Visiting monarchs Prince William and wife Catherine were treated to a traditional Maori welcome when they arrived in the capital of New Zealand earlier today. The couple stepped down from the plane with their eight-month-old son George to wet and windy weather, but a warm welcome. The young royals are beginning their tour of the country which will also take them to Australia over the next few weeks.
The couple touched down in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, at the military terminal of the local airport just after midday. Prince George was awake and carried down the stairs from the plane in his mother’s arms. It is only his second meeting with the media. Local and international press were able to get a good look at the young prince, who seemed unperturbed at the attention.
The visiting royals were then taken to the Wellington Government house where a ceremonial greeting was performed by Maori kapa haka groups from local schools and members of the defence force. These greetings form the traditional welcome and include songs, signs of strength and the giving of gifts. Despite the cold, the royals were treated to a performance in traditional garb, some of which seemed to impress the Duchess of Cambridge very much. The ceremony finished with a hongi, the Maori greeting where noses are pressed together. Prince William inspected the guard of honor as a 21 gun salute sounded followed by God Save the Queen and the New Zealand national anthem. Rongotai College students performed the haka ( as seen most commonly on the rugby field before an All Blacks game). Conor Flynn and Luka Hogervorst, had led the performance, and were given the honor to meet the monarchs. Conor reportedly said that they had apologised for keeping them waiting in the cold for such a long time. Luka called the experience a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.
British media had claimed that female Maori dancers performed topless, but would cover up for the visiting royals. However, this claim is unfounded. A British newspaper also stated that Prince William would be fed a kereru, or wood-pigeon, which is a native and endangered New Zealand bird. However Maori Affairs Minister Chris Finlayson has slammed the claims, calling them a childish “prank.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge remained smiling, despite the increasing wind and rain. George was allowed to stay inside Government house where he watched the goings on from a window. Older New Zealanders may be hoping for a repeat of history as Prince William had a “crawlabout” age nine months on the very same grounds when he was visiting with Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1983. But they may have to wait for warmer weather to see George out and about.
Local residents were delighted to be able to meet with the royals. The Duchess was described as “really friendly.” Children were given the opportunity to give flowers and notes to the royal couple. One child handed over a letter to Lady Catherine that wished her well and told her how “beautiful” she looked. The Duchess wore a silver, platinum and diamond brooch in the shape of a silver fern that had been gifted to the Queen by New Zealand over 60 years ago.
On Wednesday, the visiting monarchs will meet with New Zealanders and their own eight-month-old children in Government house. The Royal couple will continue to receive the best treatment that the country has to offer as they complete their tour.
By Sara Watson