Kate Middleton dons £15 face mask by Amaia as she unpacks donations at a baby bank in Sheffield

The Duchess of Cambridge revealed how she has been left in tears after hearing the stories of families coping amid the coronavirus pandemic during a visit to a baby bank in Sheffield on Tuesday.

Kate – who sported a £15 reusable cotton floral face mask from London-based label Amaia – spoke of how she went home and wept after visiting a baby bank helping vulnerable families at the start of lockdown.

‘It can get very emotional,’ she said. ‘I remember a couple of the families I met from King’s Lynn and I went home and literally burst into tears, their stories were so moving. The struggles they have gone through, the bravery they have shown…in extraordinary circumstances. Helping their families through extraordinary times. 

The mother-of-three, 38, who cut a stylish figure in an elegant white £1850 dress by Suzannah, was talking on a visit to a Baby Basics UK, to launch a new initiative she has spearheaded, getting 19 major UK retailers and brands to donate more than 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks across the UK.

Baby Banks are a crucial nationwide service, run by volunteers, helping to support some of the most vulnerable families in the UK by providing essentials such as nappies, clothing and bedding. 

Most of those who seek their help come on professional referral from services including health visitors, midwives and social workers.

The banks have proved to be a lifeline for many struggling parents during the coronavirus crisis, but have found their services under increasing pressure, both as a result of demand and because they have been unable to accept second-hand donations on health and safety grounds.

Kate Middleton, 38, put on a stylish display as she arrived for a visit to Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics in Sheffield on August 4, 2020

Kate beamed as she met those who volunteer to support some of the most vulnerable families in the UK by providing essentials including nappies and bedding 

The Duchess of Cambridge, who opted for a timeless dress by Suzannah, could be seen lifting boxes as she helped unpack donations at the baby bank

The Duchess of Cambridge, who opted for a timeless dress by Suzannah, could be seen lifting boxes as she helped unpack donations at the baby bank 

During the visit, the mother-of-three spoke to parents about how baby banks have provided them with invaluable support when they have needed it most. Pictured, talking to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen, who got supported by Baby Basics

During the visit, the mother-of-three spoke to parents about how baby banks have provided them with invaluable support when they have needed it most. Pictured, talking to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen, who got supported by Baby Basics

Hearing of this, Kate – who has also previously visited Baby Basics in West Norfolk the start of the crisis – decided to put out feelers for donations from brands and high street retailers.

In all, she has persuaded nineteen brands to donate more than 10,000 items to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities, who operate more than 40 baby banks across the UK.

The Duchess, who paired her ensemble with £531 mock snake skin heels by Tabitha Simmons, which she first donned during the 2011 royal tour of Canada, could also be seen wearing an apron and rubber gloves as she helped to unpack the first donations, which included clothes and toys.

Despite her vertiginous heels, she pulled boxes from a pallet with ease and carried them inside, helping staff from Baby Basics UK which started ten years ago in Sheffield, who have teamed up with two other baby bank services, Little Village and Aberdeenshire-based AberNecessities. 

Inside their temporary distribution centre – which with the help of couriers DHL is transferring the donations as far afield as Aberdeen and Hastings – Kate helped unpack some of the boxes – exclaiming as she picked up a bottle of Child’s Farm shampoo, which she clearly recognised.

Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics, told her: ‘Often in a world where there is a lot of judgement and stereotyping about being poor, that additional stress can be even more difficult for parents who are doing amazing things to keep their families going with such strength, such determination.’

During her visit, the Duchess of Cambridge revealed how in recent months, she had heard from families who have been supported by baby banks through the 'most difficult of times'

The royal (pictured) added she had been 'deeply moved' after hearing from parents about how baby banks have provided them with support

During her visit, the Duchess of Cambridge (pictured left, and right) revealed how in recent months, she had heard from families who have been supported by baby banks through the ‘most difficult of times’

Kate (pictured) cut an elegant figure for the visit and opted to wear her brown locks down, keeping her eye makeup minimal

Kate (pictured) cut an elegant figure for the visit and opted to wear her brown locks down, keeping her eye makeup minimal

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) spoke to CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross, Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn and CEO Little Village Sophia Parker during a visit to Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) spoke to CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross, Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn and CEO Little Village Sophia Parker during a visit to Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics

Kate donned a pair of rubber gloves as she helped to unload a pallet of supplies during a visit to the baby bank in Sheffield today

Kate donned a pair of rubber gloves as she helped to unload a pallet of supplies during a visit to the baby bank in Sheffield today

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) has brought together nineteen British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) has brought together nineteen British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide

The royal was photographed wearing a face mask for the first time

The Duchess of Cambridge cut a stylish figure in the 'Flippy Wiggle' dress by Suzannah

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured, left and right) cut a stylish figure in the ‘Flippy Wiggle’ dress by Suzannah for the visit, which costs £1,850 online

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) sported a pretty floral face mask and cut a stylish figure in an elegant white £1850 dress by Suzannah

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) sported a pretty floral face mask and cut a stylish figure in an elegant white £1850 dress by Suzannah

Following her arrival (pictured), Kate set about opening some of the boxes and chatted with the helpers about organisations they worked with to offer emotional support to families

Following her arrival (pictured), Kate set about opening some of the boxes and chatted with the helpers about organisations they worked with to offer emotional support to families

After her hour-and-a-half visit, the duchess left by car, still sporting her mask, after saying a muffled goodbye to the volunteers

After her hour-and-a-half visit, the duchess left by car, still sporting her mask, after saying a muffled goodbye to the volunteers

‘Yes,’ replied Kate. ‘One of the mums I met was a nurse. These are families who do fantastic jobs and even they are struggling. All of the research shows how vital things like this are for them and that they are being recognised.’

The Duchess also talked at length about what the impact of Covid-19 would be, particularly for children. 

‘It’s difficult for sure but there is a lot of fear about worry about when furlough ends and what it means for families,’ said Miss Ross.

