Editorial: New Zealand finds fresh heir in Prince Wills

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Prince William greets members of the public after attending the memorial service in Christchurch. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Prince William greets members of the public after attending the memorial service in Christchurch. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The day has long gone when a royal visitor can win affection in this corner of the realm simply by coming here, though even that was becoming a rare gesture until Prince William came of age. In him we have met a future king who knows when he should be here and, even more important, seems comfortable when he is here.

Christchurch's earthquake memorial service yesterday was moving for many more reasons than the presence of the Prince. He may have been the guest of honour but he gave the impression he did not expect to be; his manner and his few words to the service suggest he saw himself as making one contribution among many to the city's need of comfort and encouragement.

He told the thousands in Hagley Park: "My grandmother once said grief is the price you pay for love." He said the world held them in awe. "You are an inspiration to all people. I count myself enormously privileged to be here to tell you that."

He wears his privilege very casually - no suit and tie for his tour of the earthquake damage and his visit to the West Coast to see the families of Pike River mine victims. Photographs show he does not stand stiffly and offer remote handshakes to those he meets. He gets close to those he speaks to, listens and seems genuine. He is engaging.

Everyone knows where he inherited those qualities, and the loss he endured as a child which gives him empathy with many he met this week. If Buckingham Palace is sending him on assignments such as this, it is an astute move for the monarchy's future. But equally it may be Prince William's initiative. His attire suggests he is making his own decisions.

He has no doubt made a similar impression on visits to Australia, where he goes today to meet survivors of this summer's floods. If the monarchy is to endure in this part of the world, Prince William has the manner to do it. He will be aware it is on shaky ground, it has become a conventional view in both countries that a republic is inevitable, but not in the Queen's lifetime.

In all likelihood, though, the institution will survive the Queen with ease. It may even enjoy a new lease of life in the tributes for her and the reflections on another long Elizabethan era. Interest will also be sustained by the coronation of Charles, who promises to be a fairly interesting king.

But he has the wrong manner for New Zealand and Australia today. The next heir will need to do most of the monarchy's work in this part of the world. The same might apply in Canada, where William and his bride plan to make their first official trip together after their wedding next month.

Preparations for the wedding have not had the excessive publicity that his parents' marriage attracted, which probably has as much to do with the couple's taste as the public's appetite.

Prince William and Kate Middleton are planning to live without butlers or household staff. They have been accustomed to doing their own shopping, cooking and cleaning.

The man New Zealand has seen over the past few days may be the saving of the British monarchy in distant English-speaking realms. He is at home here.

- NZ Herald

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