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Geoff Pugh  /  AP
The Duchess of Cambridge, center, during one of the unannouced visits she's been making to various U.K. charities.
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updated 9/18/2011 12:42:51 PM ET 2011-09-18T16:42:51

Newly-minted royal Kate Middleton is on the hunt — no, not for foxes but for her own charity gig.

St. James's Palace on Sunday confirmed that Kate — now formally known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — is spending the next few months exploring the charitable sector as she mulls what to make of her position at the top of British society. The move shows that Princess Kate is following a family tradition championed by the late Princess Diana, her mother-in-law.

The idea is "to get to know a number of charitable and other causes better, so she can make well-informed decisions about her future role," her spokesman said, declining to elaborate. "The duchess plans to meet a wide range of people and make private visits."

He spoke on condition of anonymity, as required by palace policy.

Slideshow: Duchess Kate’s royal style

The Sunday Times said the 29-year-old princess had already begun making under-the-radar trips to various unnamed U.K. institutions.

Running or founding charities has long been a favored pastime for Britain's royals. Prince Charles, Kate's father-in-law, is the patron or president of no fewer than 20.

But it was Charles' former wife, Princess Diana, whose hands-on approach set the bar for future royal charity work.

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Diana was famously photographed crossing an Angolan minefield, and a 1987 picture of her holding the hand of an AIDS patient helped change public attitudes toward the disease at a time when many wrongly thought that HIV could be spread by touch.

Prince William, Diana's son and Kate's husband, has pulled occasional publicity stunts in the same vein. In 2009, he spent one December night out on the streets near London's Blackfriars bridge with the chief executive of a homelessness charity that his mother used to support, in a bid to raise awareness of the issue.

On a recent visit to California, both William and Kate visited an arts center in Skid Row, where some 4,000 homeless people live in downtown Los Angeles.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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