Clodagh Kilcoyne – WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) — Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, marked another first in her eight months as a member of Britain's royal family.
Meghan, who wed Prince Harry in May, will now assume her role as the royal patron of several charitable organizations. Kensington Palace announced Meghan's official patronages Thursday morning in a statement.
The Duchess of Sussex will now become Patron of four organizations that "reflect the causes and issues with which she has long been associated including the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare," Kensington Palace announced in the statement.
Meghan, 37, will start the new roles immediately. She plans to visit one of the charities later Thursday, according to Kensington Palace.
Meghan will now be patron of The National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, women's charity Smart Works and animal charity Mayhew. Her Majesty The Queen was previously patron of two of these organizations — The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities. She has now passed on the responsibility to the Duchess of Sussex.
"The Duchess is delighted to become Patron of both national and grassroots organisations that are part of the fabric of the UK, and is very much looking forward to working with them to bring wider public attention to their causes," the statement added. "Her Royal Highness feels she can use her position to focus attention on, and make a particular difference to these organisations and, more widely, the sectors they each represent."
"Over the last year, Her Royal Highness has held meetings and conducted private visits with each of these organisations," the Palace said. "The Duchess will today visit Smart Works and over the next few weeks will undertake public visits to the other three organisations."
The organizations were delighted to have Meghan's endorsement.
The Director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, said it was a "privilege to welcome The Duchess of Sussex as our new Patron," adding that Meghan "shares our deeply-held conviction that theatre has the power to bring together people from all communities and walks of life."
Joanna Newman, chief executive and secretary general of the ACU, said she was "thrilled" Meghan had become their new patron.
"The Duchess shares our passion for the transformational power of higher education, and Her Royal Highness' support will help champion higher education as a force for good in the Commonwealth and beyond," she said. "We would like to thank Her Majesty The Queen for her support, and we look forward to working closely with The Duchess as our Patron."
Juliet Hughes-Hallett, chair and founder of Smart Works, said she was "thrilled" to have the Duchess on board.
"An acknowledged champion of women and their rights worldwide, The Duchess will motivate ever more women to come to our centres and get the job that will transform their lives," she said. "The Duchess' patronage will inspire the women we serve and help them reach for the stars."
Caroline Yates, CEO of Mayhew, said, "We are so excited that HRH The Duchess of Sussex has chosen to be our Patron. Mayhew works to improve the lives of dogs, cats and the people in our community."
Royal patronages are not necessarily for life and the younger royals usually have fewer patronages than older royals, as they steadily acquire more. Queen Elizabeth II is a patron of more than 600 charities and Prince Philip of more than 700.
Meghan began her public charitable work in the U.K. soon after she wed Prince Harry in May. She became the fourth member of the Royal Foundation, started by William, Kate and Harry, at the time of her wedding.
In her first high-profile, solo charity project, Meghan collaborated with women at the Hubb Community Kitchen in West London on a charity cookbook that quickly became a bestseller. Her mom, Doria Ragland, flew from her home in Los Angeles to the U.K. to be with her daughter for the launch of the cookbook.
She also marked the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand and touted the importance of equal access to education for women during her 16-day royal tour of New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Fiji with Prince Harry.
Official patronages are a hugely important aspect of what it means to be a royal, according to royal expert Victoria Murphy.
"Members of the royal family can use their patronages to shape their legacy as members of the royal family," Murphy told ABC News. "By showing a consistent interests in certain issues they can create a significant impact in that area."
The announcement of Meghan's official patronages comes as she prepares for a busy 2019.
She is expecting her first child with Harry in the spring. The couple also plan to move from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage on the grounds of Windsor Estate, about 30 miles from London.
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.