Kate Middleton Delivers First Public Speech

Kate Middleton marked another milestone in her new life as a royal today, delivering her first public address as the Duchess of Cambridge.

Middleton, 30, spoke at the opening of The Treehouse, a hospice run by East Anglia's Children's Hospices in Ipswich, England.  The hospice is one of the carefully selected group of charitable organizations that Middleton said in January she would be contributing her time to as a patron.

In her brief, nearly three-minute speech, Middleton called the work of the hospice "inspirational" and a "shining example."

She also apologized for the absence of her husband, Prince William.

"I am only sorry that William can't be here today; he would love it here," she said.  "A view of his - that I share - is that through teamwork, so much can be achieved. What you have all achieved here is extraordinary."

Middleton is stepping out in a series of solo appearances while William is deployed on a six-week Royal Air Force deployment in the Falkland Islands.

She made her first solo military appearance over the weekend at an event with the Irish Guards on St. Patrick's Day.  The event made headlines after one guard passed out while the Duchess was handing out shamrocks.

Middleton jumped on the field last week with members of the British Olympic women's field hockey team during a surprise visit to the site of this summer's London Olympics, for which   Middleton and William have been named ambassadors.  The duchess marked another major milestone March 1 by making her first solo appearance with the queen, stepping out for tea to mark the monarch's 60 years on the throne.

While at the hospice, Middleton also met with children receiving care and their families, toured the center's facilities and planted a tree in the grounds.

As is the case with everything Middleton does, the reviews of her speech focused as much on her fashion as what she had to say.

The duchess wore a blue dress by one of her favored retailers, Reiss, accessorized by a thick black belt, black heels and a matching clutch.

British fashion watchers were quick to note  that the dress is the same one her mother, Carole Middleton, wore to the Royal Ascot horsing event nearly two years ago.

In addition to the hospice, Middleton is also a patron of an addiction charity, the National Portrait Gallery and the Scout Association, the British equivalent of the Girl Scouts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.