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Charity chief backs 'natural' Kate

The Duchess of Cambridge was defended by a charity chief executive after a scathing attack by novelist Hilary Mantel.

Nick Barton, who heads Action on Addiction, which Kate supports as patron, described her as an "intelligent" woman genuinely interested in the work of his organisation.

During a lecture at the British Museum, Mantel, the double Booker Prize winner, said Kate appeared to have been "gloss-varnished" with a perfect plastic smile, in contrast to Princess Diana, who she described as awkward and emotionally incontinent.

She said "painfully thin" Kate was selected for her role of princess because she posed no risk of showing any character.

Kate will tour the addiction charity's Hope House treatment centre in Clapham, south London, later - her first solo engagement since she presented the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Asked for his reaction to Mantel's criticisms, Mr Barton said: "I don't think it's for me to comment on that kind of stuff. I speak of what I know - somebody who wants to help, is helpful and genuinely interested and is intelligent.

"I can only speak (of) what I know. I've met her several times and I found her to be engaging, I found her very natural, I found her actually genuinely interested in the subject.

"You can tell a lot from people's questions and she asks really good questions. They're not routine stuff, they're questions of someone who wants to learn. I find her very easy to deal with."

A large media presence gathered outside the treatment centre with satellite vans for broadcasters lining the road, and photographers standing three deep on the pavements.

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