Here was an heir to the throne visiting two notoriously fickle dominions known to flirt outrageously with republicanism.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
A hongi, a haka and a hobbit, so it must be New Zealand; the city of Wellington, to be precise, and day 12 of Charles and Camilla’s whistlestop diamond jubilee jaunt around the southern hemisphere.
If they were feeling the pace, it didn’t show, which is admirable given that the Prince of Wales celebrated his 64th birthday on Wednesday, bringing him within a year of normal retirement age without yet having acquired the top job – and his wife is a year older.
Which is why there has been everything to play for during this tour, which concludes in Christchurch on Friday, having taken in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand’s North and South islands.
“This is the best birthday present I’ve had for a long time,” laughed Charles, as he was given a sneak preview of costumes and props from the forthcoming Peter Jackson film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Perhaps another one is the warm reception the couple have received.
Undoubtedly, courtiers were anxious. Here was an heir to the throne visiting two notoriously fickle dominions known to flirt outrageously with republicanism. Add the Duchess of Cornwall to the mix – a future Queen on her first visit to countries where the late Diana, Princess of Wales was revered – and there was definite PR disaster potential.
In Queensland there was posing with a baby kangaroo. In Adelaide two cute koalas were the props. The Outback offered Flying Doctors, and Tasmania yielded sheep and the art of fleece tossing. There was more sheep-shearing in New Zealand, and a scary-looking haka. Camilla even managed a hongi (traditional Maori nose-nuzzling) in a brimmed hat, which is no mean feat.
Charles practised his “Aussie” telling locals that jetlag had made him feel “a few sausages short of a barbie”. He practised his pidgin, too, introducing himself to a 5,000-strong crowd in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, as “Mi nambawan pikinni bilong misis kwin” – “I am the first born child of Her Majesty the Queen”. Meanwhile his “misis bilong mi”, or the Duchess of Cornwall as she is more commonly known, breezed through it all.
Along with the royal staples of wreath-laying, military parades, formal dinners and charity visits, the tour attracted favourable and prominent media coverage in Australia. “Not exactly a triumph but Camilla passes muster”, read one Australian newspaper headline, reporting that the couple were well received, “not rapturously, but warm enough”.
“Despite a modest build-up, and perhaps low expectation, public interest was substantial”, reported the Australian, who described Camilla as “graceful” and Charles as the “very model of a modern heir to the throne”. Australia’s republicans, confident their time would come with the end of the Queen’s rein, might have “misplaced optimism” it said.
Which will be music to Buckingham Palace’s ears. So important is this tour that the couple were, unusually, accompanied by the Queen’s own private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt. So where were the republicans? Mostly in small groups, confining their protests to chanting and placard waving. Except for one elderly New Zealand anti-royalist, Sam Bracanov, 76, arrested in Auckland on Monday after planning to throw horse manure over the couple during a walkabout.
He planned to mix the manure with water, to give it a porridge-like consistency, he reportedly told reporters on Tuesday outside court after pleading not guilty to preparing to commit and assault.
“He didn’t qualify with his brain. He qualified with his body,” he said of Charles’s position as future king. “And what [the] body produce[s] goes to toilet. So I would hit him with what goes to toilet,” he reasoned.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010