Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton brought their electric smiles to northwest England on Monday for the last trip in their pre-wedding tour of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most observers agree the four trips were a big success, with the youthful Middleton showing an adroit touch with Britons from all walks of life. She also won style points for her fashion choices and won people over with her easy smile and relaxed demeanour.
Adoring crowds in Blackburn ignored torrential rain and lined up early to get a glimpse of the royal couple.
William, in a blue suit and dark tie, played the role of proud husband-to-be to near perfection. He let Middleton take centre stage most of the time even as he handled public speaking duties, including a brief speech in support of an educational charity. The royal couple arrived first at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, where William launched a “prince’s award” for the educational charity SkillForce.
Prince William paid a touching tribute to his bride-to-be in his speech. “I know that I am very fortunate. I have the support of my family and friends, I do a job I enjoy … and I have Catherine,” he said on his speech to launch the Skillforce Prince Award.
They then visited Witton Country Park in the afternoon as part of William’s commitment to protect outdoor recreational spaces. Crowds swelled there despite the damp, leaden skies and police were out in force. The sun came out, as if on cue, when William and Middleton arrived at the sports field.
“I came here early, even though it’s pouring with rain, to make sure I get the best chance of seeing William and Kate,” said one brave soul on a wheelchair. “They’re a lovely couple and as for William, his mother Diana would have been so proud of him.”
“It was absolutely worth the wait,” said Linda Gregson, 52, of Darwen, after spending 2 ½ hours in the rain with her son to briefly see the royal couple.
Middleton looked elegant, with her hair partly swept up and wearing a navy skirt and matching tailored jacket. It is said that her latest outfit is by British designer Amanda Wakeley. She carried a matching clutch bag and wore high-heeled shoes despite the damp weather and mushy athletic field, where she started a race for teenage girls by dropping a white flag.
The couple also met with some Olympic hopefuls who had been invited, including pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale.
“We had a bit of a chat about how my training was going,” said Bleasdale, 19. “They were very interested in how I got into it. Kate said that she used to be a bit of a high jumper, so that’s good to know that they’re quite sporty.”
The couple showed no obvious signs of pre-wedding jitters, although William has said he is getting nervous as the big day approaches.
Next up: Westminster Abbey…
- BBC’s recap: Kate at ease; William mentions “his kids”
- Telegraph’s recap: Prince William’s whole speech for SkillForce
- CNN’s recap: A bit from Prince William’s walkabout
Some of my favourite PICTURES
- A snack basket inside William & Kate’s royal car
- William & Kate’s fingers get tactile
- Kate Middleton reaches out to shake a hand
- Prince William greets adorable little fans
- In the audience: William & Kate watch a dance performance
- Kate’s funny expression as the sprint race finishes
- Prince William tries a bike at Witton Country Park