Royals will find a different welcome

TRIP PLANNING: Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are due in NZ next year.
TRIP PLANNING: Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are due in NZ next year.

Some Kiwis may be dusting off their flags for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's visit next year, but it's "a very different world" from last century's royal tours, a historian says.

Kensington Palace yesterday announced details of the 3-1/2 week tour of New Zealand and Australia, expected to start in early April.

It will be the duchess's first official visit to New Zealand, and potentially the first official overseas trip for her son, Prince George, who will be about nine months old.

The tour would bring back memories of Prince Charles and Diana's highly publicised visit to New Zealand in 1983, which was also then nine-month-old Prince William's first visit.

The excitement then almost matched the hysteria of the royal visit during the summer of 1953-1954, when the Queen and Prince Philip toured.

New Zealand historian Jock Phillips, who wrote a book detailing the history of the tour, described it as one of the major New Zealand events of the 1950s.

Huge numbers turned out to see the Queen and there was a great sense of loyalty to Britain, he said.

But the situation today was radically different to 60 years ago.

"We have very little economic relationship with Britain, our ethnicity is completely transformed. It's a very different world," he said.

"Obviously there are also a number of New Zealanders who think it won't be too long before a republic emerges.

"The royal tour now is a very different thing from the first 'great royal tour', which was a major, major event."

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday he was "delighted" at the news of a royal visit.

Monarchy New Zealand vice-chairwoman Chloe Oldfield said she was expecting the tour to bring out the strong support the monarchy has.

"New Zealanders have always been behind the royal family, and anxious to see what they're up to," she said.

The Republican Movement said the tour was an opportunity to talk to New Zealanders about having their own head of state.

"I think there will always be New Zealanders who are interested [in the royal family], but there's plenty who would prefer to move to a democratic head of state," its spokesman Savage said.

"It's really about our ability to choose for ourselves."