A week after settling daughter Princess Charlotte into school, Kate Middleton is cementing the most important public role of her own: future Queen.
Multiple sources close to the couple tell PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that they have observed a growing confidence in Princess Kate, 37. While raising her own three children with husband Prince William, she has found passion and purpose in helping mothers and children everywhere. “She is finding her voice,” says a well-placed palace source.
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Her commitment to learning about early childhood shined through in the many meetings — some three hours long — that she attended during the past year with a panel of experts. “The Duchess wouldn’t just join us, she would stay for the whole meeting,” says Kate Stanley, director of strategy at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a prominent child protection charity in the U.K. “She has a deep curiosity to really understand the issues.”
On Tuesday, Kate launched the permanent version of her Back to Nature garden to cultivate a love of the outdoors in children. She is also writing her own speeches, including one she delivered Tuesday in which she said, “As a parent, I have learnt just how important it is to foster our children’s development, in all areas, not just physical, as soon as they are born.”
For more on how Kate is managing her dual roles of motherhood and future Queen, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands on Friday.
As a family friend tells PEOPLE, “She is now more open with what she wants to say, and funnily enough, she is more relaxed as well.”
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“She is an adoring mother, and she is contributing publicly in the way we would want her to,” adds a source close to the royal household. “You see it more and more. The young student has turned into our future Queen.”
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