‘But one of the positives to come out of it is the strength of communities across the UK and people wanting to help, volunteering and wanting to provide for each other. Organisations like us want to harvest that and it keep it going as much as possible.’

‘It’s been wonderful during lockdown, hasn’t it?’ said the duchess, ‘about the way everyone has been busy knitting away and actually it is those small volunteering acts that everyone can contribute to that make such a difference. 

‘That inter-generational support system has been amazing. Knowing that you can make such a big difference to another family is wonderful.’

Sophia Parker, Chief Executive and Founder of Little Village, agreed, adding: ‘We say the currency in this is kindness, this is what this is all about.

‘It’s really special being able to facilitate people to support others. They are often just looking for that opportunity to do something.’

Kate added: ‘It’s about finding new ways of still providing people with the support they so desperately need.’ 

Kate showed support for the initiative, explaining that it's necessary to find new ways to provide people with the support that they desperately need

Kate showed support for the initiative, explaining that it’s necessary to find new ways to provide people with the support that they desperately need  

The Duchess of Cambridge wore her glossy brunette hair in a relaxed style, opting for subtle makeup and minimal accessories for the visit

The Duchess of Cambridge wore her glossy brunette hair in a relaxed style, opting for subtle makeup and minimal accessories for the visit 

The Duchess of Cambridge donned a face mask as she visited Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics - which is a volunteer project supporting families in need struggling to provide for their newborns

The Duchess of Cambridge donned a face mask as she visited Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics – which is a volunteer project supporting families in need struggling to provide for their newborns

Kate (pictured) spoke of how she went home and wept after visiting a baby bank helping vulnerable families at the start of lockdown

Kate (pictured) spoke of how she went home and wept after visiting a baby bank helping vulnerable families at the start of lockdown

Baby banks aim to support and empower families by ensuring every child has the essential items they need to thrive. Pictured, Kate unloading a pallet of supplies

Baby banks aim to support and empower families by ensuring every child has the essential items they need to thrive. Pictured, Kate unloading a pallet of supplies

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) revealed how she has been left in tears after hearing the stories of families coping amid the coronavirus pandemic

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) revealed how she has been left in tears after hearing the stories of families coping amid the coronavirus pandemic 

Kate, who donned a floral face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, helped to unpack vital supplies for families struggling and in need of them the most (pictured)

Kate, who donned a floral face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, helped to unpack vital supplies for families struggling and in need of them the most (pictured)

The mother-of-three could be seen donning a pair of safety gloves and mask amid the pandemic as she engaged in a socially distanced conversation with the Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn, CEO Little Village Sophia Parker and CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross (pictured)

The mother-of-three could be seen donning a pair of safety gloves and mask amid the pandemic as she engaged in a socially distanced conversation with the Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn, CEO Little Village Sophia Parker and CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross (pictured)

Kate then set about opening some of the boxes and chatted with the helpers about organisations they worked with to offer emotional support to families.

‘Sometimes it’s just about having the opportunity of offload,’ she said. ‘And once someone has received a basket do you often see them coming back for support in different areas?’

After helping with the packing, Kate met with one family who have been helped by Baby Basics UK in Sheffield, Ali Wartty and Sahara Mrs Hamawandy, both 47, who have lively triplets San, Shan and Laveen, aged one year.

The family came to the UK from Iraq seeking asylum and were given leave to remain, but with no access to public funds.

Mr Wartty, who is self employed, a managed to buy a one-bedroom, 12th floor flat from Sheffield Council, but the couple – who were initially told they were were having twins but found out about their triplets at their 20-week scan – have struggled financially, emotionally and practically with three young children.

They were referred to Baby Basics by their support worker who have helped them with basic necessities including a triple pram, as well as Moses baskets and starter packs, as well as clothes and toiletries as the babies have grown.

‘Hi, all of them, of course they are triplets! ‘ exclaimed Kate. ‘Gosh they are all doing very well and sorry to intrude on your family time.’

‘Yes it’s so fun!’ she said, as Shan cooed and blew raspberries as he toddled. 

In an emotional conversation, Mrs Hamawandy told Kate how she had struggled to cope.

‘Is was living on the 12th floor of a block of flats and trying to cope with the three of them,’ she explained.

‘It must have been so stressful,’ sympathised Kate. ‘Is that when you sought the help Baby Basics? Is the fact that someone talked to you and someone listened to you, is that what made the difference? ‘

Mrs Hamawandy replied: ‘Yes, it wasn’t just the practical help, it was having someone to reassure me and give me a chance to have five minutes to myself.

‘I wasn’t coping at all, my brain wasn’t coping. I had huge anxiety. Is wasn’t able to go out with three babies. How do you take your three babies down from the 12th floor without a pram? We weren’t able to go out at all. After eight months I tried to take them out. But when I tried to take them out I was crying because I couldn’t.’

She told Kate that she had no family or friends that could help – her sister here in the UK is herself ill.

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) talked at length about what the impact of Covid would be, particularly for children

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) talked at length about what the impact of Covid would be, particularly for children

The mother-of-three talked to other baby banks on a teleconference during a visit to Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics Sheffield on Tuesday

The mother-of-three talked to other baby banks on a teleconference during a visit to Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics Sheffield on Tuesday

During her visit, the Royal spoke to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen, who got supported by Baby Basics

During her visit, the Royal spoke to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen, who got supported by Baby Basics

‘That must have been so difficult for you,’ Kate said. ‘It must have been even harder with lockdown. Did that make things more difficult?;

‘Yes it was even worse as I couldn’t go out,’ she replied. ‘When they started to walk and I was in the house by myself, it was really difficult. It really was a very bad time.’

Kate replied: ‘I am so sorry to hear that. Do you still feel now that it will affect you in the long term, the struggles you had at the beginning? Do you feel you get support emotionally, as well as the physical support?’

