12/02/2014 05:01 GMT | Updated 12/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Kate Middleton Wears Queen's Jewels To Gala (PICTURES)

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends The Portrait Gala 2014: Collecting to Inspire at the National Portrait Gallery on February 11, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

The Duchess of Cambridge made a dazzling return to public duties tonight when she joined a star studded guestlist for a fundraising night in aid of the National Portrait Gallery

Kate stepped out for her first engagement of the year wearing a dark-coloured Jenny Packham floor length dress.

The night was billed as a black-tie do with a "sparkle" and the Duchess followed the theme by wearing a dazzling diamond necklace loaned by the Queen.


Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends The Portrait Gala 2014

The fabulous piece was a wedding gift given to the Queen to mark her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947.

Known as the Nizam of Hyderabad it was created by Cartier in the 1930s and has been worn by the monarch throughout her life and for many formal portraits.

Among the guests for the gala dinner was actress Elizabeth Hurley, rock star Bryan Adams, actor Alan Rickman and artist Grayson Perry.

The Duchess gave a short speech to guests before dinner began telling them about the importance of the fundraising night.

She said: "I just wanted to say how delighted I am to be here this evening to celebrate the fantastic work of the National Portrait Gallery.

"The Gallery's achievements are exceptional. They hold the most extensive collection of portraits in the world, and their unique and brilliant exhibitions never fail to inspire us all.

"But, it is more than simply a world renowned visitor's attraction - the Gallery's outreach and research programmes makes it one of the leading centres for the important study into portraiture.

"I simply could not be more proud to be its Patron.

"Thank you for being here tonight and showing your support. I hope that you all have a wonderful evening."

Her voice faltered as she came to the end of her speech and she smiled as she regained her composure and the audience said "Ah" in sympathy.

The evening will raise funds for the Gallery's work and well known figures have either draw or written portraits which will be sold.


The Duchess followed the theme by wearing a dazzling diamond necklace loaned by the Queen

Inspired by portraits in the Gallery's collection, pen portraits, offered at £500 each, have been composed by Ben Okri, AS Byatt, Hilary Mantel, Joanna Trollope, Sir David Hare, and Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

Mantel has chosen a portrait of Thomas Cromwell revisiting the subject of her award-winning novel Wolf Hall, while Hare has opted for Oscar Wilde, also the subject of one of his works.

Richard E Grant, Sir Paul Smith, Maggi Hambling and Gok Wan are some of the artists who have contributed mystery portrait postcards.

There will be a special display of over 200 postcards at the Gala dinner which will later go on public show for a short time and be sold at £250 each.

Funds raised by the Gala will support the Gallery's daily work of delivering exhibitions and displays, offering unique learning opportunities and undertaking world class research.

The Duchess toured the display of the tiny picture portraits with the Gallery's director Sandy Nairne.

Grayson Perry created a portrait for the Gala but remained tight lipped about which one was his.

He was introduced to the Duchess and the pair chatted away close to two pictures painted by Bryan Organ in the early 1980s of the Prince and Princess of Wales.