The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge enjoyed a pre-Christmas chat with students about life, family and their mental wellbeing

By Simon Perry
December 08, 2020 10:46 AM

Kate Middleton and Prince William are spreading Christmas cheer!

As they chatted with students on the latest stop of their Royal Train tour, they were so engrossed in conversation that William burned the marshmallows he was roasting on a fire.

The couple was visiting Cardiff Castle in Wales on Tuesday when they met with students at a festive market for hot chocolate and toasted treats.

“William was too busy talking to us and managed to burn his and Kate got a bit stuck on her glove, and they were making fun of each other which was nice to see,” Lily Faulkner, 21, a politics and international relations student at Cardiff University tells PEOPLE.

Says Shahzeb Akhtar, 21, an optometry student: “They really bounce off each other well. They’re a really friendly couple.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton
Prince William and Kate Middleton
| Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty

The students appreciated them coming and talking about their wellbeing after what has been a challenging year.

“They are really passionate about it. You can tell from their characters when they talk about it, and when they engage with you they are smiling and making good eye contact. They were genuinely interested in us," Akhtar adds.

The parents of three, who met and fell in love while students at St. Andrews University in Scotland, wanted to check in with some students from the three universities in the Welsh capital. It was the only stop in Wales and kicked off the last day of their 1,250-mile tour around Britain.

They had started at the hot chocolate stand, where one student joked that because they were entertaining royal guests they’d used the chance to get the most exotic and expensive one available.

Credit: Jonathan Buckmaster-Pool/Getty

Alice Holloway, 20, a law student, says, “They asked how the pandemic has impacted our wellbeing. From the start, they asked specific questions about how students are doing and what is being done on our behalf. The fact that they put the effort in on this issue helps lift it and be recognized that this is worth talking about.”

Faith Simiyu, 33, who’s studying for her Ph.D. in law, is originally from Kenya. She says William greeted her in Swahili with "jambo."

“It shows he knows about my country,” she tells PEOPLE. “They have such warm smiles and their body language was welcoming. They made little jokes.”

Kate Middleton
| Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty

Luke Morgan, 23, a medicine student at Cardiff University who is a wellbeing representative, tells PEOPLE, “It was like having a chat with an old friend. I got the impression we could have talked for hours.

“William was interested in how we are trained as medical students to deal with patients with mental health difficulties.”

Kate Middleton looks at her secret Santa gift from students
| Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty

The couple ended their visit by taking part in a Secret Santa gift swap.

Following the rules of a price limit of $7, Luke Wilson, 19, a P.E. and sports health student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, got William a beer glass coaster set, decorated with Guinness designs. Wilson says William chuckled and said he enjoyed a glass.

“He said, ‘That speaks to me,’” Wilson says. “I was nervous about meeting them but once you get started talking the conversation just rolls on. They’re really down to earth.”

Kate Middleton
| Credit: BEN BIRCHALL/POOL/AFP via Getty
Prince William and Kate Middleton
| Credit: PAUL GROVER/POOL/AFP via Getty

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Kate was handed a Welsh lovespoon – a wooden carved memento of Wales – by sports coaching student Gwennan Lewis, 20.

“I didn’t believe it when we were first contacted and told that they were coming. I had to go out and buy this but couldn’t tell anyone who it was for. It was really exciting. Kate loved it," Lewis says.

Lewis adds, “They were interested in how we were doing and what the university was doing to support us during the pandemic.”

For her part, Kate gave student Emma Sharpe a Prosecco Pong drinking game and William handed one of the students a mini-football set.