Kate Middleton has officially been named the new royal patron of the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League, a patronage previously held by her brother-in-law Prince Harry. Kensington Palace confirmed the new patronage on Wednesday, Feb. 2, sharing in a statement, per Entertainment Tonight, that the new patronage closely aligns with "her Royal Highness' longstanding passion for sport and the lifelong benefits it can provide, both within our communities and on an individual level."
Middleton showed up for her first day on the job on Wednesday, with the Duchess of Cambridge making an appearance at Twickenham Stadium to meet England players from the men's and women's squads, coaches, and referees. Middleton also joined a training session that took place on the pitch. Highlights from the visit were shared in a post to the official Cambridge family Instagram account, where Middleton said she was "so thrilled" to have the patronage assigned to her. She said the two organizations "are committed to harnessing the power that sport can have in bringing communities together and helping individuals flourish" and said she looks "forward to working with them across all levels of the games, and to cheering England on in what promises to be an exciting year for both sports!"
Ralph Rimmer, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, said in a statement that the league is "delighted to welcome" Middleton as their Royal Patron. Rimmer added, "we look forward to working with The Duchess in the years to come, and I know all levels of our sport will welcome her to the Rugby League family." Bill Sweeney, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football Union, added, "It is a great honour to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge as our Patron...we know the support of The Duchess will be greatly valued from our grass roots clubs and fast-growing women and girls' game, right up to our elite Men's and Women's England teams."
The patronage marks the first of Harry's to be redistributed to other members of the British royal family by Queen Elizabeth following his and Meghan Markle's official resignation as working royals back in January 2021. At the time, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple's military, Commonwealth, and Charitable associations would "therefore be returned to Her Majesty" and would then be "redistributed among working members of The Royal Family."
Prior to stepping back as senior royals, Harry had been the Royal Patron of the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League since 2016. The Rugby Football League is the national governing body for Rugby League in the U.K. and covers all forms of grassroots and the professional game, including women's and wheelchair rugby. The Rugby Football Union is the national governing body for grassroots and elite rugby union in England.