DARWEN, England (Reuters Life!) - A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding.
The trip was expected to be one of the last occasions that William, second in line to the British throne, and Middleton will be seen in public before April 29th when they marry at London’s Westminster Abbey.
Heavy rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of onlookers as Middleton, wearing a navy-colored jacket and skirt, and William arrived smiling at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy school in northwest England.
The couple were due to officially open the school and launch the “SkillForce Prince’s Award,” an honor to reward young people who contribute to their local community.
“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,” William said in a speech at the school.
“But I have learnt through working with some truly inspiring charities -- none more so than SkillForce -- that these things can never be taken for granted.”
Later they visited a local country park as part of an initiative to protect more than 2,000 outdoor areas across Britain and encourage recreational activities.
As well as watching a number of sporting displays, William met youngsters taking part in a soccer skills programme involving Premiership side Blackburn Rovers.
“Kate looked very, very pretty,” said Natalie Sailor, 16, who won a 100 meter race started by Middleton.
Monday’s visit completed the couple’s brief tour of the United Kingdom. They have already visited Wales, where William is based as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, the university in Scotland where they met, and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile Prime Minister David Cameron has urged Britons to follow his lead and hold a street party to celebrate the wedding.
Cameron, who is holding a party in Downing Street with his wife Samantha, warned councils not to allow “petty bureaucracy” to prevent those planning such celebrations.
“It’s a special day for everyone in Britain,” Cameron wrote in the Sun newspaper. “It’s a chance for all of us to come together and celebrate the great things about our country.”
However, the call for festivities did not extend to Republic, a campaign group which wants to abolish the monarchy.
They said their attempt to hold a “Not the Royal Wedding” street party in Covent Garden in central London had been blocked by the local council.
“This is a disgraceful attack on the rights of republicans to make their voice heard and to hold a fun and peaceful event,” said the group’s Executive Officer Graham Smith.
Writing by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato