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Catherine passes the first speech ordeal

By Max Foster, CNN Royal Correspondent
March 19, 2012 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Catherine gave her first official public address at the East Anglian Children's Hospices
  • The duchess isn't comfortable speaking in public and has only done two TV interviews
  • Her speech lasted about three minutes and didn't veer off script

(CNN) -- The ability to engage with children came naturally to Diana, Princess of Wales, and now to her daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge.

Catherine gave her first official public address Monday at the East Anglian Children's Hospices -- which was also supported by Diana.

Catherine spent time with youngsters with long-term illnesses in Ipswich and even agreed to a rare photo with a terminally ill three-and-a-half year old boy, a priceless memento for him and his family.

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The massive media presence at the event however was not so much here to see her but to hear her. In recent weeks she has emerged out of Prince William's shadow, firstly by announcing the charities she wished to support in her own right, then by making public visits to them on her own.

With William away on a military deployment to the Falklands, this was her opportunity to define herself as an independent working royal. All the visits were performed without setting a foot wrong. Royal photographers are now questioning whether it's possible to take a bad picture of her.

But the big test was always going to be her first speech and that was what Monday's visit to the hospice was all about.

The duchess isn't comfortable speaking in public. She has done two TV interviews and didn't seem to enjoy either of them. Speaking live in front of an internationally televised audience is even more nerve-wracking.

Catherine knows however that an integral part of royal life is giving speeches because it's your chance to really sell the causes you support. She was visibly nervous. Her hands were shaking and when she spoke she did so in a very calm and measured way with long pauses allowing her to retain her composure.

The speech lasted about three minutes and she did it without fluffing and even managed to raise a laugh at one point which would have given her a boost for next time. Catherine didn't veer off script, which is rare for royal speeches -- the likes of William and Harry like to throw in the odd adlib -- but maybe that's for next time.

Prince William will be back from his deployment soon and I don't expect to see the duchess in public for several weeks as they spend time together privately -- there's certainly nothing planned. But when William comes back I am sure he will be full of praise for his wife. He knows better than anyone about the pressures if being a young royal in the public spotlight and now we have an expert double act.

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