High-profile visit

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Friday, April 11, 2014

RUGBY is still king in New Zealand. When the country hosted the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the media coverage was overwhelming. People passionately followed the games until the finals when the New Zealand All Blacks claimed the Webb Ellis Cup.

This week, two future kings (Prince William and Prince George), together with Lady Catherine, made an official visit to New Zealand and media outlets, both international and local, followed the royalties as they did their functions. True that there is excitement in the presence of the monarchs, but it hasn’t totally enchanted the population. It was business as usual in the workplace, and I didn’t hear much talk about the visit.

The photographs published in the newspapers are pretty and most of the reports have been upbeat and positive. The politicians have been generally respectful, while commentators have been kind in their words. Those who have come close and personal to the royal couple and their baby have been disarmed by their warm, if not down-to-earth, demeanor. And observers have nothing but admiration for Kate Middleton’s fashion taste.


A writer for a national newspaper complimented Prince William for his speech during the state reception in the nation’s capital, Wellington. That was when the heir-apparent (next to Prince Charles) snatched back the spotlight from his charming wife and son. He started his speech with a Maori greeting, and talked about his fondness for New Zealand.

The British visitors have balanced their activities to interact with the common tao while at the same time hobnobbing with royalists, including Sir Peter Jackson (producer and director of “The Hobbit”), politicians and other prominent members of society.

On April 11 in Auckland, the couple raced in two America’s Cup yachts at the Waitemata Harbor as spectators watched from afar. My wife Debbie was there, but she was a bit disappointed as the Duchess of Cambridge stayed hidden inside vehicle that brought them to the Princes Wharf.

The weather hasn’t been kind to the royalties as wind and shower have been following their itinerary. A few , meanwhile, have taken issue on the visit.

Labor Party leader David Cunliffe believes that Prime Minister John Key is taking advantage of the visit in this election year. The Maori King for his part didn’t want to meet with Prince William and family because of the limited time allotted. Columnist Dita de Boni, unhappy that the royalties didn’t stop by Solomon Islands (where flash floods killed 23 people), wrote: “(T)hey prefer the pre-ordained safety of the old empire, with a pair of Maori buttocks, the only slightly confronting note in a schedule jam-packed with meaningless rah-rah.”

The relevance of the British throne to New Zealanders has been subject to debate, with republicans still outnumbered. But there are signs of the waning influence of the Queen, like ending the function of the British Privy Council in favor of a New Zealand Supreme Court as the court of last resort and the suggested plebiscite on whether the British-themed flag be changed. The impact of the visit of the three of the most popular members of the British throne will be tested in the years to come.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 12, 2014.


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