SOPHIE, Countess of Wessex, charmed pupils and teachers alike as she helped an historic school celebrate its 600th anniversary on Tuesday.

Her Royal Highness spent more than an hour at The Chorister School, in Durham, which includes former Prime Minister Tony Blair and actor Rowan Atkinson among its former pupils.

Durham was bathed in sunshine for the Countess’ visit and all who met her said how friendly and interested she had been in the school and its activities.

Arriving shortly after 2pm, the Countess was greeted at the school, which stands just behind Durham Cathedral, by dignitaries including Sue Snowdon, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham; Councillor Jan Blakey, the Mayor of Durham; and the Reverend Canon David Kennedy, Acting Dean of Durham.

Her Royal Highness greeted waiting pupils and staff before visiting an art room, where children were creating decorative glass leaves to be added to a tree sculpture commissioned to mark the 600th anniversary.

The Countess, 51, gladly joined in herself, adding small glass pieces to a Union flag-themed leaf.

She then officially opened a newly refurbished school yard, watching as pupils performed the National Anthem, played netball and demonstrated maypole dancing.

Her Royal Highness, whose husband Prince Edward is ninth in line to the throne, then viewed a school rowing boat before unveiling a plaque, signing the visitor book and cutting a stunning cake, created by parent Kelly Smith.

The huge cake had numerous features highlighting elements of the school’s history, but the Countess wisely chose not to cut into the figure of Tony Blair, joking that she was not “making a political statement”.

She then told Mrs Smith it was the best cake she had ever seen.

Afterwards, headmistress Yvette Day said: “It’s been an absolutely wonderful afternoon – it’s been such a privilege to have someone so warm, friendly and interested in the school’s 600th anniversary, and such a beautiful day for it.”