Mon, Apr 07, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Baby prince heads Down Under

FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS:Prince George’s trip echoes a trip made by his father Prince Williams when he was just nine months old to Australia 31 years ago with his parents

AFP, LONDON

Baby Prince George was heading from Britain to New Zealand and Australia yesterday, with parents Prince William and his wife, Catherine, taking the eight-month-old on his first-ever tour.

George, third in line to the British throne of all three countries, follows in the footsteps of his father, who traveled Down Under with his parents, Prince Charles and Diana, in 1983 aged nine months.

The three-week royal tour by William, 31, Kate, 32, and George is to be one of the first times the young prince has been seen in public since his birth on July 22 last year.

On March 30, British palace officials issued a photograph of the chubby prince, wearing a sweater with his name on, alongside his parents and their dog, Lupo, posing in the window of their Kensington Palace residence in London.

The symbolism of the trip is clear, with George also being directly in line to become king of Australia and New Zealand after grandfather Charles and then William.

George is only to be taken to a few specific engagements throughout the trip, their Kensington Palace residence said.

In New Zealand, the royal couple will start their visit in Wellington today with a ceremonial welcome, including a Maori dance, and inspect a guard of honor.

George could have some playmates on Wednesday, when William and Kate attend a reception at Government House in Wellington with new mothers and their toddlers.

On Thursday, they travel to Blenheim for a wreath laying session honoring New Zealand soldiers killed in World War I, which broke out 100 years ago. They are also to meet New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and attend a state reception where William plans to unveil a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

The couple are in Auckland on Friday, Hamilton and Cambridge on Saturday, Dunedin and Queenstown on Sunday, where they are to brave the Shotover Jet — a high-speed white-water thrill ride down a river canyon, and Christchurch on Monday next week, where they are to pay their respects to victims of the 2011 earthquake.

Australia hosts the couple from Wednesday next week when they arrive in Sydney, before traveling on to the Blue Mountains on April 17, Brisbane on April 19, Uluru (Ayers Rock) on April 22, Adelaide on April 23 and Canberra on April 24 and 25, before flying home. Specific events on the tour are to celebrate Australia’s and New Zealand’s achievements in the fields of technology, tourism, sports and the creative arts.

Their 11-person entourage is to include a hairdresser and a recently appointed Spanish nanny. They fly to and from London on scheduled flights.

William’s private secretary Miguel Head told reporters in March that the couple had put in a lot of planning for the visit, which will be Kate’s first to either country.

“Taking a nine-month-old on a royal tour is not a first,” but has not happened for a long time, Head said. “So there has been much to think about — as any new parent traveling long-distance will recognize.”

William was nine months old when he made his first trip to Australia and New Zealand. Charles and his first wife, Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, took him on their tour in March and April 1983.

The upcoming visit is to allow William and Kate to do what they wanted to do “above all else: meet New Zealanders and Australians,” Head added.

William and Kate were treated like celebrities when they visited Canada months after their wedding in 2011, while in 2012, they toured Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu on behalf of Queen Elizabeth to mark her 60 years on the throne.

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