Speaking after meeting the duchess, Mrs Hamawandy said it had meant a great deal to her to have the chance to tell her story to the duchess.

The following organisations have generously donated items such as nappies, bedding and clothing to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities: 

Bloom and Blossom

Boden

Bramley

Childs Farm

Frugi

Green People (Organic Babies)

John Lewis

JoJo Maman Bébé

Kit & Kin

Kokoso Baby

M&S

Mamas & Papas

Matalan

My Little Coco

Sainsbury’s

Tesco

The White Company

Trotters

She continued: ‘I wanted to tell her for a family like me, especially with three children, that mum needs help. If mum is not feeling good, it will affect the baby. 

‘To give support to mum means giving support to the whole family. If mum has the chance to sleep for half an hour or get a little help, it helps the whole family. I was really devastated and shocked and crying all the time. 

‘I didn’t get the chance to look after myself and get at least ten minutes to myself. I couldn’t even find half an hour to lie down in the day because I was always getting up to check on each one of them. I didn’t have any support or family to help.

‘That’s why the charity has been so important to a mother like me. It gave me power. It transformed me. I just want to say thank you to everybody. ‘

The duchess also spoke via Zoom on a lap top to mothers helped by two of the other baby bank charities, Little Village and AberNecessities.

Chatting to Amy Cotton, who fled a violent home with only her baby son Ricky, now three, and the clothes on her back, and has received a buggy, clothing and toys for her child.

She now works as volunteer for the Little Village and has a 12-week-old daughter, Ellie-Rose.

‘Do you feel it is good for you being part of that volunteering community, helping mums who have been in the same position as you?’ asked the duchess.

Amy said it had mean a great deal of her to say thank you.

Kate added: ‘It’s so valuable. You hear so often that its very hard for parents and families to reach out for support because of the stigma about saying “I’m finding it really hard and I’m struggling’. Is that something you’ve come across, particularly with the families you are working with?”

Amy told her that it was, but added: ‘We all want to do what’s best for our children.’

‘It is brave and not often the easiest thing to do but it is really fantastic that you’ve reached out, that you are so open about your own struggles but also the fact that you are in such a fanatic place now. 

‘I suppose it is real credit to you, the journey that you’ve undertaken and the courage and strength you’ve shown to get there. So well done. And I love the fact that you are volunteering too,’ smiled the duchess.

She also chatted to Ella-Mae Michalski, who has twin girls Bella and Ruby, born prematurely and who are now 21-months-old and was helped by Little Village with a double pram., clothes, muslins and other essentials.

She has been shielding during the coronavirus outbreak because the girls have chronic lung disease.

‘As a mum the one thing you want too be able to do is to provide for your children and it was difficult not to be able to do that but Little Village helped,’ she explained.

‘It must have been heart-breaking and such a huge worry and anxiety for you during pregnancy and after birth,’ Kate said.

Ella-Mae replied: ‘Yes, Little Village is amazing. It’s something as basic as getting a cup of tea when you come here and people asking how you are and being able to offload without fear of what people might think.’

Kate then asked: ‘Do you feel there is a judgement around being able to put on a facade and pretend that everything is going great? Is it places like this that are needed in communities where parents don’t feel judged and mums can go and be honest and feel like they are being listened to?’.

‘One hundred percent,’ she was told.

The Duchess of Cambridge was also pictured donning a pair of rubber gloves as she spoke to Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn, CEO Little Village Sophia Parker and CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross

The Duchess of Cambridge was also pictured donning a pair of rubber gloves as she spoke to Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn, CEO Little Village Sophia Parker and CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross

During her visit, Kate (pictured) told how baby banks work every day, up and down the country, to provide immediate, tangible and practical help for parents and carers when they are most in need

During her visit, Kate (pictured) told how baby banks work every day, up and down the country, to provide immediate, tangible and practical help for parents and carers when they are most in need

The Duchess of Cambridge praised the generosity of the companies taking part in this initiative

Added that thanks to them, baby banks across the UK will be able to support even more families through this 'particularly challenging time'

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured, left and right) praised the generosity of the companies taking part in this initiative – and said thanks to them, baby banks across the UK will be able to support even more families through this ‘particularly challenging time’

After her hour-and-a-half visit, the duchess left by car, still sporting her mask, after saying a muffled goodbye to the volunteers.

Speaking after the visit, Baby Basics CEO Cat Ross said: ‘Having her visit and seeing the work we do has been just amazing. It will really help people to hear and know about Baby Basics and the work we do. A lot of people have heard about food banks but don’t necessarily know about the baby banks and what we do. ‘

The charity, she explained, helps families including those in economic poverty, teenage mothers, women seeking asylum, women fleeing domestic abuse and trafficking.

She added: ‘Having someone like the Duchess behind us is amazing and her helping us by getting in all these amazing brands has been incredible. We can get more to families and treat them to the goods they would never, ever get. It’s just fantastic. ‘

Announcing her initiative, Kate said: ‘Over recent months, I have heard from families who have been supported by baby banks through the most difficult of times and I have been deeply moved by their stories. 

‘Having somewhere to turn to for support is important for all families, and baby banks work every day, up and down the country, to provide immediate, tangible and practical help for parents and carers when they are most in need.

‘Baby banks are driven by incredible volunteers, demonstrating the power of community spirit in supporting families and coming together to raise the next generation.

‘Thanks to the generosity of the companies taking part in this initiative, baby banks across the UK will be able to support even more families through this particularly challenging time.’

A 2018 survey estimated that 1 in 100 families in England with children under 5 have visited a baby bank , and statistics from a new survey conducted by the charity Little Village shows that baby banks across the UK have found a substantial increase in the use of their services during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, many baby banks have been unable to accept second hand items at this time and the Little Village research shows that 77% of baby banks desperately need more nappies, mattresses and other products.

It also reveals that 9 in 10 baby banks say the outbreak of COVID-19 is making it harder to support families in the way they would want. 

The royal donned mock-crock grey £531 heels by Tabitha Simmons, which she first donned during the 2011 royal tour of Canada. Pictured, during a socially distanced chat with CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross, Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn and CEO Little Village Sophia Parker

The royal donned mock-crock grey £531 heels by Tabitha Simmons, which she first donned during the 2011 royal tour of Canada. Pictured, during a socially distanced chat with CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross, Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn and CEO Little Village Sophia Parker

The mother-of-three (pictured) was on a visit to launch a new initiative she has spearheaded, getting 19 major UK retailers and brands to donate more than 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks across the UK

The mother-of-three (pictured) was on a visit to launch a new initiative she has spearheaded, getting 19 major UK retailers and brands to donate more than 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks across the UK

Despite her vertiginous heels, Kate (pictured) had to trouble pulling boxes from a pallet with ease , before carrying them inside

Despite her vertiginous heels, Kate (pictured) had to trouble pulling boxes from a pallet with ease , before carrying them inside

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) opted for a pretty floral print mask and earlier in the day, donned an apron and rubber gloves to help unpack the first donations, which included clothes and toys

The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) opted for a pretty floral print mask and earlier in the day, donned an apron and rubber gloves to help unpack the first donations, which included clothes and toys

Kate previously visited Baby Basics West Norfolk,  where she packed up Moses baskets with supplies and spoke to families who had received support from the charity

Kate previously visited Baby Basics West Norfolk,  where she packed up Moses baskets with supplies and spoke to families who had received support from the charity

In total, nineteen brands have donated items to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities, who operate baby banks across the UK. Pictured, Kate talks to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen

In total, nineteen brands have donated items to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities, who operate baby banks across the UK. Pictured, Kate talks to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen

On her previous visit to Baby Basics West Norfolk, Kate packed up Moses baskets with supplies and spoke to families who had received support from the charity.

She has also continued to speak to vulnerable families and the organisations that support them throughout lockdown, Kensington Palace said.

In recent weeks, she has held calls with Family Action, Home Start, Action for Children, London Early Years Foundation, Cocoon Family Support, East London Research School, and Coram about how they are continuing to support and nurture families and children throughout this challenging time. 

In addition, DHL Express has provided logistical services for the dissemination of donations to baby banks across the UK.

Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics, said: ‘We are thrilled to be part of this amazing initiative from The Duchess of Cambridge. To have the opportunity to highlight the importance of Baby Banks and the amazing service that Baby Basics Centres across the UK provide has never been more important than at this time when we are in the midst of a national crisis. 

‘So many more families in the UK will need support of a Baby Bank, some for the first time, and we are committed to doing all we can to support them in a way that restores dignity and values parents and their children.

‘To have the support and donations of so many amazing brands makes our work that little bit easier and means that we can continue to ensure we can provide what is needed for every referral we receive.’

Sophia Parker, Chief Executive and Founder of Little Village, also welcomed the initiative, saying that they were ‘delighted’ that the duchess was helping to bring brands together to support them.

She added: ‘Our survey with baby banks on the impact of Covid-19 shows huge gaps in support and rising levels of need among families living in poverty. The pandemic appears to be making the situation much, much worse for many families.’

The charity is set to support more than 6,000 children this year, double the number they helped in 2019. 

She commented: ‘We know that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are absolutely critical for their future outcomes around education, employment and health. Every child should have the right to a good childhood and this new initiative is a much welcomed step towards tackling child poverty in the under 5’s.’

Danielle Flecher-Horn, Founder of Aberdeenshire-based AberNecessities, added: ‘We are extremely proud to be part of this initiative which is dedicated and committed to supporting children living in poverty across the UK.

‘Having taught children who have social and emotional difficulties I have seen the affect early childhood experiences have in later life.

‘By providing parents with the resources to build a positive relationship with their children – from pregnancy and throughout the first years – we can make a real difference to a child’s development, health and overall happiness.’

The Duchess of Cambridge paid a private visit to Baby Basics West Norfolk in May (pictured), where she opted ofr an on-trend look as she paired her green floral frock with white Superga trainers

The Duchess of Cambridge paid a private visit to Baby Basics West Norfolk in May (pictured), where she opted ofr an on-trend look as she paired her green floral frock with white Superga trainers

Following private visits to Baby Basics West Norfolk in May (pictured), where the Duchess heard more about the baby bank's need for donations, she spearheaded a drive for donations of items for babies from brands and high street retailers

Following private visits to Baby Basics West Norfolk in May (pictured), where the Duchess heard more about the baby bank’s need for donations, she spearheaded a drive for donations of items for babies from brands and high street retailers

Meghan Markle celebrates her 39th birthday in Los Angeles

Happy birthday, Meghan! Duchess of Sussex turns 39 in Los Angeles after a whirlwind 12 months that has seen her and Prince Harry quit the Royal Family

  • Duchess of Sussex will celebrate her 39th birthday in Los Angeles today
  • She has had a whirlwind year that has seen her and Harry quit the royal family
  • Meghan Markle was given public well wishes by members of the royal family 
  • This birthday falls amid controversy surrounding the Sussexes’ biography 

The Duchess of Sussex is celebrating her 39th birthday after a whirlwind 12 months that has seen her life transformed.

A year ago Meghan Markle was a working member of the British royal family and living in the grounds of Windsor Castle with husband Harry and their son Archie.

But today the family  live in Los Angeles after breaking away from the monarchy this spring for personal and financial freedom.

Last year Meghan received public well-wishes from senior members of the royal family including Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It remains to be seen if the family will post today. 

However it is thought this is unlikely as Meghan and Harry no longer have an active Instagram account.

The Duchess of Sussex is celebrating her 39th birthday after a whirlwind 12 months that has seen her life transformed. Pictured, Harry and Meghan speaking from their Los Angeles home

This year’s birthday falls amid controversy surrounding the publication of the Sussexes’ bombshell biography, Finding Freedom, which lays bare the rift between the couple and members of the Firm. 

