Prince William wins plaudits on first solo official tour

Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:40am EST
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AUCKLAND (Reuters Life!) - Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, was hailed as a "man of the people" in New Zealand during his first official overseas trip which also sparked some protests by pro-republicans.

Representing his grandmother Queen Elizabeth, Prince William arrived in Auckland on Sunday to be greeted by 10 enthusiastic royalists at the airport, according to local media, before inspecting Eden Park stadium, a 2011 Rugby World Cup venue.

But on Monday up to 1,000 supporters turned up to see the 27-year-old prince as he opened a new Supreme Court building in Wellington, rubbing noses with VIPs in a traditional Maori greeting and donning a feathered ceremonial korowai cloak.

"He's very down to earth, he's just like us," Tania Walkin, one of the crowd, told NZPA of Prince William, the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key described the prince as a "very charming young man."

"He's extremely relaxed. I found him very, very personable. I wasn't sure entirely what to expect but he's very down to earth, he's got a great sense of humor," Key told Newstalk ZB radio.

"I think he's got a strong sense of the responsibilities that he currently commands and those that lie before him and yeah he's just a fine young man."

But not all the crowd was supportive, with protests by a handful of republicans unfurling a banner reading "It's Time For A Republic" who want New Zealand to cut ties with the British royal family.

The British monarch remains the head-of-state in both New Zealand and neighboring Australia, former British colonies, but support to replace the monarch with a homegrown head-of-state has not reached a critical mass in either country.   Continued...

<p>Prince William of Britain goes on a walkabout after opening the new Supreme Court building in Wellington on the second day of a three-day visit to New Zealand January 18, 2010. REUTERS/Anthony Phelps</p>