Cheers as Prince William and Kate Middleton visit Belfast
Beaming bride-to-be Kate Middleton tossed a pancake in the centre of Belfast during a royal visit.
She flipped it up in the air outside City Hall as several people cheered and wished her well for her big day next month.
Miss Middleton, 29, was handed a frying pan by Prince William and told to have a go in front of children involved in a Shrove Tuesday fundraising operation. Amid a major security operation and with William close by, she joined children in tossing pancakes and then stopped to talk to women in the grounds of City Hall.
Heavily armed officers patrolled the streets and kept watch from nearby rooftops, but the opening engagement of the couple's first visit to Northern Ireland passed off without incident. There was no pre-visit announcement by Buckingham Palace and the Northern Ireland Office because of security considerations.
But Miss Middleton clearly revelled in the attention of the crowd outside the City Hall gates who strained to catch a glimpse - as well as the 100 or so who were allowed inside to line up on the edge of the lawns in the hope of getting a handshake. She wore a double-breasted belted coat with a frill at the hem, black opaque tights and high-heeled shoes.
She met representatives from the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund who hosted a Shrove Tuesday fundraising event, and then turned her attention to the waiting crowd.
Housewife Heather Lindsay from Killyleagh, Co Down, whose daughter Laura Ann is also getting married this year, brought "bride" and "groom" caps in the hope of getting William to wear one. She said: "He politely declined. He said his mother would not appreciate him wearing the hat."
Police kept the traffic flowing in front of City Hall, but they also maintained a tight security cordon with security force personnel, using binoculars, keeping watch from the top of the building, as well as one directly opposite. By the time the couple left after meeting Lord Mayor Pat Convery, Dame Mary Peters, the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, the crowd had swelled to several hundred.
At one stage inside the mayor's parlour, when they signed the visitors book, William turned to Miss Middleton just after she put pen to paper and quipped: "Your handwriting is going to have to get better."
Outside, wellwisher Lilian Bradford said: "They are both so genuine. There are absolutely no airs or graces about either of them. They are so down to earth."