Gallery: Duchess of Cambridge Kate attends launch of new EACH fundraiser at Norfolk Showground
- Credit: PA
A bereaved mother has said the Duchess of Cambridge wrote personally to console her following the death of her baby daughter.
Kate was attending the launch of a fundraising campaign to help East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), where she is royal patron, build a new £10 million hospice when she met families who have benefited from the charity’s work.
Among them was Leigh Smith, a 33-year-old physiotherapist from Norwich whose daughter Beatrice died from a rare heart condition after just 89 days.
She revealed how she wrote a letter to Kate outlining her story, only to receive a personal reply from the duchess.
Mrs Smith said: “I was so surprised to receive a letter with such personal comments and signed by her.
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“It was a lovely gesture and helped me through a terrible time.
“I was touched that she had taken so much time to carefully read my letter and then to reply herself - it shows how much she cares.
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“When I met her today she remembered the letter and said it was an honour to meet me.
“I was completely taken aback - for me it was an honour to meet her.”
Beatrice would be due to turn one-year-old on Friday.
Mrs Smith said: “I had mixed feelings about today because it’s a difficult time but this is the most amazing way of celebrating her birthday and I hope Beatrice was looking down as I met Kate.”
The duchess braved the cold as she went without a coat and wore a red knee-length dress by Katherine Hooker and black sued stiletto pumps as she arrived at the Norfolk Showground on a frosty morning with temperatures of about 3C.
There was just a hint of a baby bump as she met families, volunteers and staff before joining 700 guests for the appeal’s launch.
The new hospice for Norfolk would be called The Nook and be built on a woodland plot near the village of Framingham Earl. This will replace an outdated facility in Quidenham, the oldest hospice in the country.
Kate has played an active role in the campaign and introduced ceramics manufacturer Emma Bridgewater to EACH and suggested a range of mugs could be designed to support the fundraising campaign.
As she was shown the designs for the first time and handed a giant teapot, Kate said “I’ll probably drop it”.
She crouched down to meet Jack Cottis, six, from Colchester, who suffered a brain haemorrhage in the womb and has a range of associated conditions, including blindness. He uses EACH’s Treehouse hospice in Ipswich.
His sister died from the same undiagnosed genetic condition at the age of three.
His mother Tracy Cottis, 48, is a patient trustee at the charity. She said: “I met Kate when she visited Ipswich and her passion for the charity is clear for all to see.”
Michala and Roger Benton and daughter Isabella, four, who has a number of neurological conditions, also met Kate along with the rest of the family Aimie, seven, Daisy, two, and Molly, seven months, from Dereham, Norfolk.
Mr Benton said: “She asked what services we use and how the new hospice will help us and said we had a lovely family.”
Aimie Benton later handed Kate a posy as she appeared on stage.
Pupils from the local Queen’s Hill primary school greeted Kate with Cerys Emeeith-Burley, seven, and Caitlyn Brazier, eight, handing her a bouquet.
Cerys said: “She said ‘are you missing school for this?’ and we told her we had been practising curtseying at school.”
She also met Gail Featherstone, the wife of the high commissioner to Malaysia, who hosted William and Kate on a recent tour of the country.
During that tour, Kate visited Hospis Malaysia which has since formed strong links with EACH.