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William in tribute to Kate on visit

Prince William paid a touching tribute to his bride-to-be Kate Middleton as the couple held their last joint engagement before their wedding day.

The royal described how he was "very fortunate" to have "Catherine" during a day-long visit to Lancashire to celebrate the achievements of young people.

William and Kate were greeted by cheering crowds and Union flag-waving school children, and received words of support for their wedding day while in Darwen and Blackburn.

The royal and his fiancee looked relaxed and happy throughout their visit, and will not be seen together again officially until they are reunited at Westminster Abbey on April 29 to exchange their marriage vows.

The couple braved early downpours when they arrived which had soaked the well-wishers who had gathered to see them visit Darwen Aldridge Community Academy to open the institution.

The royal bride-to-be looked slimline and stylish in a smart navy blue fitted jacket and skirt and even sported a large black umbrella to keep off the rain.

William gave a speech at the Academy to launch a new award scheme named in his honour - the SkillForce Prince's Award - which will recognise young people's contributions to their communities, and used the opportunity to praise his fiancee.

The prince, an RAF search and rescue pilot, told the audience: "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. 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."

The prince and his fiancee were later driven to Witton Country Park for a visit as part of the royal's role as patron of the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge.

Kate was given the honour of starting a 100-metre race and held up a flag and let it drop to give the teenage female athletes their cue, and she then joined William in presenting race winner Natalie Sailor, 16, with her medal.

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