File photo: Sources said that Kate was there as part of her work into "Early Years" provision, one of the cornerstones of her official work as a royal. Picture: Reuters

London - The Duchess of Cambridge has spent two days secretly undertaking "work experience" in a busy hospital maternity unit, it emerged on Thursday.

Kate, 37, joined the team at Kingston Hospital in Surrey on Tuesday and Wednesday to learn more about frontline maternity care.

As a mother of three, Kate is no stranger to the issues around having a baby and parenting – but all of her children were born in the exclusive private Lindo Wing at St Mary’s, Paddington.

Kingston delivered 5 330 babies in 2017/18 and was rated as "good" by the Care Quality Commission.

Sources said that Kate was there as part of her work into "Early Years" provision, one of the cornerstones of her official work as a royal.

It was not announced in advance and most hospital staff weren’t told about her presence to keep disruption to a minimum.

It is not unheard of for royals to undertake longer periods of work experience "under the radar". Earlier this year, Prince William spent three weeks with MI5, MI6 and Cheltenham GCHQ, while his mother, Diana, often dropped in unannounced to homeless shelters and hospitals she supported.

Kate’s visit was simply announced on Thursday in the Court Circular, the official record of royal engagements as: "The Duchess of Cambridge, Joint Patron, the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, today completed two days with Kingston Hospital Maternity Unit in London." 

Kensington Palace refused to comment further, while Kingston Hospital had been told not discuss the visit, although it was made clear that the duchess has not delivered babies nor helped with procedures. The Mail understands that the project has stemmed from her charity work on issues including addiction and family breakdown.

Eighteen months ago, the Mail revealed that the duchess had launched a "game-changing" crusade to mend "broken Britain" by tackling anti-social behaviour, addiction and mental health issues at birth.

According to sources, Kate privately acknowledges that detractors are likely to question what she, as an extremely privileged young woman, could possibly know about poverty and lack of family cohesion.

But in a recent speech, she said: "We need to highlight how important it is to support mothers too, potentially even before they give birth. They need to be aware how vulnerable they might be and, critically, know where they can find help for themselves, as well as for their babies and toddlers."

Daily Mail