the smiling faces of children were the first things the Duchess of Cambridge saw on her day in Portsmouth.
Kate was visiting Sir Ben Ainslie’s base in Camber docks in Old Portsmouth – the construction site of the new headquarters and the Ben Ainslie Racing visitor centre.
Waiting patiently to meet her were a group of 70 children from schools across the area, who wanted to show off their achievements in painting a giant mural.
The artwork, which surrounds the outside of the site, depicts the Solent from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight, with images of the area’s rich maritime history.
The project was launched last October by the 1851 Trust, which aims to inspire a new generation through sailing and the marine industry.
The Duchess spent time talking to the children, who told with delight about the part they played in the mural.
Kate, who is pregnant with her second child, then went on to make her own contribution, by painting the crew on to the depiction of Sir Ben’s yacht.
‘What a great idea,’ she was overheard saying to James Waterfield, the lead artist in the project who is a teacher at Park Community School in Leigh Park.
The children were from six local schools, including St Jude’s Church of England School, Park Community, Admiral Lord Nelson, Charter Academy and two schools from the Isle of Wight.
Liam Evens, 12, is in Year 8 at Charter Academy in Southsea.
He said: ‘At first I was scared. I was excited to meet her because she’s the future Queen.
‘When I did meet her I realised that she was a bit more relaxed than I thought she would be and she’s a nice person.
‘She asked me what paintings I painted and she complimented them.
‘It’s nice that the future Queen has spoken to me because meeting someone important makes you feel good inside.’
Abigail Hopkins, 12, in Year 8, said: ‘I felt proud because it was a once-in-a -lifetime experience and I felt special because of how important she is to us.’
Joanna Bryce is the head of art at Charter Academy.
She said: ‘It was a brilliant experience for the children, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to showcase their work and to meet the Duchess of Cambridge so they were very excited.
‘She was lovely. She was very polite.
‘I think the children were a little bit shell-shocked and a little bit nervous about meeting her but she was extremely lovely to talk to and polite and great with the kids.’
Ms Bryce said the children have enjoyed painting the mural.
‘They loved it. They’re very proud of it. They’re very proud to show it off and talk about the bits that they contributed to.’
Chloe Larcom, 15, is a Year 11 pupil at Park Community School in Leigh Park.
She said: ‘It was amazing. I was excited. Everyone kept saying that she’s kind and lovely and it’s true, she is.’
The Duchess was also shown the progress that has been made building Sir Ben’s racing base and she had the opportunity to meet some of the builders.
As she walked round to the entrance of the base, hundreds of workmen had paused to welcome Kate and she gave them a wave and a smile.
Norman Jones is the groundworks foreman for Mackleys and has been working the base since August.
He said: ‘It was very good. She was nice and sweet.
‘It’s a privilege for all the workforce. She’s a member of the royal family and she’s the first member of the royal family we’ve met.’