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Raining royals forced Down Under cover on Kiwi tour leg

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have received a heart-warming New Zealand welcome as they faced unseasonally cold weather at the start of their tour Down Under.

Charles and Camilla were lashed by rain and whipped by winds as springtime in Wellington felt more like the depths of winter and forced some of their itinerary to be moved indoors or cut short.

When their New Zealand Air Force jet touched down in the capital Wellington, the Duchess crossed the tarmac clutching a see-through umbrella and wore a scarf around her head as she braved the bad weather - which whipped up her dress - while the Prince ignored the conditions.

The royal couple's official welcome was hastily rearranged as the predicted let up in the conditions failed to materialise and they met waiting dignitaries - including prime minister John Key - inside a military terminal at Wellington International airport.

Maori elder Lewis Moeau performed the hongi greeting with the heir to the throne at Government House, the official Wellington residence of governor general Sir Jerry Mateparae.

New Zealand has had a string of royal visits in recent years with Prince Harry visiting in May, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge touring in 2014 and Charles and Camilla travelling to the Commonwealth nation in 2012.

Mr Moeau said: "I think New Zealanders welcome royalty back at any time. If you look back over the last few years we've had the father, his two sons and the daughter-in-law.

"I think by and large New Zealanders and Maoris look forward to royal visits."

He added that this was the third occasion he had performed a cultural Maori welcome with Charles.

"The hongi is the traditional custom of greeting visitors - it's the soft pressing of noses and the sharing of each other's breath when you first meet."

During Charles and Camilla's 12-day trip Down Under they will meet Australia's new republican prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, see a majestic armada of Maori canoes and the heir to the throne will celebrate his birthday with an Aussie "beachside barbie".

Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced this week that his cabinet had agreed to scrap knights and dames from the honours system - reversing a decision by his predecessor Tony Abbott.

But at Government House the Prince formally received his new military titles with New Zealand's armed forces, that were first announced earlier this year.

He was made an Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

England hosted the recent Rugby World Cup where New Zealand's famous All Blacks team beat Australia in the final - the first nation to defend the Webb Ellis trophy.

They arrived back home today to a rapturous welcome and thousands turned out for the first in a series of victory parades beginning in Auckland.

There is speculation Charles and Camilla may meet the squad when their victory tour reaches Wellington on Friday but there has been no official confirmation.

At a state reception at Government House featuring leading New Zealanders Charles gave a short speech and jokingly admitted he was thankful the All Blacks had beaten Australia.

He said: "I was quite relieved that New Zealand won the rugby game otherwise I was concerned I'd be coming to a country in total gloom.

"By the time we get to Australia they will hopefully have got over it," he added amid laughter.

The governor general suggested the Duchess, who had a persistent cough and is understood to be suffering from jetlag, miss the reception.

Camilla took a holiday before the trip began but has still had to contend with crossing time zones and spending many hours in the air as the royal couple flew to Singapore via scheduled flights and then travelled with the Royal New Zealand Air Force to Wellington.

Earlier they had paid their respects to New Zealand's war dead when they visited the Hall of Memories, part of the country's national war memorial complex.

Charles laid a wreath, featuring the Prince of Wales's feathers, which had a card with the handwritten message: "In grateful and perpetual memory - Charles" and they paused in silent reflection after the Last Post had been sounded by a bugler.

They laid fern branches on the tomb of the unknown warrior then went on a walkabout meeting the crowds who had braved the cold and rain to meet the royal visitors.

The royal tour will see Charles and Camilla travel to Dunedin, Nelson, Ngaruawahia, New Plymouth and Auckland, before heading to Australia to visit Adelaide, Tanunda, Canberra, Sydney, Albany and Perth on their busy official trip.

During the coming days Charles and Camilla will be welcomed to Turangawaewae Marae, the home of the Kingitanga or Maori King Movement, where they will view a waka armada of canoes on the country's longest river, the Waikato, on the North Island.

They will also travel by train into Dunedin station and, to mark Conservation Week in New Zealand, visit the Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary - home to some of New Zealand's rarest birds, reptiles and plants in the most protected forest in the South Island.

When they travel to Australia, Charles, who will one day be the country's head of state, will meet Mr Turnbull on Remembrance Day in Canberra on November 11 and it could prove to be an interesting encounter.

Mr Turnbull, who is Australia's fourth leader since 2013, was once the public face of the country's republican movement.

He was chairman of the Australian Republican Movement for seven years and described his own Liberal leader, John Howard, as ''the prime minister who broke this nation's heart'' when a referendum to ditch the monarchy failed in 1999.

But in recent years, the popularity of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children has dampened enthusiasm for replacing the monarch with a president, with Prince George being dubbed the ''republican slayer'' when he joined his parents on a tour of the country in 2014.


From Belfast Telegraph