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Kate Middleton Continues Early Childhood Mission as Prince Harry Hits Court

Jan 11, 2024

The Princess of Wales stepped out at the family-focused community center around the same time her brother-in-law appeared in court for his lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers

Janine Henni is a Royals Staff Writer for PEOPLE Digital, covering modern monarchies and the world's most famous families. Like Queen Elizabeth, she loves horses and a great tiara moment.

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Kate Middleton is continuing her early childhood mission while Prince Harry appears in London court.

On Tuesday morning, the Princess of Wales visited the Windsor Family Hub to learn more about how the center supports families in the local area. The Windsor Family Hub is not far from Kate's home with Prince William and their three children at Adelaide Cottage and offers support services for parents, caretakers and children of all ages in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The center is run by Achieving for Children, a nonprofit community group, and aims to offer targeted support to foster family resilience and prevent issues from escalating.

Princess Kate, 41, spent time with a few different groups dedicated to the early years, a keystone of her public work. The royal mom met with parents participating in a stress management class, a health visitor session and a baby massage course. She also heard from parents about how the Windsor Family Hub has made a difference and met staff behind the services.

RELATED: Why Kate Middleton's Royal Wedding Tiara Moment in Jordan Marked a New Milestone for the Princess

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As Kate crouched down on a bean bag and chatted with moms and toddlers at the family center, it was an opportunity to experience a "physical visualization" of the philosophy of the importance of the early years in a person's life, according to Lin Ferguson, Director of Children's services at Achieving for Children.

"She was really skilled with our families," Ferguson tells PEOPLE following the royal's visit.

The mothers were only told that Princess Kate was going to be the "special guest" at their morning meetings about half an hour before she arrived.

"Some of the parents struggle to speak up in environments like that, but she had many of them relaxed and speaking up," Ferguson says. "I have heard people say before that she is great at putting people at ease but when you see it in action – she just makes it easy, immediately."

RELATED: Why Prince Harry Didn't Take the Stand to Testify Against Mirror Group Newspapers on Monday

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As Kate met with a group of parents and kids who were taking part in a health visitor session, there was "lots of laughter and babies crying" amid the discussion with parents, Ferguson says.

At the baby massage part of the morning, Princess Kate sat down on a bean bag on the floor while interacting and smiling broadly with the parents. "She was very engaged — and they were very engaged with her," says Ferguson.

Then, with group of Muslim women, Ferguson says the parents were "very open about the issues and challenges they have had and how they had been able to move through them with their families' help."

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Ferguson tells PEOPLE, "She's incredibly knowledgeable — I was really impressed with her knowledge. She has spent time getting to understand the issues, meeting various groups and meeting families. I get the sense that she has had lots of engagements and is really trying to understand what's important for young people and children and families. That shone through. The early months can have lifelong effects on people — and that message she is promoting is really important."

In a post shared on social media by Kate and Prince William's joint accounts, their office captioned a variety of photos from the visit: "A wonderful morning at the Windsor Family Hub seeing the wide variety of services on offer to parents, carers and children. Hearing from families about the breadth of brilliant support provided here was a reminder once again of the profound importance of our early years in #ShapingUs."

Long focused on children's causes, Princess Kate recently honed her focus on early development and the critical role caretakers play in the first few years of a child's life. To take awareness of the critical importance of the early childhood years to the next level, the Princess of Wales launched the landmark "Shaping Us" campaign in January. The effort comes from The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which she established in June 2021.

The long-term Shaping Us initiative is defined on the Royal Foundation's website as "a major new awareness-raising campaign to increase public understanding of the crucial importance of the first five years of a child's life." The campaign hopes to transform "the issue from one of scientific interest to one of the most strategically important topics of our time," a statement says.

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Princess Kate shares Prince George, 9, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5, with husband Prince William. The princess’ other latest solo engagements — visits to the Foundling Museum and Kinship Carers in London on May 25 — also connect to her awareness-raising mission about the importance of early childhood on lifelong development.

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Around the same time on Tuesday morning, Prince Harry stepped out at the High Court of the Royal Courts of Justice in London to testify against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over alleged unlawful information gathering. The Duke of Sussex, 38, launched the claim in 2019, alleging that his phone voicemails were hacked. MGN is the powerhouse publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Express and more.

Prince Harry is one of over 100 people suing MGN for alleged illegal activity between 1991 and 2022, and one of four "representative" claimants chosen as "test cases" from the larger group, The Independent previously reported. The other claimants selected for trial are actress Nikki Sanderson, actor Michael Turner and Fiona Wightman, ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse — and the stakes are high.

"If Harry and the other claimants win, the judge will use it to set the level of damages (amount of money) MGN could pay in other cases from other celebrities," the BBC said.

The claimants’ attorneys allege that senior editors and executives at MGN were aware — and approved. The newspaper group has denied the accusations and said that some of the claims were brought too late.

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King Charles’ younger son will make modern royal history as the first prominent member of the British royal family to give evidence in court in 130 years. The last royal to do so was King Edward VII, who testified as a witness in a divorce case in 1870 and again in a slander trial over a card game in 1890 before becoming King, Reuters reported.

Prince Harry was last in London for the coronation of his father the King and Queen Camilla on May 6, making a quick trip from California for the crowning ceremony. Meghan Markle remained stateside with their young children — Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet — on their son's 4th birthday.

RELATED: RELATED: Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!