. Childcare workers like homecare workers are also poorly paid and often are immigrants.

      -Say Yes to universal early childhood education

  5. This is a great project for her. I'm also impressed with how her style has grownup thru the years. She looks great and that's due to her comfort level and better photographers, too.

  6. As an Early Intervention specialist in the US, I cannot adequately articulate how thrilled I am that Kate is choosing to focus her royal career on what I believe—and what the research glaringly, consistently shows—is the foundation of our society. We know that brain architecture is heavily shaped in the first five years of a child’s life, and that the child’s earliest environment will interact with his/her unique genetic make-up in order to create a foundation that will truly go the distance for the remainder of that human being’s life. This is practically a scientific axiom by now!

    We have an immediate and critical choice: to build a healthy, robust foundation in our children, or to build a foundation that leaves the child vulnerable to a lifetime of battles and fall-outs. The choice is NOT whether we build a foundation; that is a given. The question is which type of foundation we will build!

    Parents and caregivers need resources and support. Parents and caregivers need community and accurate information about constructing a solid foundation. Parents and caregivers need these reliable, attuned systems in place from the moment they are expecting, if not before.

    I am hopeful that Kate will enlist the research of developmental trauma specialists, as well as Infant Mental Health experts, in her critical work. She has so much influence, and I am beyond grateful she is using it in this vital way!


  7. This makes me even more committed to following her. I mean, I've been here on this blog for ten years and still at times think these people matter little to the world at large, but this is a wise and hopeful culmination and commencement both that I admire very, very much and that I can see mattering in a profound way. I first began to think the royals may matter when Charles and Diana, despite the soap opera nature of their relationship, championed causes that I very much valued in the 1980s and 90s. But their melodrama drove me away in disgust. Starting in 2011 I learned from this blog how much good in the world was done by various royals for various causes, and this tips the balance heavily in favor of continuing to follow and support their efforts to better the world. Kudos, Kate.

  8. Hmm the duchess of Cambridge I'm impressed with her new style and how Catherine involve in her early years of royal family member up to now I applaud her great passion in early years ...too I hope these wonderful project will reach all over the world the just United Kingdom and USA but also in Asian countries as well...

  9. What a wonderful and well thought out project. I love how Catherine follows through on all her patronage’s and takes them to another level. I think Catherine and Sophie are the future of the Royal ladies plus Camilla. All 3 are very educated, dedicated and are wonderful at establishing long term projects that really help and make a difference to people’s lived.

  10. Outstanding work from Kate. Bravo

  11. Zora from Prague18 June 2021 at 12:03

    Brava Kate! I believe the new Centre can achieve a lot and make a difference on so many fronts. And I wholeheartedly agree: big change starts small. It's the small, achievable, inconspicuous steps that can bring about lasting effect, be it in the sphere of education, relationships among people, healthcare or elsewhere.

  12. Will we be seeing Kate today? It’s midday in the UK and we haven’t see her yet?

    1. Hello,

      The engagement is embargoed but we'll definitely see Kate at some point today.

  13. Catherine is great! I wish they would have another baby.

    1. It would be nice if when woman accomplish something they are praised for their work instead of comments regarding their family size.

  14. Kate should be so very proud of this accomplishment. I agree with another comment that spoke to her seeing things through to the end. What a great program for the UK.

  15. Great work. She is a great asset to the RF and the firm.


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