It is not uncommon for Royal spouses to undertake joint engagements: The Queen is often accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, and The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall also attend a number of events together, as do most other Royal couples. Prince William and Prince Harry sometimes ‘join up’ when visiting an organisation or place in which they share a common interest. In addition, following her marriage, The Duchess of Cambridge was seen accompanying her ‘grandparents-in-law’ on a few occasions that have been described by the English Press as ‘training sessions’.
However, it is fairly unusual for other members of the Royal Family to undertake royal duties on a joint basis! The main reason for this is quite simple: demand for Royal visits is high and there is only a limited number of royals available to meet that demand! Accordingly, Royal Family members tend to work individually so as to ensure that they can be seen by as many people as possible.
Wednesday’s royal visit to the Chailey Heritage Foundation near Lewes in East Sussex was therefore particularly noteworthy in that the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Gloucester undertook a joint visit to the establishment, which caters for children and young adults with disabilities by providing appropriate residential and educational and training facilities.
The Duchess of Gloucester was attending in her capacity as Royal Patron of Chailey Heritage, a role that she took over from the previous Royal Patron, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Over the years, the Duchess has developed a particular interest in children with special needs, as is clear from the number of engagements which she undertakes in this field. During the visit to the Foundation, Her Royal Highness unveiled a plaque to commemorate the centenary of St Martin’s Chapel, which has always been regarded as “the heart of the Heritage”
Afterwards, The Duchess of Cornwall, who has carried out a number of visits to schools since her marriage, formally opened Grace Kimmins House, the new Life Skills Centre, part of ‘Futures at Chailey Heritage’, a project which has been designed as a transition service for young people aged 19 to 25. Although not a Royal Patron, the Duchess was present because she her strong connections with the area: she was brought up near Lewes and, in addition, her mother The Hon. Mrs Shand had volunteered at Chailey Heritage School on a long-term basis back in the 1960s and 1970s.