Royal couple in spotlight at first official visit

TREARDDUR BAY, Wales Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:04pm EST

1 of 12. Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton smile following a Naming Ceremony and Service of Dedication for the Royal National Lifeboat Instution's (RLNI) new Atlantic 85 Lifeboat, the 'Hereford Endeavour', at Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station, in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey in north Wales February 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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TREARDDUR BAY, Wales (Reuters) - Prince William and bride-to-be Kate Middleton performed their first official engagement as a couple on Thursday, giving them an early taste of the life in the spotlight that awaits them.

International media and hundreds of local well-wishers descended on Trearddur Bay, on the Welsh island of Anglesey, to greet the couple as they attended the launch of a new lifeboat.

Middleton, 29, had her hair pulled back in a ponytail on a blustery but sunny afternoon and wore a beige, knee-length coat with dark brown trim, dark scarf, gloves and a feather fascinator.

The couple shook hands with local officials ahead of a service of dedication for the new boat.

Middleton poured champagne over the bow of the "Hereford Endeavour," Trearddur Bay lifeboat station's new inshore lifeboat for the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

They then went on a walkabout, looking relaxed as they greeted well-wishers who turned up to catch a glimpse of the young celebrities, and spoke to members of the lifeboat crew.

Although a relatively minor ceremony, for Middleton it offered a brief glimpse of the kind of official duties she will have to perform first as princess, and eventually as queen.

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The event is close to where William, 28, has been working as a search and rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force, and is seen as the couple's way of thanking the community for respecting their privacy while they lived there together in recent months.

The period of grace is unlikely to last, however, despite tabloid reports that Queen Elizabeth, William's grandmother, has told the couple they would be allowed to remain out of the spotlight for the first two years of their marriage.

The issue of their exposure to the media is a sensitive one, given that William's mother Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997 after being pursued by photographers. She was 36.

The couple marry on April 29 in Westminster Abbey in a ceremony expected to be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. They are expected to settle in Anglesey following the wedding.

Anglesey locals generally welcomed the couple's presence.

"I think their effect on Anglesey is wonderful," said Karen Knight who works in a village store.

"He's (William) been seen out and about and they say he's fabulous and mixes with all the locals," she told the WalesOnline website. "My sons have seen him a couple of times out having a meal in a local pub."

Middleton and William travel to Scotland on Friday for the 600th anniversary celebrations at St Andrews university where they first met as students in 2001.