The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall watched young ballerinas perform in Richmond Park on Wednesday evening.

The Royal couple were at the Royal Ballet Lower School, based in White Lodge, for the Royal Gala performance.

Work is currently under way to restore White Lodge to its former magnificence and £2m needs to be raised by 2010 to meet the final costs of work on its buildings and gardens.

Charles has been patron of the Royal Ballet School White Lodge Restoration and Development project since 2004 and his visit stirred up excitement among the 11 to 16-year-old pupils.

On their arrival they were greeted with bows and curtsies from Christopher Thomas, 12, and Eleanor Ferguson, 11, who were outside practising in the cold beforehand.

Camilla, dressed in a blue dress with gold embellishment, thanked the young girl for the flowers and said to the pair: “You obviously do the best curtsey.”

After speaking briefly with the royal couple, the young male dancer said: “It was amazing [meeting them]. I was a bit nervous.

“You have to remember to say your Royal Highness. My parents didn’t really believe it when I said I was meeting them.”

Prince Charles and Camilla then proceeded down the steps of White Lodge, which were lined with pupils in uniform wishing them an enjoyable night at the Margot Fonteyn Theatre.

Charles stopped to speak with student Fay Meadows and asked if the pupils boarded in a nearby building.

Afterwards she said: “He asked if we were being well looked after, it was quite scary.”

The Royal Gala performance included performances from selected pupils and ended with a grand defile, choreographed by student Liam Scarlett.

Fellow pupil John Rhys said: “I’m a little bit disappointed I couldn’t dance for them. It was just lovely to meet them.”

Retired ballerina and former student Darcey Bussell CBE was guest of honour and flew in from Australia especially for the event.

She joined ex-pupils Sir Anthony Dowell, Dame Antoinette Sibley, Lauren Cuthbertson, Sergei Polunin and Ashley Page to watch the performance.