Behind the Lens: Diamond reception for Charles and Camilla, Down Under
I’ve just returned from Christchurch, New Zealand and the last leg of the Diamond Jubilee Tour of 2012. The Royal Couple’s desire to see as much as possible in such a limited time-frame meant a great deal of jetting around in order to keep up — 20 separate flights at last count!
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall had undertaken this tour as representatives of the Queen, part of the Royal Family’s endeavours to visit all 15 realms in this special year of celebration. It was certainly a whistlestop trip for Charles and Camilla, starting the two-week-long tour in Papua New Guinea and continuing on into Australia, visiting various cities around the East Coast, before finishing the journey on the stunning South Island of New Zealand.
I’d been excited for months about the visit to Papua New Guinea, somewhere I’d always aspired to travel to. Despite the frustration of being there for such a short period, what I did see of the country was an incredible and colourful introduction to one of the most culturally diverse places on earth. Whilst this was Prince Charles’s fourth visit, it was the first time the Duchess had been there. The Royal Couple were given a colourful welcome as the sun set at Jackson’s International Airport and Prince Charles did well to keep good eye contact as he was garlanded by a topless local – something that proved most amusing to him as the same happened to the Duchess!
The Royals were treated to a kaleidoscope of tribal faces and outfits during their time on the Island. From the famous clay-masked Mudmen to the Huli Wigmen, the diversity of an island where up to 841 different languages are spoken was evident as the Royals enjoyed a special display in the stadium at Port Moresby. This show of cultural diversity culminated in the royals being driven around in a specially converted pickup with the number plate HRH-007 to the cheers and adoration of the crowds. Camilla even received a kiss from an exuberant local later in the day as we visited Borea Village.
I became very familiar with Australian airports over the next few days as we visited Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra and finally Sydney. The royal couple wooed the Australian press and received a rapturous welcome whenever they touched down. They even dropped in on the iconic Australia horse racing event the Melbourne Cup, the downpours certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of a crowd who were most definitely up for a party.
Charles, who missed out on holding the kangaroo Rooby Blue in Longreach, finally got his chance to get to grips with an iconic Australia animal as the Duchess and himself were handed two koalas during a visit to Adelaide. The Prince didn’t look entirely comfortable holding the large 4-year-old ‘Kao;’ the Duchess’s 9-month-old orphan ‘Matilda’ was certainly less of a handful!
After the frenetic pace of Australia we enjoyed a rather more relaxed trip to New Zealand where the Royal New Zealand Airforce 40th Squadron were flying us around. After a sober start with Remembrance Day being spent in Auckland, the Royals enjoyed some rather more lighthearted activities, finding time to privately enjoy the beauty of the region with some walking as well as visiting Weta workshop where special effects for the Hobbit movies are created. This part of the trip coincided with the Prince’s 64th Birthday and he was in fits of giggles as he accepted a birthday card from the actor Mark Hadlow who plays ‘Dori’ in the film.
The final stop on the journey was Christchurch, the town on the South Island in New Zealand that was most affected by the devastating earthquakes of 2010-’11. The tour finished on a real high note as the Prince and Duchess were invited to take a spin on the Dance-O-Mat, a specially constructed outdoor ‘pop-up’ dance floor, set up in response to the destruction by the earthquake of so many of the town’s dance floors. The Duchess, who is a huge fan of ‘Strictly come dancing’, seemed to have picked up some tips from her favourite programme as she skillfully negotiated the dance floor led by her partner Sam Johnson. It was a great way to end what had been a fantastically successful tour for this Diamond couple.
Editor’s note: Chris Jackson is our Getty Images Royals photographer. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisJack_Getty.