Grace under pressure

17:00, Apr 13 2014

There's been an easy grace to the royal tour.

Not that easy means effortless. We should acknowledge what a hard-earned achievement it is for a young couple to have carried themselves through engagements aplenty with so much dignity but so little stiffness.

Much as William and Catherine have emerged every bit as personable as could reasonably have been hoped, it must surely take effort for them to present as so relaxed when the operational reality is that every moment is potentially a minefield and any mis-step could create the sort of news that travels the globe.

On top of which, the public is no longer liable to be uncritically accepting polite displays of interest and intonations of approval about how impressive everything is.

Instead, as the cameras zoom closer and in greater number than ever before, the nation is really looking for a sense of true engagement and fun amid the formality.

We've had plenty of that, from the was-it or wasn't-it hint of another pregnancy to the just-competitive-enough approach they couple have taken to yachting and ripper rugby events.


At least this time the schedule has been less unreasonable than was once the case. William and Catherine have surely had an easier time of it than back in 1953-54, when a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip toured the nation.

When that couple came to Invercargill they attended a civic reception in the surely vivid knowledge that it was their 43rd in 38 days.

In many respects this latest tour has really orbited around baby George and the decisions to keep him comparatively settled, avoiding gratuitous travel and having him only very rarely in front of the public, have been well made. We must hope he remains serenely indifferent to the fuss.

It was perhaps disconcerting when his encounter with 10 Plunket babies at Government House became dubbed, by the media anyway, as his first royal engagement. As The Sun royal correspondent Emily Andrews said, he will have a lifetime of those. Yet it doesn't seem unreasonable to hope that his adventures are intimate rather than public for a good many years yet.

Prince William, himself a baby when his parents first took him to New Zealand, now finds himself in a role similar to that his father had at the time: with a young wife and new baby proving rather more the focus of attention.

Tours such as this will not change the views of those who are trenchantly anti-royal, any more than those who are ardently royalist. Nor, ultimately, will they prevent the nation's inevitable glide to republicanism, itself a natural process that ideally should be conducted with a measure of grace and gratitude for our colonial past, rather than being seen as any sort of petulant rejection of it.

In that respect it was by no means inappropriate that a light aircraft trailing a banner that called for a Kiwi head of state flew above the royals in Auckland's Viaduct Basin. Nor was it inappropriate that the crowd, by and large, ignored it. Much as that banner carried intimations of our future, the present was happening down below, and fully to be enjoyed on that basis.

This royal tour has brought pleasure to a great many people and there is scant reason for it to have caused anyone real angst, unless they are somehow determined that it do so.

The Southland Times