The Duke and Duchess were greeted by the Prime Minister John Key and he undoubtedly spoke for the vast majority of his countrymen when he tweeted “The Royals have landed in New Zealand. Let’s make them very welcome”.
This tour is being covered by 450 journalists and will overshadow all other royal news. Yet it is important to remember that only last week the Queen, who shortly celebrates her 88th birthday, met Pope Francis in Rome. It was a most successful visit and it was also her first flight abroad since October 2011 when she flew to Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth.
The boost William and Kate’s tour will undoubtedly give to the royal image is timely as the Irish State Visit which begins today (Tuesday) in London underlines the importance of their work as ambassadors for the realms they serve. The Queen’s hugely successful visit to Ireland in 2011, in my view the highlight of her reign, was followed by a visit to Northern Ireland the next year where she met the Deputy First Minister and former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness. The first ever visit of an Irish Head of State to Britain takes place for four days this week. Martin McGuinness is attending functions such as the State Banquet in honour of President Michael D. Higgins which would previously have been unthinkable, and this clearly shows how the monarch’s involvement has been an example of diplomacy at its most successful.
At Government House in Wellington the royal couple received a traditional Maori welcome, a Powhiri. It is, however, most unfortunate that a dispute over the ninety minutes he was offered, which he felt was inadequate, has led the Maori King Tuheitia to decline to meet them during the tour.
The fascination which often borders on an obsession with royalty in the press means there is no topic too trivial for the media. The row in New Zealand that erupted over the outward facing child car seat fitted by the firm of Plunket for Prince George in contravention of its own guidelines which recommend rear facing seats until the child is two added a wonderfully comic touch. Less so, for monarchists, was the warning by the former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Don McKinnon who predicted that it was “inevitable” that New Zealand would become a republic. It will be extremely interesting to gauge reaction to this tour as it seems to me most unlikely that this issue, that was recently so significant in Australia, should receive popular backing in New Zealand.