Prince's girl adds glitz to pal's art opening


Thanks to the men of 1916, we pretend not to get excited about royalty from across the water. And certainly not in Easter Week, with a glorious parade commemorating the Rising ready to roll this Sunday.

But Kate Middleton isn't queen yet, so that's alright. Although as Prince William's long-term girlfriend, she's as near to royalty as you can get.

Which explains the large turnout of photographers last night at an art exhibition in Dublin's trendy new Hanover Quay district. Ms Middleton - not yet the new Princess Di but on the fast track to global fame according to those in the know - was in town.

She was on her first visit to Ireland to support her Berkshire neighbour, artist Gemma Billington, who opened her first solo exhibition at the new Urban Retreat Gallery. The Kerry-born artist is showing pieces she painted during two stays at the Cill Rialaigh Project in Ballinskelligs.

While the paintings on display were captivating, it was Kate Middleton who commanded the attention of the paparazzi.

But the Irish media are far less intrusive than their English counterparts; Prince William's sweetheart was snapped from a discreet distance. Requests for a few words were politely declined with the explanation that she doesn't do press interviews.

However, we understand that the young socialite, who flew by private jet to Dublin with her mother Carol and a large party of friends, was delighted to find that she was largely unrecognised during her brief trip.

Tall and thin, the woman who might be the next queen of England was dressed in a demure, fitted navy suit with shower of hail pattern. She wore very little jewellery, save for a diamond-studded ring.

Artist Gemma Billington is certainly well connected. Three times married, her second husband sponsored last night's opening and brought along his friend from Sunderland FC, Niall Quinn, to do the honours.