Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Prince proves he can woo with the best of them

William's canny speech snatches back spotlight from charming wife and son.

At first it seemed that the tall man mooching along beside the Duchess of Cambridge on the royal tour had plummeted from the apple of New Zealand's eye to chopped liver, outshone by his son and wife.

Watch: Raw: Royal speech at State dinner

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At the state reception last night, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William entered to greet their guests, an assembly of local dignitaries and politicians.

Immediately, Twitter was full of the Jenny Packham bespoke frock, the beaded silver ferns on the shoulder as a nod to New Zealand, and the mile-high stilettos.

William was an afterthought, noticed only when he blocked the view of the Duchess.

But when the Prince rose to speak, he showed that he knew exactly how to win New Zealanders back. He also showed that he shared a bit of the same sense of humour and that he has well and truly grown into his role.

Read more: Prince William's speech to NZ

He began with a Maori greeting, earning him an appreciative "kia ora" and laughs from the audience when he added "no insults yet".

Then he thanked his hosts, Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine. "I hope that George doesn't keep you up. He has been heard to be particularly vocal at 3am and I swear I heard him doing the haka this morning.

"He's a bonny lad and you'll be pleased to know that he's currently preparing for life as a prop forward."

He then went on to cement his gains with some flattery, saying his first visit as an adult to New Zealand in 2005 was to watch rugby.

Watch: Royals greet Blenheim crowds

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"In subsequent visits, my affection and admiration for New Zealand has only deepened. On this visit, I have no doubt it will be Catherine and not just me who falls for New Zealand."

He went on to talk about the resilience he had seen in the people in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, when he had visited to voice support.

He spoke about New Zealanders' warm-heartedness, generosity, progressiveness and modesty.

He added that the scenery wasn't bad "and some first class wine as well". He was polite enough not to mention the weather in his formal speech - it has rained every day since he arrived. But he did comment on that while meeting Prime Minister John Key earlier in the evening, saying drily, "I can't believe my luck with the weather in Wellington".

However, his main concern appeared to be that his yachting race against Catherine on Team NZ boats today would be cancelled after he'd boasted widely to his friends that he would win. "A bit of healthy competition," he joked.

Today he may well go back to chopped liver. There is another walkabout. During the walkabout in Blenheim only Clarence House and the Governor General bothered to tweet photos of the Duke.

There were photos of Kate making a veteran laugh, getting a beanie bear and flowers, watching a girl in a tutu twirl, even a close-up of Kate's ponytail to allow her fans to emulate it.

It prompted one British reporter to observe it was like Di-mania all over again. The day before that, it was all about Prince George.

Even bending over a baby and growling at it like a bear was not enough to get William mentioned.

On his previous visits here, it was all about playing "Where's Willy". But if William has been upstaged by his wife and son, just as his father was after Diana and baby William came along, he probably quite likes it that way.

- NZ Herald

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