Our love ya and leave ya friends — cheerio, must dash, wham-bam thank you for the cutlets of spring lamb — Prince Harry and his increasing wife the Duchess of Sussex enjoyed the final day of their New Zealand royal tour in our most hospitable, welcoming city, the sweetly scented Rotorua. Everywhere they went, history followed, trembling in the air like a heatwave.

It was there at Government Gardens, where the massive crowd of maybe about 6000 included Shirley Hamilton, 69, and her daughter Faith Timu, 39. "We're descendants of the First Duke of Hamilton," said Shirley. "He was heir to the throne. But he was beheaded." She raised her voice and swung an imaginary axe: "Beheaded! Sccchhick!"

That happened in 1649. Margaret Foley, 53, who wore many beads and a pair of green plastic sunglasses, remembered that when she was a little girl, her father had a photograph of the royal visit taken at the front arches of the Government Gardens in 1901.

It was Queen Victoria's son Prince George, the Duke of Cornwall. Margaret looked back through the years to the picture hanging on the wall during her childhood and said:
"He wore a funny hat."


We stood on a grass verge above the waiting crowd. A boy lost his grip on the string of an H balloon and it flew off, a woman ran to get a better position but tripped over a chain fence and went flying. The PA played Royals by Lorde, once, twice, three times.

And then more history stepped into view. The story of Empire is the story of men and women who served King and Queen in battle; and there was Hone Tarawhiti, 59, who came to the royal walkabout wearing the medal-festooned black blazer his father Jack Albert wore when he fought with the 28th Maori Battalion.

Hone said, "I thought this morning, 'Well, dad, I'm going to bring you here today because of what you did for our country.' What better spirit to celebrate that with Prince Harry coming to see us."

A cheer went up: The royals had arrived. They made their way in bright sunshine. Meghan wore blue. Harry had his sleeves rolled up. History is never as exciting as things that happen right now; and after Prince Harry reached through the crowd, held a little girl's hand, and moved in, the girl ran to her mum and squealed: "He touched me!"

She held her hand by her wrist, and gazed at her palm. Then she stroked the side of her face. She looked at her hand again, still holding it by the wrist like it was an exhibit, and studied it very, very closely.