-- The Duchess of Cambridge is a royal on a mission.
The new face of the British monarchy, who’s more than glamour and glitz, is eager to use her global profile for maximum impact.
The Duchess of Cambridge, 33, made a secret visit today to a women's prison that has a unique program working to help prisoners addicted to drugs. The program operates in 26 prisons across the U.K.
"I was reminded today how addictions lie at the heart of so many social issues and how substance misuse can play such destructive role in vulnerable people's lives," the Duchess of Cambridge said. "I saw again today that a failure to intervene early in life to tackle mental health problems and other challenges can have profound consequences for people throughout their lives."
During the visit, the Duchess listened to the women’s personal stories of how they became addicts, and what role addiction played in their criminal activity. They discussed their journey to recovery and how the 12-step rehabilitation program has subsequently helped them live a drug and crime-free life.
"I am grateful to the women I met for sharing their difficult personal stories with me," Princess Kate remarked. "It is encouraging to learn how organizations like RAPt [Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust] are offering specialist support to help people break the cycle of addiction and look forward to a positive and crime free life."
The royal mom-of-two is juggling motherhood and royal duties but appeared relaxed and engaged at today’s event, clearly moved by the women's plight. Princess Kate’s little ones - 2-year-old Prince George and 4-month-old Princess Charlotte - stayed at home with their nanny.
Kate was dressed in a $535 white, tweed Eaton Dress, by U.K. designer The Fold, with an angled peplum at the waist. The Duchess looked business-like and showed off her new hairstyle with bangs as she went behind bars to see the female inmates.
Addiction is one of the cornerstones of Kate’s charitable mission, and this visit is an extension of that. She is patron of the charity Action on Addiction.
“This is by far the most gritty the most interesting engagement that she’s done," ABC News' royal contributor Victoria Murphy commented about the visit. "It shows that she’s not afraid to tackle some controversial issues with her work and she’s not afraid to reach out to the most troubled sections of society."
The engagement also reflects her interest in organizations supporting women and children living with substance abuse issues, and the impact on the family. She is aware that addictions lie at the heart of so many social issues and the destructive role that substance misuse plays in vulnerable people's and communities' lives.
The Duchess is patron of seven charities, all with the focus on triumph over adversity: women, children and vulnerable members of society beating the odds.
“It is very rare to see an actual member of the royal family go into a prison," Murphy said. "There are women in this prison serving life for murder and Kate is not afraid to tell them she sympathizes with their plight. I think that shows Kate’s being very brave and not afraid to tackle a difficult subject.”
The Duchess of Cambridge increasingly is taking on more challenging issues as she increases her charitable profile. The prison program has a success rate of over 60 percent with two-thirds of participants drug and alcohol-free three months after release of the program. Kate hopes to highlight the damaging impact of addiction and crime.
While parallels with Princess Diana will certainly be drawn as the Duchess of Cambridge is increasingly taking on more challenging charitable endeavors, Kate is anxious to carve her own path.
“One of the things that characterized her the most is that she was not afraid to really stick her neck out and really reach out to the most vulnerable parts of society even if everyone else was shunning them," Murphy continued. “However, with this particular engagement, I think we are seeing a real similarity there and one of the things that characterized Diana is that she was not afraid to reach out the most vulnerable people in society. She was really breaking down barriers there and that is what Kate is trying to do with this visit."