Kate Middleton and Prince William rolled into Cardiff, the capital of Wales, early on Tuesday as they continued their 1,250-mile journey across Britain aboard the Royal Train.
The couple slept – in their separate beds – in a peaceful siding somewhere between Manchester and the Welsh-English border so they could arrive fresh and ready for another tour day of meeting and thanking those who have helped communities through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
They spent the morning focusing on the welfare of students and how they have been supported in their mental health as they faced the unique challenges of the last nine months.
William and Kate (in a festive red Alexander McQueen coat) arrived at Cardiff Castle shortly before 9.30am, walking down a path adorned with huge Alice in Wonderland figures and received a lively welcome from the Samba Galez band. Heading over the hot chocolate stall among a mini-Christmas market, the couple met with some Cardiff University students.
Moving on, they chatted to another group as they roasted marshmallows – William burned his because he was so engaged in conversation.
The royal parents were asking how the students were making arrangements for their family Christmases. “They said it’s hard to make plans with all the guidelines and they were trying to work out what the safest plans were for them,” Lily Faulkner, 21, a Cardiff University politics and international relations student tells PEOPLE. “They are great mental health advocates. When you struggle with your mental health and are lonely and you hear that the Duke ands Duchess of Cambridge are supporting you, and what you’re going through, it is uplifting.”
Before they left, they traded secret santa gifts with a group from Cardiff Metropolitan University. Luke Wilson, 19, a PE and sports health student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, got William a Guinness coaster set. The students had a $7 cost limit. Kate was handed a Welsh lovespoon – a wooden carved memento of Wales – by sports coaching student Gwennan Lewis, 20.
Cardiff Castle, a 2,000-year-old historic site that features Rapunzel-worthy towers and opulent interiors. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry paid a memorable visit to the castle in January 2018, as Meghan was being introduced to the British public ahead of their royal wedding.
On Monday, William and Kate highlighted the volunteers who have helped provide food to those in need in Manchester, teachers who kept schools and teaching going through the early lockdowns in the north of England and the carers who looked out for the elderly in Batley, West Yorkshire.
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As they have passed through towns and cities, the royal parents have also helped spread some pre-Christmas cheer, joining in with a class of kids learning about reindeer – starring real-life animals! – and being serenaded at Euston station by a festive pop song from Shakin’ Stevens.
More surprises are in store for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and those they visit as they head back through England from south Wales on Tuesday. The couple and their staff are keeping each stop secret so as not to attract crowds amid concerns about social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions.
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