Read more: Queen Elizabeth sets May date for Royal visit to Ireland
Ireland is fast becoming the land of the Royal tourists after a whistle-stop tour of Belfast by Britain’s Prince William and his fiancé Kate Middleton.
The pair made a surprise trip to the North on Tuesday, just weeks before the May visit of Queen Elizabeth to Dublin.
Beaming bride-to-be Kate even engaged in the ancient Irish – and very Catholic – tradition of pancake tossing, a ritual designed to celebrate the imminent arrival of Lent.
Middleton joined in with a group of school-children raising funds for the fight against cancer at a pancake tossing event outside City Hall in Belfast.
Security was tight for the visit, kept secret until the last minute by Buckingham Palace and the Northern Ireland office.
The happy couple showed no sign of pre-wedding nerves as they chatted openly with crowds at a number of events across the city.
One County Down housewife even brought ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ caps for the Prince and his fiancé who will be married next month.
“Prince William politely declined. He said his mother would not appreciate him wearing the hat,” Heather Lindsay told the Irish Independent.
“I told Kate I am also planning for a big wedding for my daughter Laura Ann as well. I told her not to lose any more weight. She laughed and said it was all part of the wedding planning.”
Gloria Lowry, from Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, added: “My little heart is beating 90 to the dozen after meeting Kate. She is absolutely beautiful and William is so handsome. They make a perfect couple.”
As well as visiting a local agricultural college, the pair met Belfast Lord Mayor Pat Convery, Olympic hero Mary Peters, the lord lieutenant of Belfast, and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson. First Minister Peter Robinson also met the Royal couple.
“I think it’s tremendous and it’s good to see the young couple together. You can see how excited everybody is to see them,” said the Northern Ireland leader.
“It was unfortunate that the visit was not widely known beforehand because you would have had thousands of people here to greet them and to wish them well.
“It will be good to have them back as a royal couple in the future. I think they have seen a good side of Northern Ireland today.”
Nationalist politician Alasdair McDonnell also met the Royals at the Youth Action group’s city centre office.
McDonell said: “While these royal events are very important to those that are unionist, equally those of us that are nationalist can recognize them honestly and positively and are not threatened by them in any way.
“I think it is important that those of us who see ourselves as Irish can welcome any dignitary coming here.”