10 Apr 2014

Fan frenzy for royals in Blenheim

5:53 pm on 10 April 2014

Royal fans whooped, cheered and frantically flag waved during the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first public outing in front of thousands of people in Blenheim.

Prince William and Catherine took 30 minutes as they stopped to chat on their walkabout through Seymour Square in the centre of the town on Thursday. Fans staked out the best positions as early as 4.30am for the walkabout, the first of the couple's Australasian tour.

The Duchess of Cambridge greets war veterans in Blenheim.

The Duchess of Cambridge greets war veterans. Photo: GOVERNMENT HOUSE

The royal couple flew into Royal New Zealand Air Force base Woodbourne, joining Prime Minister John Key and Labour Party leader David Cunliffe for a day commemorating World War I.

They began their visit with a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the centenary of World War I.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lay a wreath at Seymour Square in Blenheim, accompanied by Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lay a wreath, accompanied by Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman. Photo: GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Marlborough Returned and Services Association vice-president Rod Shoemark said it was tough to choose which veterans should be invited to the wreath-laying.

"We had to make a grand selection of 100 veterans for the wreath-laying ceremony. Of course it had to be spread over the three services as equally as we could, and through all conflicts also. Yes they're all ready to go, shoes shined, suits pressed."

Mr Shoemark said it was a real honour Blenheim was selected for the event.

"It's absolutely enormous to have so many places around New Zealand, that also have grand cenotaphs or war memorials, to be chosen for our wreath-laying here, it's just beyond us. But we're certainly very proud of it."

The Duke of Cambridge receives a gift from a young fan.

The Duke of Cambridge receives a gift from a young fan. Photo: GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Picture perfect

A special touch was when nine-year-old Tallulah Dabinette was pulled out of the crowd to meet the royal couple.

Tallulah Dabinette.

Tallulah Dabinette. Photo: RNZ / Alison Hossain

She was holding a framed photograph of her as a 7-month-old baby meeting Prince William during a 2005 visit to New Zealand.

Along with sister Eloise, 7, and mother Sara-Lee, they met the Duke and Duchess and gifted them the picture.

"Thanks very much, it's very special," a touched Prince said. He and his wife joked about "what age does" and thanked them again.

Tallulah, who goes to nearby Fairhall School, said the experience was "so cool".

Ms Dabinette said the royals remarked on the acorns embedded in the wooden picture frame, saying that acorns were "very special" to them as they feature of their coat of arms.

Coup for town

Mayor Alistair Sowman said the visit was a real coup for the town.

"I think it's huge and certainly the feedback I'm getting from a large sector of the community is they are absolutely delighted.

"A small centre like Blenheim - they're only going to a small number of places and to actually select Blenheim is a real feather in our cap, and I hope we can do it justice."

The royal couple will end their day with a state reception at Government House.