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William and Kate delight Hillsborough Castle garden party guests

Published 14/06/2016

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend a garden party at the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend a garden party at the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.
The Duchess of Cambridge plants a tree
Kate wears a hat by Lock and Co
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to guests at the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.
The Duchess of Cambridge enjoys a good laugh
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (centre) attend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers' (second right) Garden Party at the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the steps of Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stand for the national anthem
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to guests
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plant a tree at the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.
The Duchess of Cambridge
The Duke of Cambridge (right) at Theresa Villiers' Garden Party

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge left garden party guests delighted and more than a little star struck on their first visit to Northern Ireland since their wedding.

Young and old alike grabbed any vantage point to catch what was a rare glimpse of William and Catherine in the region, as they chatted and mingled at the event in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.

The weather was as warm as the welcome as the couple strolled through the sun-drenched gardens of the Royal residence.

On arrival they met a host of dignitaries, including Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster, and helped plant a tree, before heading out on to the lawns to talk with a range of guests from a cross-section of Northern Ireland society.

Teenager Caitlin Quigley from Londonderry was one of a number of younger faces at the event.

The A-level student said she never dreamed she would get to meet the Duchess.

"It's unspeakable," said the St Mary's College student after chatting with Catherine. "I never thought I would get to do that, you watch the news and she is a normal girl who became a princess, and you never think you are going to meet her, and then for it to happen is just lovely."

Evelyn Hassard from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, spoke to William about her long involvement in a community arts festival.

But she also revealed a link between the two of them. "I told him my first cousin actually registered the birth of his two babies at the palace - he thought that was lovely," she said.

Mrs Hassard, who was invited to the garden party with her husband David, added: "It was enchanting to meet him. He's just as you would expect him to be - very focused, he really looks at you, he's a charming guy.

"We are very lucky to have him as our future monarch."

Catherine's coat by Day Birger et Mikkelsen and Lock & Co hat drew admiring comments from many guests.

The Duchess also wore a brooch presented to her as a wedding gift from the Irish Guards.

The region's secretary of state has hosted the garden party annually since 1984.

Around 2,500 guests were invited by Theresa Villiers this year, with representatives from the voluntary and community sectors, the emergency services and military, local charities and youth organisations among those who attended.

The occasion was only the second time the Royal couple have visited Northern Ireland together.

The last time was in March 2011, only weeks before their wedding. On that occasion Catherine tossed pancakes at Belfast City Hall and hammered in fence posts at Greenmount Agriculture College in Co Antrim.

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