Will, Kate enthral Blenheim crowd
Thousands of William and Kate fans whooped, cheered and waved flags in Blenheim during the couple's first public outing on their New Zealand tour.
The wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial marking 100 years since the start of World War I was the couple's first official ceremonial duty of their 10-day tour.
Fans began arriving at 4.45am to stake out a prime front-row spot to see the famous couple.
By 10am Seymour Square surrounding the memorial became a sea of red, white and blue. Police estimate between 7000 and 10,000 people were there.
Supporters clung to the security railing, while the unlucky crowds at the back strained for a better view.
Tiara-wearing toddlers perfected their inner princess performing curtsies in pink tulle dresses, while senior citizens took selfies on their smartphones.
Armed with Union Jacks and wearing jubilant smiles, the crowd cheered as the couple's air force plane flew overhead on its way to Base Woodbourne.
The crowd had only a short wait before the couple arrived fashionably late at 11.15am. Looking her elegant self in blue frock coat, Kate smiled at the warm Marlborough welcome.
William in his navy suit with his service medals on his lapel played the handsome prince role to perfection.
After they were greeted by Mayor Alistair Sowman and his wife Thelma Sowman the couple were introduced to Marlborough Returned Services' Association vice-presidents Rod Shoemark and Ross Cooke.
At the ceremony, with their wives, were Prime Minister John Key, Opposition leader David Cunliffe and defence force chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating.
Blenheim's war memorial and clock tower is Marlborough's principal monument to 419 residents killed during World War I. After laying a symbolic wreath of roses and carnations at the tower, followed by a minute's silence, the composed couple listened intently as Marlborough Girls' College students Olivia Burns and Alice Schofield sang the national anthem.
The couple spent 15 minutes talking to 20 veterans from Marlborough RSA. The smiling senior citizens looked like they were regaling Kate with old war stories. Veteran Bill Skerrit produced an old photograph of him with the Duke of Edinburgh that captured Kate's attention.
The air was punctuated with sound of cheers as the couple walked through the passage under the clock tower. As they waved, royal-watchers held their smartphones aloft to get that all-important snapshot.
The couple went on separate walkabouts, with William led by the mayor, and Kate guided by the mayoress.
Blenheim woman Vicky King's son Alton King, 9 months, drew laughs when he sneezed on Kate.
"He will go down in history for sneezing in front of the duchess," King said. "When he sneezed she said, ‘oh my goodness' and giggled.
"I was really nervous but she is a mum just like me. It was a very surreal experience. She was very easy to talk to."
As William approached the crowds, children climbed onto their parents' shoulders for a better view.
Aika Mojzisek, 6, of Blenheim, was sitting on the ground showing off a gappy grin when William approached.
Aika who just lost her first tooth, laughed as William asked whether the tooth fairy had taken it. Aika's fake tattoo on her hand sparked laughter from William when she thrust out her little hand. "That is a new one on me," he said.
Lorissa Barnett's 3-year-old twins Lola and Millie Barnett wore tiaras and became princesses for the day.
The girls presented William with a posy of flowers adorned with pearls and he assured the girls Kate would love them.
"I think their tiaras attracted his attention," Barnett, of Blenheim, said. "It was really special. He was lovely, very polite and he made sure he talked to everyone."
At the end of the walkabout, a woman overcome with royal fever summed up what everyone was thinking. "That was worth it," she declared.
The Marlborough Express