Rookie royal ends 'enjoyable' visit

By Claire Trevett

A royal tour that began as a rugby trip for a young Prince kicking up his heels after finishing university, ended yesterday with the solemn marking of two types of battle: one a 60-year-old memory and the other just three days old.

Prince William went to an Anglican Church to pray for the victims of terrorism in his own backyard, London.

Later, in his final public duty in New Zealand, he laid a wreath to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

At the Cenotaph of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, there was a pause between showers just in time for Prince William to be greeted as the Queen's representative.

He inspected a guard of h and then joined Prime Minister Helen Clark to lay a wreath, before the flags of both nations were lowered to half-mast and the Last Post played.

He moved upstairs to meet 45 veterans, many of whom had met royals three generations before him.

At the cathedral, the prince heard Bishop Richard Randerson tell of a New Zealand that "has been working hard to cease calling Britain 'home' and to emphasise the multi-national, multi-faith community we have become".

Veterans he met had a different view.

Roy Brooks, a New Zealander who fought on Royal Navy destroyers in the war, told William he was on the Lions' side.

"He reckoned they did not play very well, but I disagreed with him.

"I'm all for the Lions - the British, old boy. They gave me a great time when I was the only New Zealander on the ship. They called us colonials, of course."

Behind the solemnity and ritual, and regardless of world events, there was still a public keen to meet the Prince.

About 200 people gathered outside the church for William's unpublicised visit. Among them was Miles Roelants, 38, wheelchair-bound with spina bifida, who had been fascinated by the royal family "since I was 5 and discovered Henry VIII had six wives".

He carried with him a book of Great Royal Front Pages which featured a Herald front page from February 23, 1977, with a photo of 8-year-old Miles just after meeting the Queen.

Patrick Harrison, Prince William's press secretary, said the prince had enjoyed his stay. Although the cancellation of a trip to Queenstown and the London bombings curtailed the fun part of William's post-university holiday, it had given him a gentle introduction to the rigours of royal touring.

"To do your first public engagements somewhere like New Zealand is fantastic, because there has been a nice, relaxed feel to the visit," Mr Harrison said.

"He came to watch the rugby and that is why it was initially chosen, but then he thought it was a fantastic opportunity to see New Zealand - he hadn't been there since a baby - and it flowed from there."

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