ROARING applause greeted the Earl of Wessex as he opened a sixth-form centre at Portsmouth Grammar School.
Prince Edward praised the school’s leadership for adding the £4.5m study, teaching and cafeteria building to the Old Portsmouth campus.
The 50-year-old said: ‘Congratulations to all of those who had the vision and foresight to put it in.’
Headteacher James Priory said the royal visit yesterday was an ‘enormous day’ for the school.
He said: ‘It’s a very proud, historic day for us.
‘It’s been 30 years since we’ve had a royal visitor to the school; that was the Queen Mother in 1984 for D-Day 40.
‘To have the Earl of Wessex with us opening this building is a source of great excitement and inspiration for us all.’
A group of 35 students from Portsmouth Grammar School, St Edmund’s School and Portsmouth Academy for Girls undertaking their The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award were introduced to the prince.
One of them, Portsmouth Grammar School head boy Carl Wakeford, 17, said: ‘He was a brilliant character, and a nice man.’
The prince was also presented with dozens of letters from Year 6 pupils which they composed to their future selves.
The letters, describing the pupils’ dreams and hopes for the future, will be put into a time capsule and returned to them when they turn 25.
Support group trustee Joe Erskine, 66, of Cosham, said: ‘The visit means a lot to us. We’ve worked hard over the last eight years and it’s nice to get some recognition and appreciation.
‘At the same time it’s an opportunity to thank the people who have helped us.’
The prince is the president of charity Seafarers UK, which helped fund the support group when it was launched in 2007.
Veterans Outreach Support chairman, Morgan O’Connell, gave the prince a tour of the facilities at the club which the group uses for its monthly gatherings.
Mr O’Connell said the support group gave veterans a chance to meet up and get help in all areas from psychological problems to improving their education and managing their finances.
He said: ‘They can come in here and feel they belong to something again.’