Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a journalist based in Auckland.

Royal couple welcomed in Wellington

Capital City preschool four-year-olds Ishani, Lilly and Morgane welcome Prince Charles to Wellington.
Capital City preschool four-year-olds Ishani, Lilly and Morgane welcome Prince Charles to Wellington.

Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, have arrived at Wellington's waterfront and have been greeted by Mayor Celia Wade-Brown in front of hundreds of people.

The crowd at Wellington's waterfront sang 'Happy Birthday' to Prince Charles, who is celebrating his 64th birthday today.

Capital City Preschool made posters for the prince.

But parent Kyla Hamilton said the three and four-year-olds might not know who they were meeting.

"They know there's a prince and a princess.''

The Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in a motorcade at Government House just before noon.

The royal couple were welcomed with a stirring powhiri including a traditional Maori challenge.

Camilla - dressed in a speckled grey coat, a Valentine slip dress and Philip Treacy hat - looked visibly apprehensive as a Maori warrior advanced towards their Royal Highnesses.

But Prince Charles took it in his stride as he leaned down to pick up the dart placed at his feet - an indication that he and Camilla came in peace.

The challenge was followed by a karanga, or welcoming call, before Prince Charles exchanged a hongi with the leader of the kapa haka group.

Their Royal Highnesses were then welcomed by Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae and his wife Lady Janine.

As cannons rang out for a 21-gun salute, Prince Charles and Sir Jerry took to a stand with their wives standing alongside.

The salute was accompanied by a fly-past from a New Zealand air force Boeing 757.

Prince Charles then inspected the ranks of the Royal Guard of Honour and the front rank of the air force band, which played a rousing version of the well-known New Zealand folk song Pokarekare Ana.

Kitchen staff from Government House stood on a terrace, away from the official welcoming party, to catch a glimpse of the royals.

Children from local Wellington schools were also there to see the royals, but Prince Charles did not stop to say hello as he was whisked inside for his next engagement.

The welcoming ceremony, which marks the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year, was Prince Charles' first official engagement on his 64th birthday today.

Also at Government House this morning were Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh, who wore a pink dress and hat with feathers.

Ms Key and Sir Jerry both share their birthday with Prince Charles, who will celebrate tonight with a party in the ballroom of Government House with 64 New Zealanders who also share his birthday.

- APNZ

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