Britain's Queen Elizabeth passes Harry’s rugby patronages over to Kate

Britain's Queen Elizabeth Passes Harry’s Rugby Patronages Over To Kate
Harry, William and Kate at the England v Wales Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham in 2015, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter

Kate Middleton has taken over Prince Harry’s former roles as patron of the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Rugby Football League (RFL).

Kate was given the royal patronages by Britain's Queen Elizabeth, and Kensington Palace said the high-profile sporting appointments “closely align with Her Royal Highness’ long-standing passion for sport and the lifelong benefits it can provide”.


It makes the duchess the first member of the royal family to officially receive one of the Sussexes’ past patronages, and the confirmation comes ahead of the start of the Guinness Six Nations tournament this weekend.


Kate’s new affiliation with England Rugby puts her in direct competition with husband Prince William, who is the Welsh Rugby Union’s patron.

The duchess is herself expected to one day become the Princess of Wales, and she has supported Wales at matches with William in the past.

In 2015, the Cambridges backed Wales when they joined thousands of fans to watch the team’s 2015 Rugby World Cup clash against England at Twickenham.

Kate and William proudly sported the Welsh colours and sang the Welsh national anthem, while Harry wore an England rugby shirt with the message “Carry Them Home” at the back.


The Cambridges are already known for their friendly rivalry with one another, particularly during on-pitch sporting engagements.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2015 – Pool A – England v Wales – Twickenham Stadium
Harry, William and Kate during the England v Wales Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham Stadium in 2015 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Kate, 40, grew up watching England rugby games with the Middletons.


A source said: “The duchess has happy memories of watching rugby matches with her family as a child.”

The duchess’s sister, Pippa Matthews, opened up about the family’s love of rugby for Vanity Fair in 2014, writing: “Rugby was a big thing in our family, and the focal point was international matches, which were often played on Saturday afternoons and were as much social as sporting occasions.

“We’d plan our weekends around the matches.”

She added: “If we lost, my dad would be in a state of despair for the rest of the afternoon, as if he’d actually lost the game himself.”


It has long been reported that the duchess, seen as a safe pair of hands by the Queen, would be filling the gap left by Harry when he was stripped of the roles in February last year.

The duke, a passionate rugby fan who celebrated with England when they won the rugby union World Cup in 2003, had acted as RFU patron since 2016, and patron of RFL since 2017, taking over the roles from his grandmother.

Prince Harry visits rugby programme
Harry taking part in an RFU-backed rugby programme in Stockport, Greater Manchester in 2016 (Peter Byrne/PA)

After Megxit, he initially retained the positions and wanted to keep them.

But he was later stripped of all his royal patronages, along with his honorary military appointments, after talks with the Queen and senior royals as part of the 12-month review of the Sussexes’ decision to step down as senior working royals and move to the US.

A source at the time said Harry had “absolutely, no question” wanted to keep the roles he lost.

The RFU and RFL both welcomed Kate’s appointment on Wednesday.

Bill Sweeney, chief executive of the RFU said: “It is a great honour to welcome the Duchess of Cambridge as our patron.

“Our aim is to enrich lives, introduce more people to rugby union, develop the sport for future generations and create a successful, thriving game across the country.

“As rugby clubs have reopened across the country, players, officials, and volunteers are celebrating being back in the game together, and we know the support of the duchess will be greatly valued from our grassroots clubs and fast-growing women and girls’ game, right up to our elite men’s and women’s England teams.”

Royals at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Kate has become known for her love of sport and the promotion of spending time outdoors (John Stillwell/PA)

Ralph Rimmer, chief executive of the RFL, said the organisation was “truly honoured” by the duchess’ appointment.

“We are delighted to welcome her as we prepare to host Men’s, Women’s, Wheelchair and Physical Disability Rugby League World Cups in England this autumn.

“Our sport’s history has been built on a commitment to tackling inequalities and we honour that through our focus on having a positive social impact well beyond the pitch.

“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.”

Kate is known for her love of sport, and is already royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the Lawn Tennis Association, SportsAid and the 1851 Trust.

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