The book, written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durant, claims relations between the Sussexes and the Cambridges grew so bitter that by March the couples were barely speaking.

Prince Harry, 35, and Meghan moved to America with their 14-month-old son just a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the globe, and like everyone else have been living under lockdown.

Birthday celebrations are likely to be low-key as the state of California they now call home reportedly has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in America.

A year ago Meghan Markle was a working member of the British royal family and living in the grounds of Windsor Castle with husband Harry and their son Archie. The couple stepped down from royal duties in March. Pictured, at one of their final engagements that month in London

A year ago Meghan Markle was a working member of the British royal family and living in the grounds of Windsor Castle with husband Harry and their son Archie. The couple stepped down from royal duties in March. Pictured, at one of their final engagements that month in London

Despite restrictions the couple have voiced their opinions about issues, especially the renewed focus on equality and race that followed the death of George Floyd in the United States.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement Meghan, who became the first bi-racial person to marry a senior royal, delivered an impassioned speech to her old high school following the death of Mr Floyd, sharing her ‘absolute devastation’ at racial divisions.

The issue of racial equality is expected to be a cause that forms part of their public work when the couple formally launch their new charitable organisation, Archewell, which has replaced their UK based Royal Sussex foundation which has been wound down. 

 

Last year Prince Harry wished Meghan a happy birthday in a sweet message to the Sussex Royal Instagram account

Last year Prince Harry wished Meghan a happy birthday in a sweet message to the Sussex Royal Instagram account 

The couple have been working behind the scenes to urge top executives across the world to stand in solidarity with groups calling for a Facebook boycott.

The duke and duchess have spoken with a number of organisations leading the Stop Hate For Profit campaign, which is calling on businesses to pause advertising on the platform over the social network’s failure to do more to remove hate speech.

A source has said: ‘As we’ve been developing Archewell, one of the areas the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been keen to address is online hate speech, and we’ve been working with civil rights and racial justice groups on it.’

From March 31, Harry and Meghan stopped using their HRH styles and ceased to be senior working royals. 

The couple’s new life in Los Angeles comes at a cost but it is not known how they will pay for their lifestyle although there has been speculation about book deals and lecture circuit contracts the couple may have signed.

Inside the Middleton Buckleberry mansion: glimpses into Mike and Carole’s Grade-II listed pile 

James Middleton has been revealing rare glimpses into his parent Mike and Carole at their Bucklebury mansion as he isolates with the family during the coronavirus pandemic.

The entrepreneur, 33, the younger sibling of the Duchess of Cambridge, 38, and Pippa Middleton, 36, has been staying at their parents Carole and Michael’s home throughout lockdown with his French fiancée Alizee Thevenet. 

James has regularly been sharing snaps and videos from his stay in Berkshire, with his Instagram offering royal fans a sneak peek into the stunning manor house that Kate Middleton’s parents have called home since 2012.

The couple are believed to have snapped up the seven-bedroom property, which features a tennis court, swimming pool and a library, for £4.7 million eight years ago.  

Kate Middleton’s brother James has revealed rare glimpses into their parent’s Carole and Michael’s home in Bucklebury during the coronavirus pandemic (pictured, in the kitchen of the property) 

In another snap shared earlier this year and tagged in Bucklebury, a plush and modern fireplace can be seen, with cream walls and carpet

In another snap shared earlier this year and tagged in Bucklebury, a plush and modern fireplace can be seen, with cream walls and carpet 

 Kate’s parents Carole and Michael triumphed in what was called a ‘fierce bidding war’ for the seven-bedroom property to buy their home in 2012.

The Georgian pile, which is the former family seat of a family whose ancestors were granted the land by Henry VIII, offers the Middletons unrivalled seclusion and privacy. 

It is set in 18 acres of landscaped grounds with views across a picturesque valley. 

Yesterday, James offered a rare glimpse inside his parents home as he filmed a video for his new Ella&Co business from their kitchen.

In a short video shared earlier this summer, James revealed his parent's luxurious outdoor dining area in the garden of their £4.7 million home

In a short video shared earlier this summer, James revealed his parent’s luxurious outdoor dining area in the garden of their £4.7 million home 

In an Instagram video for pet supplies company, the 33-year-old entrepreneur discussed the health benefits of apples for dogs (and humans) from their rustic kitchen.

With his adorable black spaniel Ella perched on what appeared to be an island strewn with fresh produce, James revealed why the popular fruit is a great source of fibre for hounds.

Eagle-eyed viewers were treated to a peek at  the Middleton family kitchen, which features farmhouse-style cream tiles above a range cooker.

Either side of the range are rows of shelves and rails, from which a variety of cooking utensils, pots and pans are hung and scattered, suggesting Carole is a keen cook.  

Meanwhile another video on the entrepreneur's Instagram page showcases the family's olive green front door and ivy covered home

Meanwhile another video on the entrepreneur’s Instagram page showcases the family’s olive green front door and ivy covered home

The stylish green marble-style worktops are home to storage jars and a wicker basket, possibly for housing eggs, while atop the AGA sits an old-fashioned whistle kettle.

Above the cooker is a large kitchen clock, visible behind James – who is dressed in an off-white casual cotton shirt – in one shot.

And it’s not the first glimpse James has given his Instagram followers of the interior of his parent’s countryside pile.

In March, Kate’s brother shared a snapshot of his dogs perched infront of a stunning modern cream fireplace, tagging the post in his parent’s village.

Carole and Michael moved into the Grade II listed property, which boasts 18 acres of land, a swimming pool and tennis courts, in 2012

Carole and Michael moved into the Grade II listed property, which boasts 18 acres of land, a swimming pool and tennis courts, in 2012 

The trendy statement feature had been fenced off with black rope and a soft tan-coloured leather, while the animals were perched on several fluffy grey throw-rugs,

Meanwhile the entrepenuer has also shared glimpses into the stunning outdoor spaces at his parent’s home.

In May, he posted a short video clip revealing a luxurious patio area where his parents and girlfriend appeared to be enjoying a meal in the spring sunshine.

In another video shared July, James showed off the trendy olive coloured front door to his Mike and Carole’s ivy covered home, as well as a huge medieval style door knocker. 

Earlier this year, the entrepreneur revealed how he was housing half a million bees in hives in a meadow at his parent's home

Earlier this year, the entrepreneur revealed how he was housing half a million bees in hives in a meadow at his parent’s home 

Other videos and snapshots from James' Instagram page reveal a white teepee hanging from a tree in the garden

Meanwhile another reveals the carefully carved topiary in the mansion's grounds

Other videos and snapshots from James’ Instagram page reveal a white teepee hanging from a tree in the garden (left), while another reveals the carefully carved topiary in the mansion’s grounds (right) 

Meanwhile he has also revealed a glimpse into different parts of his family’s 18 acre land, regularly posting snaps of Alizee and his dogs enjoying a dip into the family’s pool.

In another snap, the couple’s immaculate topiary was on show, with carefully clipped trees and bushes in the background.

And James also revealed another clip of the family’s garden in which a small children’s teepee can be seen hanging from a tree in the background, perhaps providing a little entertainment for Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, or Prince Louis, two, to enjoy while visiting. 

The entrepreneur also uses part of his parent’s huge garden to house his half a million bees, which he keeps in eight hives in a meadow at the family home. 

Carole and Michael bought the Grade-II listed mansion in 2012, and have been spending lockdown at their home alongside James and his fiancée Alizee

Carole and Michael bought the Grade-II listed mansion in 2012, and have been spending lockdown at their home alongside James and his fiancée Alizee

Writing in the Daily Mail last month, James said his family had planted a wildflower meadow close to the hives with cowslip, field scabious, knapweed, buttercups, oxeye daisy, wild hyacinth and lots of clover. 

He explained that the bees love the flowers, especially the clover, and have a banquet of pollen and nectar on their doorstep from early spring right through to autumn. 

The glimpse into the Middleton’s home comes after Carole revealed a rare sneak peek inside her plush barn conversion office, showing off fresh white walls and cream carpet, rustic beams and trendy brickwork. 

The grandmother founded Party Pieces with her husband Michael in 1987 in their garden shed, and moved into the barn at Childs Court Farm in Berkshire in 1993.

In December 2019, Carole revealed a sneak peek inside her plush converted barn offices for business 'Party Pieces', showing off rustic beams and exposed brickwork

In December 2019, Carole revealed a sneak peek inside her plush converted barn offices for business ‘Party Pieces’, showing off rustic beams and exposed brickwork

Carole also revealed a short video sweeping across the decorated office, showing off huge windows and exposed beam columns

Carole also revealed a short video sweeping across the decorated office, showing off huge windows and exposed beam columns 

In December, Carole shared a snap to the company’s Instagram page while she decorated a huge tree in the barn, revealing a glimpse inside the rustic open-plan office. 

The chic and trendy barn office can be seen in the background, with cream walls and carpet, wooden beams and neatly organised desks.

In a short video, the camera sweeps across the office to reveal huge wooden columns, exposed brick and enormous glass windows.

Kate Middleton is ‘devastated’ while Prince Harry and Prince William’s conversations are ‘stilted’

Harry and William fell out, when Duke of Sussex branded older brother a ‘snob’

Prince Harry took offence when his ‘snobby’ brother cautioned him not to rush into marrying Meghan Markle. 

Harry took offence when William told him: ‘Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl.’

Harry is said to have considered the choice of the words ‘this girl’ to be condescending.

‘In those last two words, ‘this girl’, Harry heard the tone of snobbishness that was anathema to his approach to the world,’ claims the book. ‘During his ten-year career in the military, outside the Royal bubble, he had learnt not to make snap judgments about people based on their accent, education, ethnicity, class or profession.’

Prince Harry took offence when his ‘snobby’ brother cautioned him not to rush into marrying Meghan Markle. Pictured: The brothers with Meghan Markle and Kate Middle at Westminster Abbey in 2018

Meghan was disappointed Kate never reached out

 Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle never became friends – while the Duchess of Sussex was ‘disappointed’ she never reached out to her or visited.

 The Duchesses ‘struggled to move past distance politeness’ and had ‘nothing in common other than the fact that they lived at Kensington Palace’, according to the authors of Finding Freedom.

In one particularly awkward encounter when Meghan was dating Harry, Kate went alone in her Range Rover on a shopping trip – despite the fact Meghan was also going to the same street.

The lack of any friendship between the pair was confirmed in 2018 when the Sussexes announced they wanted to base their family at Windsor.

Despite this frostiness, Meghan felt hurt at newspaper stories of the ‘duelling duchesses’ and was angry at the failure of the palace press office to correct them.

Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle never became friends - while the Duchess of Sussex was 'disappointed' she never reached out to her or visited. The pair are pictured at Wimbledon together in 2018

Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle never became friends – while the Duchess of Sussex was ‘disappointed’ she never reached out to her or visited. The pair are pictured at Wimbledon together in 2018

Courtiers branded Meghan Markle a ‘showgirl with lots of baggage’ and said ‘there’s something about her I don’t trust’ 

A courtier in the Royal Household has said ‘there is something I don’t trust’ about Meghan Markle, the book claims.

The book, Finding Freedom, claims as soon as Meghan was introduced to members of the Royal Household, tensions emerged.

One source claimed: ‘She comes with a lot of baggage.’ Another suggested: There’s just something about her I don’t trust.’

Another described Meghan as ‘Harry’s showgirl

Harry was convinced he was going to marry Meghan after the second date

The biography describes in detail the couple’s first date in Soho, London, which went so well that Meghan later confided in a friend: ‘Do I sound crazy when I say this could have legs?’.

