NEWS of the engagement between Prince William and Kate Middleton was tinged with sadness following the death of her grandfather – Vernham Dean man Peter Middleton.

Mr Middleton, a father of four and widower aged 90, had lived in the village for more than 30 years and was a highly respected figure in the area.

The former Second World War Mosquito pilot, who had flown civil aircraft until his retirement, died on 2 November and his funeral service was held on Friday 12 November at the West Berkshire Crematorium in Thatcham.

The informal farewell service was attended by a number of villagers who met up with the royal couple.

Kate has been a regular visitor to her paternal grandparents’ Vernham Dean home since she was a small girl and is well-known to several people in the village who describe her as ‘delightful and intelligent’.

She had been visiting her ailing grandfather regularly in recent months.

“When Peter was poorly she made every effort to come here when she could – they are a very close family,” said a friend and neighbour.

“He was a real gentleman and I was really fond of him, everybody was.”

Another friend who attended the funeral of Kate’s grandmother, Valerie, in 2006 said that after that service the future queen had come up to him, put her arm around him and said ‘look after granddad’.

A collection was made at Mr Middleton’s funeral service on behalf of Andover’s Countess of Brecknock Hospice.

The Prince and his bride to be have been seen around the village from time to time but locals have tried to be protective of their privacy and not drawn attention to their celebrated visitors.

Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole, live about 20 miles from Andover at Bucklebury, near Thatcham, and she attended Wiltshire’s prestigious Marlborough College.