Prince William and Kate slope off for a hug

8th March 2007

Pulling her towards him for a tender kiss and cuddle, Prince William shows he is more smitten than ever with girlfriend Kate Middleton.

The future king's very public display of affection for the 25-year-old yesterday comes amid fevered speculation that an engagement is due to be announced.

Prince William gives girlfriend Kate Middleton a loving hug and shows off just how he feels about her

Palace officials have attempted quash the rumours suggesting that William, 24, has no intention of settling down for several years yet.

But as these touching pictures show, the relationship between the young lovers is stronger than ever.

The couple, who have been dating for four years, are currently holidaying with half a dozen friends and a handful of protection officers in the upmarket Swiss resort of Zermatt.

Yesterday they hit the slopes shortly after 10.30am and spent much of the morning racing each other down the famous Matterhorn, before retiring to Blatten restaurant on the mountain's lower slopes for a long, lazy lunch.

Time for a break: A laughing Prince William (far right) and Kate Middleton, left, join their friends for a lazy lunch at the Swiss restaurant yesterday

Among the group was William's unofficial "court jester", Guy Pelly, and his oldest friend, Thomas Van Straubenzee, known to the Prince as Vans.

The group could be seen laughing and joking uproariously as they knocked back beer, wine and water in the winter sunshine.

After a couple of hours, William and Kate, 25, got up together and went over to thank the owner for his hospitality before walking out to the front of the chalet-style wooden hut to collect their skis.

As Kate tidied her hair by running her fingers through her long, brunette locks, William couldn't resist leaning over and planting a tender kiss on her cheek.

Throwing caution to the wind, he then gently drew her in for a loving hug that lasted more than a minute - much to the astonishment of the restaurant's 70 plus diners - prompting Kate to smile with uncontained delight.

A moment alone: Kate and William chat as they collect their skies

The couple only pulled apart when Guy Pelly loudly complained that he had lost his skis, comically throwing his hands in the air.

Laughing at his antics, the lovebirds helped him to find them before heading back off down the mountain to their luxury chalet.

Said an onlooker; "William's gesture was totally impulsive - he clearly couldn't help himself - and he obviously didn't care who saw him.

"It was very natural and very touching and showed the genuine affection between him and Kate."
Unfortunately the couple have only a few days left together before they have to head back to England.

While Kate is due back at work at High Street fashion store Jigsaw, where she works as an assistant accessories buyer in their children's department, army officer William, who is currently on leave from The Blues and Royals, has to report for his tank commander's course at Bovington in Dorset next week.

Aside from kissing and cuddling on the slopes, the couple have also found time to enjoy some of the region's legendary "apres ski".

On Sunday night, William and Kate, accompanied by another couple, opted for a cosy night together in the plush new Heimberg bar.

Manager Katja Fux said: "William and Kate were with another couple enjoying a quiet drink. They were clearly enjoying just being themselves."

On Monday, however, Kate opted for a night in with the girls while her boyfriend went on a pub crawl with his mates.

First stop was Brown Cow, a pub on the resort’s main strip where the group stood at a beer barrel, which doubled as a table, and drank copious amount of beer.

Later they moved down to the popular Broken Bar Disco, which is situated in a cavernous room underneath the pub...

William, who was sat with his back to the crowd and was dressed casually in jeans and an open-necked shirt with collar, went largely unnoticed by other revellers until they left at 12.30am.

"They looked like they were on a stag do because there were only men in the group but they were not raucous at all. Prince William looked like any other drinker in there. He was laughing a lot and the group was obviously having a good time.," said a member of staff.

"The boys were cheering and clinking of beer glasses. William was singing along to a few songs and waving his arms in a jokey way. "His minders sat at the entrance to the bar and were drinking soft drinks. They looked quite bored."

The following night William decided to spend some quality time with his girlfriend. It was left up to their friend Guy Pelly to lead the charge in the Snow Witch bar, downing shots of Jagermesieter, a black treacle-like spirit, costing 10 Swiss Francs (around 5) for four glasses until 4am in the morning.

William, who is second-in-line-to-the-throne, has been dating Kate for more than four years after meeting as students at St Andrew's University in Scotland.

Despite her relatively ordinary upbringing - Kate's Berkshire-based parents, Michael and Carole, run an internet children's party planning business - she has proved adept at mixing in royal circles and is said to have won the Queen over with her lack of pretension.