Queen and Duchess of Cambridge step out on first joint engagement as a duo

Hannah Furness

The Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge yesterday enjoyed their first public joint engagement as a royal double act, as they were welcomed to King’s College London by a friendly robot hoping to shake their hands.

The Queen and her granddaughter-in-law spent the morning on a tour to open the college’s new Bush House, with an introduction to its very latest technology.  

Among the many hands they were invited to shake was one belonging to a robot trained to mimic human behaviour, with the amused Duchess telling it: “Very nice to meet you.”

The Queen, preferring to watch from a safe distance, beamed as she was shown how it worked.

It was the first time the Duchess has accompanied the Queen on an engagement as a pair outside palace walls. They  have previously undertaken a select handful of joint engagements, but have always been joined by other members of the family in public.

The Royal duo arrive at KCL Credit: AP

In 2011, they visited the Duchess' wedding dress exhibition together within the walls of Buckingham Palace, and in 2014 hosted a night in celebration of the UK's dramatic arts there.

In 2012, during visits to Leicester and Fortnum and Masons in Piccadilly, they were joined by the Duke of Edinburgh and Duchess of Cornwall respectively. 

The Queen and Duchess of Sussex undertook a joint engagement in Chester last year, in what was interpreted as a show of support form Her Majesty towards her new granddaughter-in-law. 

Today, the Queen and Duchess of Cambridge looked to be enjoying themselves as they arrived in the Queen’s Bentley, their legs covered in a shared blanket. 

The Queen and Duchess of Cornwall open Bush House Credit: Paul Grover

They were greeted by Christopher Geidt, chairman of King’s and former private secretary to the Queen, before being taken up to the eighth floor where they met donors, supporters and alumni of the university who had contributed to transform the former BBC World Service at Bush House to a new faculty.

Outside on the terrace which overlooked central London, the Queen and Duchess both remarked on the “impressive” view.

Meeting a group of builders, the Duchess inquired: “Do you all still get on?! What a mammoth project this was.”

In a tour of the facilities, Matthew Howard, head of King’s robot learning lab, told showed the royal visitors a £sawyer robot", designed to learn skills by copying the behaviour of people.

The Queen is shown a robot arm Credit: Paul Grover

“The sensors can be built into clothing and can pick up muscle activity as they can be made with metallic thread," he said. 

"It picks up the EMG muscle activity and transmits it to the robot and tries to copy what the person is doing.

“It’s not every day you get to shake hands with a robot."

The Queen and Duchess then went downstairs to meet students in the university’s special trading floor and entrepreneurship section.

Meeting entrepreneurs Aysha Ingar who has set up an app for Muslim women and Tobi Oredein who has set up a media platform for black women in the UK, the Duchess told them: “I come from an entrepreneurial background and my parents started their own business so I’m all for it!

"“Congratulations and keep going.”

The Queen, Duchess of Cornwall and Duchess of Cambridge at Fortnum and Mason in 2012 Credit: AFP

The Duchess also met medical student Qasim Munye, 22, who has set up an app called Shortly for people who want to read short stories on the go, allowing people to choose a story that suits how much time they have to read.

“Oh that would be fantastic for the kiddies when it’s bedtime," she said. “Particularly for tired parents who want the children to go to sleep.”

The visit ended in a new auditorium where the Queen, who is patron of the university, unveiled a plaque, formally opened Bush House.

Lord Geidt, who also went to to King’s as a student, made a short speech and gave the Queen a gift of book of royal photographs.