MALVERN Theatres received the royal seal of approval when the Earl of Wessex was granted an access all areas tour yesterday.

The sun shone as Prince Edward arrived at the theatres in Grange Road to be greeted by a welcoming party of local dignitaries including the town’s mayor, Ian Hopwood, Malvern Hills District Council chairman, Paul Tuthill, MP Harriett Baldwin and the theatre’s chief executive Nic Lloyd.

He was dressed in full military regalia, as he was set to later formally open the new Territorial Army base at Worcester.

During his visit the Earl, who used to be involved with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, met people taking part in the Make Your Mark creative therapy workshops, saw rehearsals of Great Expectations and was treated to a performance by the Chance to Dance group.

Unveiling a commemorative plaque he said praised the arts saying: “These things are precious and we should look after them, nurture them and encourage them.”

Mr Lloyd said: “We are perceived quite rightly as being very successful lottery funded project and this was a reward for the success this theatre has had.

“I am delighted it was Prince Edward because he is a theatre man himself.

“It was a great pleasure and he was a charming man.”

The Earl received his title and that of Viscount Severn when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 and plays an active role in The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, set up by his father Prince Philip.