Kate Middleton visited Hope House woman's shelter on Tuesday morning and used the occasion to speak about her pregnancy for the first time, striking up maternal solidarity with residents.
During the visit, Kate was asked by a client named Lisa whether she was nervous about giving birth to her baby in July; Kate told the mother-of-three it would be "unnatural" if she wasn't.
With motherhood clearly on her mind, Kate – whose rounded tummy was clearly visible in her grey jersey MaxMara print dress with V-neck and ruched waist – was drawn to the children who had turned up to see her, and was particularly taken with one little girl who presented her with a bouquet of pink flowers.
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Kate's appearance came one day after novelist Hilary Mantel described the mum-to-be as "a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own". But if the writer's comments had affected her, it certainly didn't show.
Banks of photographers on "bump watch" awaited the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge as she began her visit to South London's Hope House - an all-female rehabilitation centre which falls under the umbrella of her patronage, Action on Addiction.
Earlier in the day, the charity's Chief Executive Nick Barton had responded to Hilary's controversial speech, describing Kate as an "intelligent" woman.
He was one of the first to greet the Duchess as she arrived at the centre. Shaking his hand warmly Kate – who had previously paid a private visit to the facility – told him: "Its nice to be back here again".
Manager Suzanne Hakimi was waiting to greet Kate at the doors of Hope House and accompanied her as she spent the morning meeting clients and staff at the 22-bed residential treatment centre.
When Kate became patron of Action on Addiction in 2012, Suzanne applauded her choice, saying: "It's incredibly brave for someone who's new in the royal family to take on a charity that works with the darker side of life, and also the lighter side of life".
Before her visit, the royal had been warned to "expect tears" as she met with women being helped by the centre, some of them mothers battling addiction problems. Herself now 19 weeks pregnant, their plight must have taken on extra significance.
Amanda Thompson, research manager at the charity, predicted that Kate would find the visit emotional. "The Duchess has a heart and will certainly find it moving - it's impossible not to cry," she said. "These are heart-rending tales of what they have been through. It's a gritty issue - it will be an emotional day."
Inside, the tour was every bit as touching as the organisers had imagined. Kate was the picture of concern as she listened to residents' inspiring stories in the unassuming surroundings of Hope House's communal kitchen.
"'Well done for getting sober," she told one woman who explained how she overcame her problems with the help of art therapy sessions.
The Duchess's visit came as it was announced that Action On Addiction will be the beneficiary of the fundraising efforts of 100 Women in Hedge Funds – a cause championed by her husband Prince William.
"Those affected by addiction are in desperate need of the highest level of care and treatment; Action On Addiction delivers this brilliantly," Kate wrote in a letter to mark the launch of the joint project.
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