OPINION: This particular royal tour has appeared to be very pleasant. Prince Charles and Camilla have been relaxed, charming and engaging.
Considering these events must be pretty tedious after a while, the couple are showing no signs of frustration or a lack of interest.
After shaking the 100th hand or being shown the 25th factory floor I would certainly be unable to contain a deep sigh, a roll of the eyes and a few glances at my watch - all of which, no doubt, would be caught on camera. But the royals are well-trained and know how to remain engaged with all of their public right through the day and then switch to full-on, formal entertainment mode in the evening.
I was reading an article about an interview with President Obama and he was reflecting on the loss of normality as one of the major consequences for his life since becoming president. He used the example that he never just runs into old friends at the mall any longer. He has lost the ability to move about like other citizens.
It is unlikely that Charles has had very many days in his life that we would call normal.
Perhaps the early years were kinder to him and his family before modern technology and a more aggressive media machine placed the royals in a new kind of fishbowl. Any given day since 1066 the family has probably been at risk of some sort of attack but usually from some foreign foe or close relative seeking the throne for themselves. Nowadays the threats are more likely to be cyber-based, at the end of a telescopic camera lens or some listening device so one of the paparazzi can strike it rich with an ugly or exposing story. Or they might be stalked, celebrity like, by some obsessive fan or targeted by a nutter with bag full of poo.
That crazy Croatian seems to be the only wonky moment in what, otherwise, has been a very successful tour.
The people of New Zealand are still enamoured of the royals and our place within the Commonwealth. I found it interesting listening to people identifying so proudly with their English heritage even going so far as to say that we New Zealanders are all of English stock. I am not so sure all would agree as so often we hear the flipside of the identity argument, with many preferring to be Kiwis or New Zealanders rather than acknowledge their recent association with the British Isles and Europe.
The only other odd thing I heard about the tour was that Charles showed up for his Feilding visit in a fur hat. It was meant to be warm there
and he is not often seen in a hat unless ceremony requires it. And this wasn't any old fur hat either but one with a fox tail.
It drew a few comments and sideways glances but it seems that no-one was brave enough to actually ask Prince Charles what it was all about.
That is, until the mayor, who hosted the royal couple, was so intrigued that she waited for the appropriate moment and put the question to the prince.
"Your Royal Highness, I couldn't help noticing you are wearing a unique hat. I am very interested to know the significance of this particular head-dress. I understand that there is symbolism in many of the royal adornments such as the ermine fur that represents honour and purity but would you mind sharing with us the significance of this particular hat?"
The prince smiled politely and answered very candidly. "You are quite right that much of the royal adornment is highly symbolic but I must admit to also being a little in the dark when it comes to this particular hat. It was my mother, the Queen, who suggested I wear it."
"Oh," said the mayor, "did she give you a reason?"
This was Charles' reply: "This morning I knew that I was heading to Palmerston North and then on to a more rural agricultural community so I naturally thought about my tweeds and a country cap but wondered that, although this was fine for Balmoral, it may be a little over the top for New Zealand. So in my desire to wear the appropriate attire I actually decided to ring England and speak to the Queen."
"Your Highness, you flatter us," said the mayor.
"I explained to her my situation and asked for her advice whereupon she wanted to know what it was I was going to be doing and where we were spending the day. I outlined the itinerary, our planned visit to Palmerston North and that we were then travelling from there to Feilding. And that is when the Queen said to me, 'Feilding Charles? Wear the fox hat?' So I did," said the prince.
- The Press