Wellington (dpa) – Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla donned ceremonial Maori feather cloaks for their visit to the headquarters of Maori King Tuheitia in New Zealand’s central North Island on Sunday.
The couple stood side by side as they received a ceremonial challenge from the barefoot warriors of the Waikato-Tainui tribe who welcomed them to the Turangawaewae marae.
Prince Charles received applause for a speech in which he spoke in both Maori and English, thanking the tribe for their warm welcome.
“I am greatly honoured to be returning again to the embrace of this place at Turangawaewae,” he said. “The people of Waikato-Tainui have extended your care, compassion and hospitality to my family on many occasions. Today you have welcomed my wife here for the first time. King Tuheitia, it is a privilege to spend this time with you and your family.”
The prince and duchess are to spend almost three hours at the marae, where they will receive a salute from the royal canoe fleet on the Waikato River and attend an afternoon tea for 380 invited guests. Traditional English food such as scones and cucumber sandwiches are to be served alongside Maori fusion cuisine based on seafood ingredients, including whitebait, paua and oysters.
The chairman of the local Waikato-Tainui tribe’s executive committee, Rahui Papa told the Stuff website the visit cemented the strong relationship between the Maori King movement and the British royal family, continuing a connnection that dates back more than 100 years.
The visit is expected to put aside any lingering feelings of disquiet between the two royal houses after a planned visit to the Maori King’s headquarters by Prince William and Kate, the duchess of Cambridge, was cancelled in 2014. King Tuheitia withdrew his invitation to host the couple, feeling their 90-minute long visit was too short to enable the tribe to put on a welcome befitting a prince.
Prince Charles and Camilla are to travel later Sunday on to Auckland, where they were to meet locals on a public walk through central Aotea Square.
The royal couple are to stay in New Zealand until Tuesday, when they are scheduled to leave for Australia.