THE EARL of Wessex celebrated a soggy 50th birthday party yesterday in Oxfordshire.
After cutting a 50th birthday cake at Dorchester Abbey, Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son, and his wife Sophie opened a new classroom block at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, before meeting the public in Wantage Market Place.
At the abbey, Chloe Bramwell, 11, from Shippon, near Abingdon, presented the Countess with a posy of spring flowers.
The Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward open the new £750,000 classroom block.
The Countess also met three-year-old Sophia Aitken and her mother Tara from Witney.
Mrs Aitken said: “Sophia has a serious disability, we came down for her physiotherapy session but all she wanted to do was see a real princess.
“The Countess was so lovely and chatted to her for quite a while — Sophia will remember today forever.”
The Countess with Sophia Aitken, three.
The Earl and Countess have been touring the ancient Saxon kingdom of Wessex to celebrate his birthday.
At Dorchester Abbey, the cake the Earl was cutting was actually a 50th birthday cake for Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust (OHCT).
The trust is also celebrating its 50th birthday this month.
Their Royal Highnesses met participants in the trust’s annual Ride and Stride fundraiser, a sponsored bike ride and walk between Oxfordshire churches.
Last year’s event raised more than £127,000.
One of those taking part was Gillian Hood from Headington Quarry who has clocked up a total of 600 miles over the past six years.
Praising Prince Edward and his wife, she said: “They are just so lovely and normal. They seemed genuinely keen and interested in what we are doing for OHCT.”
The Royal couple also met mother and daughter Jean Williamson and Vanessa Wodward from Bayworth Baptist Chapel in Sunningwell, who said meeting the couple was ”an absolute delight”.
The Earl, who celebrated his own 50th on March 10, was invited to cut a celebratory cake in the shape of a bicycle.
Flag-waving pupils greet the Countess of Wessex at St Alfred’s School.
At King Alfred’s, the royal couple opened a new, £750,000 classroom block.
Director of public events John Gale said: “I thought their Royal Highnesses were engaging and had a relaxed, interested manner with the students that enabled these young people to show how King Alfred’s has fostered a long-term interest in creative arts which, regardless of what they were going on to study, was obviously going to remain a lifelong passion for them.”
Sixth former Greg Birks, 18, who presented a thank-you gift to the Earl, said: “I felt very honoured.”
The Countess also visited the abbey in February and helped bury a time capsule for fostering charity Parents and Children Together (PACT).