Praise For Kate After Charity Visit

The Duchess of Cambridge confessed that she's nervous about giving birth -it comes as the Prime Minister defended her against a scathing attack from novelist Hilary Mantel.

Kate, who is more than four months pregnant, showed off her baby bump for the first time at a public event and clearly looked like an expectant mother.

Her concerns about the birth - the due date is July - came as she chatted to a group of women recovering from drink and drug addictions at a treatment centre run by the charity Action On Addiction of which she is patron.

But the royal visit was overshadowed by the furore caused by Mantel's comments, who suggested the Duchess is a "shop-window mannequin" with no personality whose only purpose is to breed.

During a lecture at the British Museum, the double Booker Prize-winner said Kate appeared to have been "gloss-varnished" with a perfect plastic smile.

The writer also seemed to suggest the "painfully thin" royal was selected for her role because she posed no risk of showing any character.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is in New Delhi on an official visit to India, defended the Duchess.

Mr Cameron said of Mantel:

"I think she writes great books, but I think what she's said about Kate Middleton is completely misguided and completely wrong."

The Prime Minister told the BBC:

 "What I've seen of Princess Kate at public events, at the Olympics and elsewhere is this is someone who's bright, who's engaging, who's a fantastic ambassador for Britain."

During Kate's visit to Hope House, an all-female treatment centre in Clapham, south London, she spent time with an arts therapy group who were painting pictures to express their emotions and chart their battle with substance abuse.

Lisa, a mother-of-three who did not want to give her full name, said after the royal left the group:

"I did ask her if she was nervous (about giving birth). She said it would be unnatural if she wasn't - she's human like us."

The 34-year-old, who turned to drink during a violent marriage which lasted 18 years, said:

"I said 'congratulations and good luck, I hope it all goes OK'."

The Duchess wore a MaxMara dress for the visit and looked relaxed and tanned after her recent Caribbean holiday.

When she first arrived she clasped her hands around her small baby bump and repeated the gesture a number of times during the visit and seemed completely at ease with her growing figure.

Kate was making her second tour of the centre. Her first was a private trip she made to learn more about the charity Action on Addiction before becoming its patron.

Hope House provides therapy for the women, who will have gone through a process of detox and are clean of alcohol and drugs but still need support before they are ready to return home.

A moving moment came during a reception for supporters and senior staff from Action on Addiction when the Duchess heard from a woman who received treatment at the centre and is now forging a career as a playwright.

Sonya Hale, 35, from Congleton, Cheshire, has had an award-winning play produced at London's Royal Court Theatre and another will be staged next month at a festival at Southbank Centre.

The writer began using soft drugs aged 14 and progressed to harder substances like heroin and crack and spent much of her 20s in and out of prison after being convicted of petty crimes.

She told the Duchess and guests:

"On arriving here just two years ago I was a broken, frightened shell of a woman, who lacked any of the basic skills necessary to live a normal life.

"I've been heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol from an early age, I spent much of life roaming the streets, sleeping in shop doorways and using drugs."

Ms Hale said that after treatment at Hope House:

"I felt held, I felt saved, I felt loved for what seemed like the first time ever.

"Through a combination of group work and counselling Hope House nurtured me and supported me to make the changes necessary to turn my life around."

Nick Barton, Action on Addiction's chief executive, praised the Duchess after the visit:

"She was wonderful with the clients. They fell in love with her. They opened up to her.

"She's such an easy person that they were talking to her in a very comfortable way, and I think surprised themselves at how easy that she made it for them.

"She seemed in good spirits, in good health, and very comfortable."