GWENT was given the Royal seal of approval yesterday as the Earl of Wessex visited an Abertillery church and Monmouth School.

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visited Saint Michael’s Church in the centre of Abertillery yesterday morning before opening Diamond Jubilee Square and unveiling a plaque.

The Earl was introduced by the Lord Lieutenant, Simon Boyle, to Jane Hutt AM, the Mayor of Blaenau Gwent, Mostyn Lewis and the Bishop of Monmouth, among others.

He was greeted in the church by the Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir singing We’ll Keep a Welcome.

Outside, he watched an interpretive dance by Abertillery-based Ffindance.

Vicar of St Michael’s, Patrick Coleman, then invited the prince to unveil a commemorative plaque.

A crowd of residents and pupils from local primary schools lined the pavements outside, cheering and waving Welsh and British flags.

Bryan Davies, Ken Lloyd and Hank Jackson all sing with Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir.

Mr Davies said: “He seemed to really enjoy the singing – he was quite light hearted and seemed to be having a good time.

Mr Jackson added: “I think he likes a bit of banter as he wanted to know who the eldest is in the choir. We go from 15 years old up to 96 at the moment.”

Addressing the crowd before unveiling the plaque, the Earl of Wessex said: “I know the unveiling of a plaque is not necessarily the most exciting thing to happen in your lives, but I want you all to pretend it is. I want a really big cheer!”

Mayor of Blaenau Gwent cllr Mostyn Lewis said: “It has been tremendous. “

The Vicar of St Michael’s, Patrick Coleman, said: “It is so important for us to show how the church forms the heart of this town, and is there for all its people.”

Then yesterday afternoon the Earl of Wessex visited Monmouth School, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary by opening its new state-of-the-art teaching block, named after its founding father William Jones.

Prince Edward unveiled a bronze bust of the founder in the new building’s foyer, sculpted by Roger Andrews.

Staff, pupils, governors and Haberdashers later attended a service in honour of William Jones in Newland church, the parish of his birth.