Before arriving in the capital she had also told a confidant that she’d be happy for ‘a nice English gentleman to flirt with’ while promoting Suits in Britain.

During that first date at London’s Dean Street Townhouse the couple spent three hours in conversation, Harry drinking beer and Meghan sipping martinis. Harry was said to be ‘in a trance’ and had told himself: ‘I’ve got to up my game here’ when trying to impress the LA-born actress.

The book says: ‘Meghan had enough dating experience to know a charmer when she saw one, and Harry was obviously not at all that’ – adding the couple were ‘immediately obsessed’ with each other and bonded over their joint ‘passions for wanting to make change for good’.

The biography describes in detail the couple's first date in Soho, London, which went so well that Meghan later confided in a friend: 'Do I sound crazy when I say this could have legs?'. The couple are pictured in March

The biography describes in detail the couple’s first date in Soho, London, which went so well that Meghan later confided in a friend: ‘Do I sound crazy when I say this could have legs?’. The couple are pictured in March

According to one friend quoted in the book, Harry and Meghan ‘chatted a lot’ but the evening, like the night before, ended chastely, with Harry returning to Kensington Palace despite their ‘electric chemistry’.

Describing how they flirted throughout, the authors said: ‘A touch of an arm here, direct eye contact there.’

The pair had now met just twice but Harry already knew ‘they would be together at that point’, a friend said, adding of Meghan: ‘She was ticking every box fast.’ Meghan, who was in London visiting, documented much of her trip on social media.

The night out was so successful the second date the following night at the same venue where they are said to have sneaked in via a side door, hidden from view by a delivery truck bringing in produce and fresh fish from Billingsgate Market.

Prince Harry was the first to say 'I love you' in his relationship with Meghan Markle, with friends revealing the couple were 'immediately obsessed' with each other. They are pictured in March this year

Prince Harry was the first to say ‘I love you’ in his relationship with Meghan Markle, with friends revealing the couple were ‘immediately obsessed’ with each other. They are pictured in March this year

One trusted waiter was asked to serve them the entire evening to keep it private.

According to one friend quoted in the book, Harry and Meghan ‘chatted a lot’ but the evening, like the night before, ended chastely, with Harry returning to Kensington Palace despite their ‘electric chemistry’.

Describing how they flirted throughout, the authors said: ‘A touch of an arm here, direct eye contact there.’

The pair had now met just twice but Harry already knew ‘they would be together at that point’, a friend said, adding of Meghan: ‘She was ticking every box fast.’ Meghan, who was in London visiting, documented much of her trip on social media.

Harry was the first to say ‘I love you’   

Prince Harry was the first to say ‘I love you’ in his relationship with Meghan Markle, with friends revealing the couple were ‘immediately obsessed’ with each other.

Meghan’s necklace controversy

Meghan Markle was left ‘frustrated and emotional’ after a palace aide ‘scolded’ her for wearing a necklace with the initials H and M before she and Prince Harry were engaged, according to Finding Freedom. 

The former Suits star, 38, was spotted wearing the personalised £184 14 karat gold chain by Los Angeles-based designer Maya Brenner – believed to have been a gift from the prince – while out shopping in Toronto in December 2016.

The bold move was seen as an early indication of the seriousness of their relationship – a month after the news of their love affair emerged. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex later announced their engagement in November 2017. 

The former Suits star, 38, was spotted wearing the personalised chain - believed to have been a gift from the prince - while out shopping in Toronto

The former Suits star, 38, was spotted wearing the personalised chain – believed to have been a gift from the prince – while out shopping in Toronto

According to a source close to the couple, following the publication of the images Meghan received a dressing down from a palace aide.

‘She was advised that wearing such a necklace only served to encourage the photographers to keep pursuing such images — and new headlines,’ they said.

Prince Harry was REFUSED Queen’s offer of a trial period’ that would have allowed him and Meghan Markle to return to the fold 12 months after Megxit 

Prince Harry was so keen on quitting the royal family that he initially refused the offer of a trial period which could have seen him and Meghan return to the UK after Megxit, 

The review was insisted upon by courtiers and other royals, with the Queen keen to let Harry know he could return to the fold if he changed his mind. 

However, the Duke of Sussex was keen to make a ‘clean break’ and had to be persuaded to agree to the trial period.  A source said: ‘He was adamantly opposed to the review process.’

 Harry is thought to have been against the idea because it came from ‘the institution’ and he feared that a review would lessen the impact of their departure, allowing the media to write they could return.

Prince Harry was so keen on quitting the royal family that he initially refused the offer of a trial period which could have seen him and Meghan return to the UK after Megxit. Meghan is pictured with the Queen in June 2018

Prince Harry was so keen on quitting the royal family that he initially refused the offer of a trial period which could have seen him and Meghan return to the UK after Megxit. Meghan is pictured with the Queen in June 2018

Harry believed the ‘old guard’ at Buckingham Palace disliked Meghan and wanted to make her life difficult. 

That belief is thought to have fuelled his desire to not include a review option in Megxit.   

Harry ‘ditched an old friend for criticising Meghan’ 

The Duke of Sussex was so ‘incandescent’ with rage at the racist abuse Meghan Markle received after their relationship went public that he ditched an old friend for gossiping about her.

Harry was shocked at the reception given to his new girlfriend by his social circle and the wider public, according to Finding Freedom.

He was especially concerned about ‘the ugliness of racism…both unconscious and intentional’.

Charles didn’t know about Harry’s press statement 

Before they were engaged, Harry gave a bombshell statement from Kensington Palace condemning the press while confirming Harry’s new girlfriend.

But it’s release coincided with Prince Charles’ tour in the Middle East, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall having arrived in Bahrain to meet the country’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

The palace decided to go ahead with the statement, much of it drafted by Harry himself.

