Duchess Kate of Cambridge. (Samir Hussein/Getty Images Entertainment)
Maria Puente, USA TODAY
Duchess Kate of Cambridge was greeted by enthusiastic crowds today on her first solo engagement in northeast England, where she gave back as good as she got, even cuddling and hugging kids at the security barriers during a brief walkabout.
"Kiss Me, Kate!" read the headline on the Daily Telegraph. More than a few watching must also have been thinking, "Just like Diana!"
Her husband, the late Princess of Wales' elder son, Prince William, was supposed to be with his wife for a long day of four stops in and around Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but he was at the funeral of his former childhood nanny, Olga Powell, who died last week.
His absence did not dim the excitement of the crowds that greeted the former Kate Middleton, on her first major engagement without William, according to the Daily Telegraph and other British media.
She arrived by helicopter, dressed in a red Whistles dress topped with her belted plum-colored coat (by an independent designer) that she wore at Christmas with the royal family at Sandringham, and black suede boots. Those embarrassing topless photos of her last month were forgotten, at least by those who waited hours to see her.
Outside the Newcastle civic center, she made her way to a group of kids in school uniforms, including a 10-year-old named Terry Campbell, who had a green hoodie over his uniform. He had vowed to get a hug and maybe a kiss from the duchess, the Telegraph reported.
When she reached him, he held out his arms. "Am I going to get a cuddle as well," she asked him, smiling wide as she leaned over the barrier and embraced him. And he wasn't the only one who got a hug, according to the pictures.
The boy was stunned and thrilled. "I never actually thought it would happen. I can't believe she hugged me back," he told reporters. "She was everything I thought she would be. She was really nice."
Another confirmed fan established, the duchess kept to her schedule, meeting with Olympic volunteers, researchers on health and aging and visiting a school for disabled students and one of the youth charities that received money through the couple's wedding fund last year.