Royal family's tour a real buzz for crowds

TOM HUNT
Last updated 09:09 20/04/2013

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There was pomp and ceremony, photo ops and handshakes when the Prince and Princess of Wales visited New Zealand in 1983. There were also buzzy bees and wrinkles.

The wrinkles, back then, were not in the royal marriage but in the back of the princess's dress. And they caused great consternation among witnesses at Milford School in Auckland, Dominion reporter Jane Clifton wrote at the time.

"It was a beautiful dress, of course, they concurred, primrose yellow, a delicious light colour, stylishly low-waisted with a little ruffle of colour."

That was April 19, 1983. When they arrived in Auckland, the prince and princess had been married just two years. With them was a 10-month-old Prince William.

Clifton met Diana at a cocktail party. "She spoke so quietly I could hardly hear her, she was so shy."

For Clifton, who followed the royals around New Zealand, the most memorable moment of the tour happened on the lawn of Government House in Auckland.

The images that went around the world show a young William playing with a toy buzzy bee, Charles and Diana the picture of doting parents.

In reality, just out of shot, policemen were "virtually hanging out of trees", Clifton said this week. "There was half of Fleet St jumping up and down, shouting in Cockney."

The day before, The Evening Post got one of the scoops of the tour - William was teething.

On the lawn of Government House, with his new buzzy bee toy, this became apparent.

"One of the first things he did was stick one of the buzzy bee antennas in his mouth and chew on it," Clifton says.

William McKegg, from Lion Rock Ventures, which owns the buzzy bee rights, understands the governor-general's wife gave the toy to William.

The images propelled the buzzy bee from being another New Zealand wooden toy to "a huge icon", Mr McKegg said.

Prince Charles joked, "We get more fun out of it than he does" as William made another dash for the photographers across the lawn.

It was the first time the world knew for sure that the young prince could crawl. Previously it had just been a proud dad's boast.

In what is believed to have been another first for William, he was quoted in the press. "Da," he said.

Rodney Varga, then 4, was less talkative. His mother Gloria remembers taking him along as the royal couple were about to do a walkabout in Wakefield St, Wellington. "I got there early because I was a big fan of hers," she said. "I loved her clothes and her whole story."

At the front of an "enormous crowd", Mrs Varga spotted the royal couple coming down the street towards them. As for so many Kiwis, Diana was the drawcard. But she suddenly crossed to the other side of the street, "so all I could see was her back".

"Suddenly, she must have read my mind, she turned around and came straight across to me and Rodney."

Diana asked the 4-year-old his name and his age. "He just stared at her, he was totally tongue-tied. I was a bit tongue-tied. It was the last thing I expected."

Mrs Varga's neighbour, a "real gasbag", took over and chatted to the princess, before she continued on her way.

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There were other walkabouts in Masterton, Wainuiomata and Upper Hutt, and the Diana style followers will remember the pale blue sequin-studded evening gown and diamond tiara she wore to a Parliament banquet.

The couple also visited Prince Edward at Wanganui Collegiate. He was wearing a Maori cloak, for once eclipsing coverage of Diana's clothes. "What on earth are you wearing," Charles razzed his younger brother.

With the exception of protesters - against the monarchy, against the British in Northern Ireland, and of course the buttock- baring Te Ringa Mangu Mihaka - the royal couple largely thrilled the crowds. On April 30, they boarded a plane for a well-earned break in the Bahamas. It was estimated that, during their stay they had, on single days, shaken 2000 hands between them.

Contact Tom Hunt
Breaking news reporter
Email: tom.hunt@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @tomdom76

- The Dominion Post

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