London - Queen Elizabeth II has a new sidekick for royal events: The Duchess of Cambridge.
The upcoming appearances with the queen mark another foray into the public eye for the former Kate Middleton, who is stepping out more often while her husband Prince William is deployed as a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot in the remote Falkland Islands.
Buckingham Palace officials said on Monday the duchess will join the queen and Prince Charles' wife Camilla on March 1 at the luxury department store Fortnum and Mason to visit a new restaurant. The royals are expected to have tea at the London landmark - known for its fancy, well-stocked food hall and unveil a plaque commemorating efforts to renovate the Piccadilly Circus neighbourhood.
The following week, the duchess plans to travel to the English city of Leicester with the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, as part of Diamond Jubilee celebrations to mark the queen's 60 years on the throne.
The duchess made her solo debut last week visiting a show of the late Lucian Freud's paintings in London.
Philip, 90, is expected to still keep up an extensive travel schedule during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year despite his heart scare over Christmas, which required a stent to keep his coronary arteries open.
The queen, 85, and Philip are planning an extensive tour of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as the jubilee unfolds.
They will not be travelling overseas as they did in earlier jubilees, but will send their children and grandchildren on jubilee visits to many Commonwealth countries.
The festivities are expected to reach a climax in early June with a flotilla on the River Thames, a gala concert in front of Buckingham Palace and a carriage procession through the streets of London following a service of thanksgiving.