With the Duke and Duchess of Sussex about grace our shores, having captured many Australasian hearts, NZ On Screen's Zara Potts looks back at some of the many royal highlights over the years.

As Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex (and their soon to-be baby suffix) arrive in New Zealand from Australia and the Pacific, having shaken thousands of hands, smiled thousands of smiles and accepted hundreds of gifts that probably won't see the light of the nursery – we thought it might be timely (as if you haven't had enough) to revisit some other notable royals that have planted their regal feet upon our shores.

Before there was Meghan Markle – before there was even a Prince Harry – there was a Diana, Princess of Wales. When she visited our shores with her husband, schoolgirls the country over lined up in droves to give her flowers. But the loudest clicking of cameras (there were no smartphones or selfies then) were reserved for her son, Prince William. His photo op playtime with an iconic Buzzy Bee at Government House, made even the hardest-hearted hack turn to marshmallow.

The late Princess of Wales had a fairly tempestuous relationship with the House of Windsor, even having some choice words to say about the Commonwealth's favourite grandmother, the Queen Mother. But before she was best known for her grandmotherly status and fondness for sloe gin and fillies, the Queen Mother was simply the Duchess of York (yes, the same title as Sarah Ferguson) and she toured our shores in 1927 just before she ascended the throne with her husband, King George.

Twenty-six years later, it was her daughter's turn to wow the nation. The first tour by an actual reigning monarch was a triumph for the newly crowned Elizabeth II. Throngs of people lined every corner hoping for a glimpse of the young queen, and as noted in this National Film Unit coverage "even the cot-cases are bought out from the hospitals". No better medicine, indeed.


Goodness knows how many Royal Variety concerts Queen Elizabeth has had to sit through over her 66 years on the throne. More than she probably cares to remember. One such performance was held in Wellington's St James Theatre in 1981 and featured many of our then top performers, including Ray Columbus, Howard Morrison, Tina Cross and some kids dancing with Ray Woolf.

Screaming fans are nothing new for royal tours. When the notorious Duke of Windsor, who was then Prince of Wales, visited in 1920 he was said to have shaken 20 thousand hands. Unfortunately for the waiting crowds there were no attractive divorcees that caught his eye. This omnibus of royal tours looks all the way back to 1867 when Prince Alfred came here for a spot of pig hunting and picnicking.

But what about royalty closer to our own shores? Tonga's Queen Sālote Tupou III had a very special bond with New Zealand throughout her life, having studied and lived in Auckland. The six-foot-three monarch was a popular figure at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth when she refused to put a hood on and rode through the pouring rain in an open carriage, soaking wet but forever endearing herself to spectators. When she died in 1965, among the 50,000 mourners at her funeral in Tonga were NZ Governor General Sir Bernard Fergusson, Prime Minister Keith Holyoake and Norman Kirk.