Kate Meets Ukraine's Olena Zelenska in First Solo Duty as Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales undertook her first solo duty under her new elevated title at Buckingham Palace on Sunday, in an audience with the Ukrainian First Lady, Olena Zelenska.

Kate was made Princess of Wales by her father-in-law King Charles III following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, when the new monarch formally created his son, William, Prince of Wales—a title the present king had held for over fifty years.

Kate is the first royal to use the title of Princess of Wales since her late-mother-in-law Princess Diana who died 25 years ago this year.

Princess of Wales and Olena Zelenska
The Princess of Wales and Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, photographed at Buckingham Palace, September 18, 2022. The princess recieved the first lady who was in London to represent her husband at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. KIRSTY O'CONNOR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

King Charles III made clear in his first address to the nation how much he values his son and daughter-in-law and the prominent roles they will play in his reign over the years to come.

"Today, I am proud to create [William] Prince of Wales, Tywysog Cymru, the country whose title I have been so greatly privileged to bear during so much of my life and duty," he said one day after the queen's death.

"With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the center ground where vital help can be given."

As Princess of Wales, Kate is now the most senior female member of the royal family behind Queen Camilla, and as such will take on a greater share of royal duties.

The first of these duties to be undertaken in a solo capacity, took place on Sunday at Buckingham Palace where she officially received the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska.

Zelenska is in London as her country's representative at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. It was considered too dangerous for the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to travel himself, as Ukraine continues to fight against an invasion from Russian forces.

Photographs released from the meeting between the princess and first lady, show both women dressed in mourning black sitting in a room at Buckingham Palace face-to-face.

This was not the first time that the two women had met. In 2020, Zelenska and her husband were received at the palace by both Kate and William on behalf of the queen.

The presidential couple were visiting Britain as part of a wider tour of Europe to meet with leaders to discuss growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

Zelenskys in London with William and Kate
The President and First Lady of Ukraine photographed meeting William and Kate at Buckingham Palace, October 7, 2020. Kate met with Olena Zelenska on Sunday in a second meeting at Buckingham Palace. Jonathan Brady/WPA Pool/Getty Images

In the days following their meeting Zelensky met with the then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab where it was announced that the UK would provide £5 million of humanitarian aid to assist Ukraine.

When conflict finally broke out between the two nations in February, William and Kate sent a personal message of support to the Ukrainian people, fondly remembering their meeting with the Zelenskys. It read: "In October 2020 we had the privilege to meet President Zelenskyy and the First Lady to learn of their hope and optimism for Ukraine's future.

"Today we stand with the President and all of Ukraine's people as they bravely fight for that future, W & C."

In response to this message, the president posted a tweet which thanked the couple for their support.

"Olena and I are grateful to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge @RoyalFamily that at this crucial time, when Ukraine is courageously opposing Russia's invasion, they stand by our country and support our brave citizens. Good will triumph," he said.

At the time this caused some controversy as the first members of the British royal family to speak out in support of Ukraine, following the outbreak of conflict on the country's western boarder with Russia, were Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

After releasing a statement through their Archewell foundation and reaffirming their support in a speech at the NAACP awards in February, criticism was launched at the couple online, including from British columnist Piers Morgan who in response tweeted: "This will really rattle Putin."

Columnists from The Daily Mail and The Sun also took aim at the couple for their public showing of support.

Despite their messages of support, President Zelensky did not post a public statement of thanks to the Sussexes.

For Kate, her first solo duty as Princess of Wales being a meeting with diplomatic undertones signifies the important role and responsibility she now undertakes.

Throughout her marriage the royal has been slow to take on increased responsibility, finding her own feet with causes she feels most passionate about.

Prince and Princess of Wales
The Prince and Princess of Wales photographed meeting armed forces members from commonwealth nations taking part in the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, September 16, 2022. William and Kate were given new titles by King Charles III when he acceded to the throne. Karwai Tang/WireImage

The high-profile nature of the meeting, taking place at Buckingham Palace ahead of a world leaders reception before the queen's state funeral, is a level of responsibility that was not shared with the last Princess of Wales, Diana, during her marriage.

During the state funeral the princess will play a prominent role, processing with her husband and two children, Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7, behind the queen's coffin at Westminster Abbey.