The prince came back, all clearly forgiven

18:45, Nov 18 2012

While waiting for Chuck and Camilla to arrive at the Re:Start Cashel St Mall for an informal meet and greet, I wondered how many among the crowd who had shown up in the hope of having their hands shaken by a royal paw, had been part of the pack who bayed for his blood 15 years ago when Princess Diana died.

Back then it seemed the prince would forever be dogged by that tragedy, and the Commonwealth would never be able to countenance his union with the woman he loved.

I suspect even Prince Charles was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception he received Down Under and tickled pink his wife was almost a hit - not the out-of-control sensation that Diana was - and thrilled wife number two had gone down well with the Kiwis, coming across as a nice girl and not stuck up at all.

The couple was nearly half an hour late arriving at the mall and when they turned up everyone had organised their spot and were lined up dutifully either side of the defunct tram lines, as the royals and their entourage derailed the route and snaked off down a container alley.

"They've got to come out somewhere," an anxious onlooker said as if they were trapped in a Scirt pipe.

The couple seemed to have been totally eclipsed, subsumed in the crowd till a lady nearby piped up: "I see him, he's under the W in the Wood Fire", while another gabbled excitedly: "I see his ears".


A band located high up on top of a container plucked tunelessly away on their instruments making the sort of noise a sadistic dentist might play while removing wisdom teeth, then burst into a Hendrix type version of God Defend New Zealand as the royal couple passed by underneath them in a blaze of beige.

Standing in a second line back in the crowd behind a tall man dangling an infant over his shoulders, the prince eventually came our way as I heard him ask the father how many children he had?

"Four" was the short answer to that question with Charles nodding in approval at the man's confirmation of fertility as he continued down the line pumping the reach of more hands.

I imagined the royal couple, particularly Camilla, a relative novice at pressing quite so much flesh, sitting exhausted with her husband in the back of a car resting their sore red hands in a bucket of ice, before applying disinfectant hand wash and stepping out once more into the breach to do it all again.

I was seized by a strong need to know what the prince's impression was of the central city and the red zone.

To see if he was suitably shocked by the damage and demolition, or if having visited many a war zone scene he had taken it in his if-you've-seen-one-blitz-you've-seen-them-all stride. But this prince is a heritage prince and he had just clapped eyes on the controversial cathedral and surely would have longed to stick his oar in, but it wasn't the time or the place.

There is no language for the strange transaction between a royal and their subjects in a walkabout.

Behind the prince the backdrop of the Holiday Inn being savaged by a crane in a particularly spectacular and messy demolition escaped his attention as he turned his full concentration on the crowd.

No-one clapped or waved a Union Jack, or up close blurted out personal remarks as to the height or lack of it of said royal, as one appeared to become collectively tongue-tied, awed and star-struck.

At the same time the proximity of celebrity royals made you ponder their Elephant Man type of existence as they are wheeled out, stared at, and made to perform certain acts within the invisible bars of their cage.

They have to dance and whirl about on a mat, attend hot and dusty agricultural shows, and admire prized animals with rosettes round their necks, when sometimes you wonder if the royal is actually on the very tip, the actual verge of screaming out: "I am not an animal!" (even though my family is rather keen on them, particularly the horse and the corgi).

When the event at the mall was over we were walking home along the riverfront when a big Maori dude with dreads down his back walking toward the deconstructing crowd looked nonchalantly past our shoulders and said, ever so casually to his mate, as if it were an everyday occurrence: "Yeah bro' the monarchy's in town."

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