It wasn't the usual crowd of Union Jack-waving grandmothers patiently waiting for a glimpse of the young prince.

There were hijab and chequered keffiyeh headscarves scattered among nurses in blue scrubs. There were fans in Crusaders jerseys, a 'Ban 1080' protester. Few school children, despite being the holidays, but some tourists. Lots of Germans.

Even face-tattooed gangsters, well-eyed by the armed police warily guarding the mosques and hospital that the Duke of Cambridge visited, roared up on modified motorbikes to steal a selfie.

Click... the Duke of Cambridge and a wall of smartphones in Christchurch. Photo/ supplied.
Click... the Duke of Cambridge and a wall of smartphones in Christchurch. Photo/ supplied.

"Kia Ora!" a man hollered as Prince William stepped from a silver BMW, buttoned up his navy blue suit jacket, and strolled inside the now infamous gates of the Al Noor Masjid in Christchurch.

Advertisement

Six weeks ago, 42 Muslim worshippers were slaughtered here during Friday prayer.

Yesterday, the duke praised the Al Noor congregation, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and city residents with "a famous strength of character", for their response to New Zealand's worst-ever terror attack.

"In a moment of acute pain you stood up and you stood together and in reaction to tragedy you achieved something remarkable. You showed the way we must respond to hate - with love," he said.

Britain's Prince William, left, meets a young Muslim boy at the Al Noor mosque during his visit. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince William, left, meets a young Muslim boy at the Al Noor mosque during his visit. Photo / AP

He even referenced the 1997 death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales: "I have had reasons myself to reflect on grief and sudden pain and loss in my own life" and warned that you "never forget the shock, the sadness, and the pain".

The whirlwind royal tour went down well. Just as it did when Prince William – then, as now, representing his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II - visited a still rocking Christchurch just weeks after the February 22, 2011 earthquake which claimed 185 lives.

After speaking inside the central city masjid, William went round and shook hands and chatted with some of the survivors.

Mustafa Boztas was impressed after hearing a "speech from his heart".

"He's a very humble person, just like his mother," said 21-year-old Boztas who was shot in the leg at Al Noor and was discharged from hospital on Tuesday.

Advertisement
Under tight police security, families arrive for Prince William's visit to the Al Noor Mosque, one of the two involved in the mass shootings, in Christchurch on Friday. Photo / AP
Under tight police security, families arrive for Prince William's visit to the Al Noor Mosque, one of the two involved in the mass shootings, in Christchurch on Friday. Photo / AP

"We need more people like him. I'll remember everything he said. He said we are all one and should stand together as a nation."

Temel Atacocugu lifted his shirt and showed off some of his nine bullet wounds.

"Wow," said a stunned second-in-line to the throne who quietly listened to Turkey-born Atacocugu tell his harrowing story.

Al Noor Masjid Farid Ahmed, whose wife Husna Ahmed died at the mosque, spoke before Prince William saying, "We have to keep up hope and not surrender to hatred".

William's father, Prince Charles, mentioned Ahmed in his Easter message this year saying he was a "shining example to us all" in the way he has forgiven the gunman.

When Prince William arrived at Christchurch Hospital, faces pressed to office windows, and lines of hospital workers loitering outside, a big cheer went up.

Britain's Prince William leaves the Al Noor mosque after his visit on Friday. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince William leaves the Al Noor mosque after his visit on Friday. Photo / AP

After a trip across town to the Linwood Masjid, where another seven Muslims were killed in New Zealand's darkest modern hour, he returned to walk beside the meandering Avon River.

He laid a wreath at Oi Manawa Canterbury Earthquake Memorial on its southbank, feeling the names etched into the stone wall.

"Thank you for coming!" shouted several in the thick crowds.

William squinted into the late autumn sun and shook hands and fielded questions about kids' birthdays. There were only glimpses of the usual fanfare and regal hoopla; a lonesome St George flag; giggling schoolgirls; fawning mothers.

Prince William arrives at Al Noor Mosque, Christchurch.

Cellphones were hoisted to get the perfect princely picture.

"Hey Princey, look here!" one yelled.

"Aaron, put me on your shoulders."

"Did you get him?"

"Got him."

After hundreds of pressed flesh and flashy photos, the duke said thank you and waved goodbye as he stepped back into his silver BMW.

"See you William!" they said. And then, he was gone.