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Ant and Dec chat exclusively to HELLO! at the ChildLine Ball

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They're Britain's favourite double act and the best of friends off screen as well as on. And last week duo Ant and Dec were side by side again to bring one of their prime time shows to the stage to host the Saturday Night Takeaway ChildLine Ball.

HELLO! was exclusively invited inside the lavish affair, which saw Declan Donnelly and Anthony McPartlin reunited with their friend Dame Esther Rantzen to raise a record-breaking £880,000 for the children's helpline.

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ant and dec © Photo: Getty Images

"We still hang out and we're just as close as we ever have been," said Dec

Ant and Dec's association with ChildLine, which is run by the NSPCC, goes back to the 1990s when they hosted Saturday morning TV. "It seemed very natural that we should get involved and bring the message through to the kids watching our shows, that ChildLine is there if you ever need them," said Dec.

Chatting exclusively to HELLO!, the pair opened up about Dec's recent marriage, their indelible friendship and how they've spent the past few months getting to know Prince Charles and Princes William and Harry.

Dec married his agent Ali Astall in August in his hometown of Newcastle, with his brother Father Dermot, a Catholic priest, officiating at the ceremony. Ant was, of course, his best man.

ant and dec2 © Photo: Rex

"She was a picture of serenity and I was climbing the wall with nerves," said Dec 

"It was the best day of my life," said Dec. "It was the most magical, amazing day and even the sun shone in Newcastle. Everything about it was just perfect. We did it in the church where I was baptised. To get married there with my brother was pretty amazing. He was quite nervous but the service was incredible; really relaxed and informal.

"Ali was really nervous in the run-up to it and I was really calm, then the roles changed on the day and she was a picture of serenity and I was climbing the wall with nerves. But everything went entirely to plan, so it was the best day ever."

Although Dec and Ali have been working together for ten years, they only became a couple in 2013 and Dec proposed last November while they were in Australia, filming I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. So why did it take him so long to realise that the woman of his dreams had been right under his nose all that time?

four © Photo: Getty Images

The two couples live down the road from each other in West London

"I haven't really analysed it that much," he admitted. "Everything just clicked into place. Do you know when you ask someone, how will I know when this is right and that's right? And people say to you, really annoyingly, that you just know. Well, that's how it felt. I just knew.

"It was gradual but over a very short space of time that we just kind of realised that we were actually really good together. We'd never gone there because of work and that's always a disaster. But I guess sometimes you just think life's too short and you just go for it. It just felt right and we went for it."

Ant, who has been married to make-up artist Lisa Armstrong for almost ten years, added: "Friends always thought they should get together so we're pleased that they eventually did."

ant and dec1 © Photo: Getty Images

"Because there are two of us we tend to keep each other's feet on the ground," said Ant

With Dec and Ali still working closely together, they are careful to keep their personal and professional lives separate. "I sometimes get a phone call from Ali at ten to six to go through a few work issues, so that when she comes home after 6 o'clock we don't talk about them," Dec explained. "It's kind of a rule we have. We have other stuff in common so we don't want to get bogged down with work all the time."

Ant and Dec have been best friends since the 1980s when they met as child actors in the TV show Byker Grove. Whilst their TV partnership sees them working together on Saturday Night Takeaway, I'm A Celebrity and Britain's Got Talent, they live only a few doors apart in West London, meaning that not only are their wives good friends, but so are their dogs - Ant's brown Labrador Hurley and Dec's miniature dachshund Rocky.

"We still hang out and we're just as close as we ever have been. We only live three or four doors apart, so even when we haven't organised to meet we bump into each other walking the dogs, who are also best friends now," said Dec. "There's quite a size difference between them but they get on great."

"Just like their owners," quipped Ant. "We both had a day off yesterday so we played golf together. We socialise and go out for dinner, which is great, because we're mates."

charles © Photo: Getty Images

Ant and Dec have spent the past year making a documentary with Prince Charles

With the pair both turning 40 this year – Dec's celebrated his milestone last month with a surprise family reunion in Portugal, while Ant's is in November – they have spent the past few months making a documentary with the Prince of Wales to mark next year's 40th anniversary of his charity The Prince's Trust.

"We've been following Prince Charles around for most of this year," said Ant. "The access we've had has been fantastic and I think he's enjoyed our company. We've been to most of his residences, been on engagements with him and interviewed William and Harry to find out what he is like as a dad. They were very warm about him and they're very proud of him."

Dec added: "They told us how they still often turn to him for advice if they ever get stuck in a corner or in a pickle. We've also seen some amazing unseen footage of Charles as a baby with the Queen, and we've talked to him about that. He's great fun and has a wicked sense of humour. He's probably getting sick of us now though!"

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The pair met as young actors in the TV show Byker Grove

Despite rubbing shoulders with the royal family and earning millions every year, Ant and Dec have lost none of their down-to-earth charm – evident in the fact they have been voted Most Popular Entertainment Presenters at the National Television Awards for 14 years running.

"I think it's the way we've been brought up and that there's two of us going through it," Ant reasoned. "It would be very easy to get your head turned if all the success that has happened to us was happening to one person. But because there are two of us and we are there for each other we tend to keep each other's feet on the ground, which is good."

"It's lovely when you get those awards because it reminds you that the audience are enjoying what you're doing so you keep working hard and never take anything for granted," added Dec.

The ball was themed around Ant and Dec's popular Saturday night show

At the ball, Ant and Dec were joined by TV presenter Clare Balding, comedian Stephen Mulhern, heavyweight boxing champion David Haye and TV personality Jeff Brazier for a fun-packed evening, themed around their popular ITV show.

The event featured segments from Takeaway including Singalong Live, which saw Dame Esther join 80s band Doctor and the Medics to sing their hit Spirit in the Sky.

"It's spectacular, really thrilling," Dame Esther, who founded ChildLine almost 30 years ago, told HELLO! of the charity. "We have helped almost four million children and things have certainly changed over the years. When we launched there was abuse, neglect and bullying and we still have that but we have new dangers like cyber bullying, eating disorders and self-harm. I think we need to restore children's sense of self-worth and make them feel prized and precious."

ChildLine provides advice and support to children across the UK, by phone or online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text CHILDLINE to 70744 to donate £4 and help answer a child's call to ChildLine. See for T&Cs.

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