Duchess Kate to visit Downton Abbey set

In a scenario that would have the servants furiously polishing the silver, royalty is expected on the set of Downton Abbey. The cast and crew of the popular TV series are preparing to host the Duchess of Cambridge, née Kate Middleton, who will visit on 12 March. It will be one of the pregnant royal's final public engagements before giving birth to a brother or sister for Prince George.

Prince William admitted that he and Kate love Downton Abbey

Her visit next Thursday follows one this week by the Countess of Wessex, who accompanied Mexico's First Lady Angélica Rivera. There was excitement on Twitter as Kensington Palace announced Kate's outing to Ealing Studios.

One user enthused: "Best pairing since Carson & Mrs Hughes:#Duchessof Cambridge to visit Downton set next Thurs. Who will curtsey to whom?" – no doubt a reference to Dame Maggie Smith's character the acid-tongued Dowager Countess, who never willingly defers to anyone.

Kate and Prince William will also have understood the reference to the butler Carson and housekeeper Mrs Hughes who finally got engaged last season.

During their tour of New York in December the Prince revealed that he and his wife are among the millions of viewers who follow the trials and tribulations of the Crawley family. The Duke told executive producer Gareth Neame that he was "really looking forward" to the Christmas special.

Allen Leach, former chauffeur Tom Branson in the show, also confirmed that the royals love Downton after he had a chat with the future King at an event.

Meanwhile, Lesley Nichols, who plays Mrs Patmore, has said that the Duchess of Cornwall is another loyal viewer. "Camilla loves Downton Abbey," she told The Express. "We have spoken and she genuinely loves the show.

The purpose of Kate's visit is to celebrate the incredible success of the show, which has won several awards including a Golden Globe and an Emmy for Best Mini-Series.