UK royal couple visit university where love bloomed

ST ANDREWS, Scotland Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:26pm EST

Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton visit St. Andrews University in Fife, Scotland February 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton visit St. Andrews University in Fife, Scotland February 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton returned to the university where they fell in love on Friday with an official visit to St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland.

It was at the picturesque university that they got to know each other in 2001 as undergraduates studying art history. They went on to share a house on the outskirts of town and their romance blossomed.

Ten years on, and the royal pair are one of the world's most famous couples, their every move scrutinized by the international media as preparations are made for their wedding in London's Westminster Abbey on April 29.

"This is a very special moment for Catherine and me," the prince said in a brief speech. "It feels like coming home."

Middleton, 29, wore a bright red suit with black belt and gloves and the prince, 28, donned a dark blue suit. After the formalities of the visit, they greeted hundreds of well-wishers who had lined the streets to see the couple.

The trip to mark the university's 600th anniversary followed their first official outing as a couple on Thursday, where Middleton's appearance at a boat launch ceremony in Wales was lauded in the royalty-obsessed British media.

"Kate's a Corker" was the headline in the Daily Mirror tabloid. "Glamorous Kate Middleton sparkled at her first official engagement," wrote its royal reporter Victoria Murphy, reflecting the media's generally gushing tone.

BOOK OF CONDOLENCE

Later on Friday, the couple travelled to London to sign a book of condolence at the New Zealand High Commission for those who died in the recent earthquake.

Middleton had changed into a smart black three-quarter length coat for the event, where they were joined by William's younger brother Harry who will be best man at the wedding.

William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth is New Zealand's head of state.

This week's visits, which follow several months of relative anonymity on the Welsh island of Anglesey where the couple have been living, will go some way to preparing Middleton for life as a prince's bride, and eventually queen.

William, second in line to the British throne, is patron of the 600th Anniversary Appeal which aims to raise 100 million pounds ($160 million) to secure the future of University of St Andrews and fund scholarships making it accessible to all "regardless of background or circumstance."

The new scholarship, worth up to 70,000 pounds ($112,800), will meet the costs of tuition, accommodation and living expenses for a four-year undergraduate degree in science, the arts, medicine or divinity.

It was presented as a wedding gift to the couple during their visit.

St Andrews enjoys a reputation for being Britain's "top matchmaking university" -- around one in 10 students meet their spouses there, officials say.

With no nightclubs, students tend to socialize at dinner parties or "society" balls, contributing to its reputation as a peculiarly upmarket seat of learning.

The 600th anniversary marks the formal charter granted by Bishop Henry Wardlaw in February 1411 and the achievement of full university status conferred by Pope Benedict XIII by Papal Bull in 1413.

(Writing and additional reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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