published Friday, February 25th, 2011

Prince William, Kate dedicate lifeboat in Wales

By TOBIE MATHEW

Associated Press

TREARDDUR BAY, Wales — It was only a lifeboat — yet the occasion gave hundreds of people a chance to cheer Thursday as Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton made an official visit to Wales to dedicate the new boat.

In a ceremony in Anglesey, Wales, the prince made a short statement asking that all those who used the boat be blessed, and then Middleton, with a big smile, poured champagne over the lifeboat.

“I do the talking, she does the fun bit,” William joked.

The champagne bottle was not broken over the boat, as is traditional, because the lifeboat was an inflatable and it would not have been easy to crack a bottle on its bow.

Middleton looked elegant and comfortable in her new role as a princess-to-be. She wore a three-quarter length tailored beige coat designed by British designer Katherine Hooker, and had her long hair swept back and topped by a chic feathery hat.

The hat was adorned with a badge of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, an infantry regiment of the British army.

Prince William named the Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station’s new boat the “Hereford Endeavour” at the ceremony 300 miles (485 kilometers) northwest of London.

He and Middleton joined the crowd in singing “God Save the Queen,” followed by the Welsh national anthem.

The prince, a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot at a Royal Air Force base in Wales, then stood by his fiancee as both chatted with local dignitaries and members of the public. The couple, who are based in Wales, wanted to have a royal visit here to give back to the community, a palace spokeswoman said.

Royal fan Colin Edwards, 70, met the couple and gave them two gifts: a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II and another of the late Princess Diana with a young William and his brother Harry.

“Seeing this crowd here today has brought back many memories for me because I followed Diana for many years and there was always a vast crowd,” Edwards said. “I think the British public are going to take this beautiful young lady to their hearts.”

Jean Critchley, 63, said it was worth waiting for the chance to see the couple.

“They are a lovely couple. He is a great lad and she is a beautiful girl,” she said after watching the event with her husband and grandson.

The visit had been highly anticipated because the couple have kept such a low profile since announcing their engagement in November, making only one other prior appearance at a charity event. They plan to marry April 29 at Westminster Abbey with nearly 2,000 guests attending.

On Friday, the couple will visit their alma mater, the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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