Royal tour: Ferns and baby jokes

Last updated 21:17 10/04/2014

Royal Tour: Day Four

Duke and duchess state reception
ANTICIPATION: About to reveal the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand by Nick Cuthell.
portrait unveiling of Queen
BIG MOMENT: The unveiling of the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand by Nick Cuthell.

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A patriotic sparkle brightened the state reception at Government House tonight, when the Duchess of Cambridge entered in a black dress emblazoned with silver ferns on the shoulder.

The outfit, designed by Jenny Packham, was a nod to the country's famous emblem, and the All Blacks.

It is not the first time Catherine has worn a fern - she stepped onto New Zealand soil on Monday wearing a silver fern brooch from the Queen.

Tonight's event began with much fanfare as the Air Force brass band trumpeted Catherine and her husband, Prince William, into the ballroom, and played God Save the Queen.

Not dissimilar to the reaction the royal couple might get on a public walkabout, a number of gasps were heard, mainly aimed in Catherine’s direction.

About 200 guests were invited to the reception, hosted by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

The guest list was mostly MPs and their partners, along with some military personnel, and "a few judges", a spokesman for the royal tour said. 

After being welcomed by Mateparae, William spoke to the crowd. He got a few laughs by mentioning the star of the tour - his son, Prince George.

William apologised to Mateparae, saying he hoped the little prince had not kept him up at night. 

"I hope that George doesn't keep you up, he has been known to be particularly vocal at 3am and I swear I heard him doing the haka this morning," William said. 

George, who his father described as a "bonnie wee lad’’, needs all the strength training he could get, "preparing himself for life as a prop forward".

Before unveiling an official portrait of his grandmother the Queen, William acknowledged the people of Christchurch for their resilience, and also made mention of New Zealand's economic, sporting and scientific contributions.

The prince also got a few laughs when he gave special thanks to New Zealand for its wine.

Mateparae gave a good-humoured speech, saying their visit was notable for a number of firsts. 

He said one was that it was Prince George's first trip overseas and Catherine's first visit to New Zealand. 

"Undeniably though, the prestige goes to Prince George. And I would say there has been a hubbub of delight from New Zealanders with his arrival." 

Mateparae said one of the main aims of the visit was to showcase New Zealand. 

"Unfortunately the weather hasn't co-operated. Although I would point out there are some people in the room and many farmers who would welcome the weather pattern coming across the country." 

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He said he hoped that the warm reception from New Zealanders would make up for it. 

"Your visit is one which gives both of you the opportunity to meet New Zealanders, to mix and mingle with New Zealanders."

The couple mingled with guests following the unveiling. As the duke and duchess moved through the crowd, some guests took the opportunity to document the occasion. 

Among them was outgoing National MP Tau Henare, who snapped a selfie with the Duchess of Cambridge in the background.



Despite the edicts sent out by the Office of the Governor-General before the tour, not many bows or curtseys were seen as the royals moved around the room. 

The official guest count was 198, which meant a very quick "how do you do", before the royals were whisked off to the next group of out-stretched hands. 

The guests were grouped according their political parties and affiliations. 

Prince William and Catherine arrived back in the capital this afternoon after a day meeting the people of Marlborough at a wreath laying ceremony in Blenheim and at the Omaka Heritage Aviation Centre.

William has also held talks with Prime Minister John Key and Labour's David Cunliffe at Government House.

Prince William had told John Key he expected his race off against Catherine on the America's Cup boats tomorrow to be "a bit of healthy competition."

The prince greeted the PM warmly after Key said it was good to have him back in New Zealand.

"It's good to be back. Thank you for having me."

Key said the weather was expected to be a bit better in Auckland and in Queenstown next week.

The prince referred to the America's Cup racing: "it will be a competition tomorrow. A bit of healthy competition" before laughing.

He also indicated he was looking forward to the wine tasting the royals will have in Queenstown: "When we drove through the vineyards today... I was getting quite thirsty."

He said he was pleased to be going to Queenstown after a planned visit during his last New Zealand trip had to be cancelled because of the weather. The PM told him the airport had improved since then and allowed more landings.

The prince also said he was a bit worried the plane wouldn't have been able to land back in Wellington after the Blenheim visit because of the low cloud. "It was just all cloud. I was trying to show Catherine where it was.

"I just can't believe our luck with the Wellington weather."

 Key laughed and said "well, the farmers are very happy", and Prince William said "keep the dairy farmers happy."

The prince and Cunliffe started a 20-minute formal meeting by discussing the weather and their trip to Blenheim today.

Prince William asked Cunliffe how he had enjoyed the visit to Blenheim, before saying going there had been "poignant for me" as an RAF pilot. He had enjoyed the visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. 

"The whole museum is incredible. It's so important to keep the linkage of the generations." 

Cunliffe gave the prince a silver and black plaque with koru fern fronds on it and explained the meaning of the symbol, saying it meant renewal and nurturing. 

The prince said it was "super" and he liked the colour scheme. 

Cunliffe said it resembled the skies since he had arrived, prompting a smile from the prince. 

"We haven't had done so well with the weather,'' he said. 

Key has said he expected to talk Prince William through his proposed referendum to change the flag and have a general catch-up. 

Cunliffe said earlier he would let Prince William take the lead, but was happy to talk about the approach to the election, issues of importance to New Zealand and the economy.

- Stuff

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