Before they were engaged, Harry gave a bombshell statement from Kensington Palace condemning the press while confirming Harry's new girlfriend, upsetting Charles who didn't know about the statement until 20 minutes before. Pictured: Prince Harry and Prince William walk behind Charles, and the Queen at Westminster Abbey. Also pictured: Duchesses of Cornwall (front), Cambridge (middle) and Sussex (back)

Before they were engaged, Harry gave a bombshell statement from Kensington Palace condemning the press while confirming Harry’s new girlfriend, upsetting Charles who didn’t know about the statement until 20 minutes before. Pictured: Prince Harry and Prince William walk behind Charles, and the Queen at Westminster Abbey. Also pictured: Duchesses of Cornwall (front), Cambridge (middle) and Sussex (back)

His father only learnt of the statement 20 minutes before it was released and, unsurprisingly, it soon dominated the news cycle.

Prince Charles and his team were left crushed and disappointed, though Charles also understood the intervention was a necessary one.

However, the episode only served to prove that Harry felt the need to prioritise the woman he loved over duty to the royal family. 

Harry had a  secret Instagram account

Harry used the username SpikeyMau5, inspired by Canadian DJ Deadmau5, before freezing the account after his relationship with the former Suits star emerged in October 2016.

The private Instagram profile had a mouse-shaped helmet for a picture – but piqued attention from Meghan’s legions of fans when she became just one of two people following it four years ago just after the couple had a blind date at Dean Street Townhouse in Soho.

 The ‘Spikey’ element of its name came from the code word used by Scotland Yard officers guarding the Duke of Sussex 24/7.

Harry and Meghan’s £1500 a night camping trip 

Six weeks after their first date, Harry took Meghan to Botswana where the pair stayed in £1,500-a-night tents.

A friend is quoted as saying: ‘She came back smiling and just completely spellbound.’ Meghan’s phone was also said to be full of photos, including selfies of her and Harry.

‘I’ve never felt that safe that close to someone in such a short amount of time,’ she reportedly told a friend.

They continued their relationship in secret with Harry flying out to Canada to spend time with her.

But the authors said that ever since the couple’s trip to Africa, ‘their romance had been on a fast track’.

‘Technically the getaway was just their third date but by then, they were each already dancing around the idea that this just may be a for ever thing,’ a friend said. 

The biography also claims: – 

  • Meghan used to tip off the paparazzi when working as an actress in Canada, despite her later going on to claim she didn’t understand the ‘tabloid culture’.
  • Meghan’s friends claimed she endured prejudice from the royal household, with a senior staff member overheard telling a colleague: ‘There’s just something about her I just don’t trust.’   
  • Harry felt ‘unprotected’ by his family and disparaged within palace walls for being ‘too sensitive and outspoken’.
  • Senior courtiers in other households felt that the global popularity of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ‘needed to be reined in’,
  • A tearful Meghan told friends about their decision to quit royal duties: ‘I gave up my entire life for this family.’

Kate Middleton and Prince William release unseen photo of Prince Louis to thank royal fans

Say cheese! Kate Middleton and Prince William release unseen photo of Prince Louis to thank royal fans for their well-wishes on his second birthday

  • Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released an unseen photo of Prince Louis
  • Shared the snap to thank royal fans for their well-wishes on his second birthday 
  • Photo, taken by Kate Middleton, shows Louis grinning at the camera
  • It was taken at the same time as photos released to mark the occasion in April

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have released an unseen photo of their youngest son, Prince Louis

The snap, taken by Kate Middleton at the family home of Anmer Hall, Norfolk, was sent to royal fans to thank them for their well-wishes on the prince’s second birthday in April.

The image was shared on Instagram over the weekend by royal fan account @katsroyalletters, which is based in Germany

The snap, taken by Kate Middleton at the family home of Anmer Hall, Norfolk, was sent to royal fans to thank them for their well-wishes on the prince’s second birthday in April

It was printed on the back of a short thank you note from Kate Middleton, 38, and Prince William, 38, pictured. This image was shared by German-based fan account @katsroyalletters

It was printed on the back of a short thank you note from Kate Middleton, 38, and Prince William, 38, pictured. This image was shared by German-based fan account @katsroyalletters

It was printed on the back of a short thank you note from Kate Middleton, 38, and Prince William, 38, which reads: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appreciated your kind thought in writing to Prince Louis as you did on the occasion of his second birthday. 

‘This was greatly appreciated by Their Royal Highnesses who send you their best wishes.’ 

The photo shows Louis, dressed in a £12 blue checked shirt from Sainsbury’s, beaming for the camera as he stands against a wall at Anmer Hall, the Cambridges’ Norfolk home. 

It was taken at the same time as six other images that were released by the Cambridges to mark their youngest son’s birthday. 

The photo was taken at the same time as six other images that were released by the Cambridges to mark their youngest son's birthday. Pictured, one of the previous images

The photo was taken at the same time as six other images that were released by the Cambridges to mark their youngest son’s birthday. Pictured, one of the previous images

The young prince raised his rainbow coloured hands to his face, that were carefully painted on him by his mother Kate

The young prince raised his rainbow coloured hands to his face, that were carefully painted on him by his mother Kate

The prince, two, looked thrilled to be getting his hands dirty during the arts and crafts session

The prince, two, looked thrilled to be getting his hands dirty during the arts and crafts session 

The snaps showed Louis with his hands covered in paint as he took part in a rainbow arts and crafts session in honour of the NHS.  

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last week whisked their children George, seven, Charlotte, five, and Louis off for a staycation on the Isles of Scilly. 

The family were spotted ‘enjoying the weather’ and stopping to greet their fellow holidaymakers as they cycled across Tresco last Thursday. 

William is no stranger to the beauty spot, having visited the same island with his brother Harry and parents Charles and Diana as a child in June 1989.

He also visited the island with Kate in 2016, with images showing the pair boarding a boat to St Martins after visiting the Tresco Abbey Garden. 

The photo released today looks similar to this one released in April to mark the birthday

The photo released today looks similar to this one released in April to mark the birthday