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Prince William and Kate Middleton (and when he's in the mood, Prince George) have a jam-packed itinerary prepared for their trip next month to New Zealand and Australia—but apparently it could have been even more packed.
The office of King Tuheitia, leader of New Zealand's roughly 600,000-strong Maori population, has confirmed that he has refused a meeting with the British royal couple when they come to town.
But according to his office, what looks like a a snub is actually a show of respect, to both Will and Kate and Tuheitia's own people, and that he communicated his reasons to them personally a couple of weeks ago.
In a statement released yesterday, the office said that Tuheitia is pleased that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are visiting the Waikato region, but confirmed that they will not be coming to his headquarters at Turangawaewae Marae because, basically, he just doesn't have the time to offer than a proper Maori welcome, which traditionally could take hours.
"King Tuheitia agonized over his final decision but felt that other planned visits in Waikato were just as important and he didn't want those visits disadvantaged or affected by his acceptance of the Royal couple at Turangawaewae Marae," officials said. "Our full reasons for declining the visit were conveyed to the Royal couple in a personal letter from King Tuheitia that was couriered to the Palace several weeks ago. The policy around correspondence of this nature is that they are sealed and are not to be opened for a finite period.
"We are not sure how the Office of the Prime Minister treats correspondence of this type."
P Photo/ NZPA, Peter Drury
Officials continued to say that a tribal chieftain, or rangatira, pointed out that the king and his monarchy "are not some carnival act to be rolled out at the beck and call of anyone, and nor should we be prepared to compromise our tikanga [cultural protocol] to fit into a pre-determined schedule. It would have put the King in an impossible situation and opened him up to criticism that he was denigrating the mana of the Kiingitanga and the mana of the rangatira attending.
"In respect to the status of the Royal Couple, and that of the Rangatira who would gather to pay homage to the couple at Turangawaewae, 60 to 90 minutes was not considered to be'adequate to...the Royal couple appropriately. The King wanted to give his best to this couple to reflect their status, he was being prevented from doing that."
Well, obviously the palace knew all about this before the public-at-large did.
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William and Kate's detailed official itinerary, released this past weekend, shows several engagements in Waikato and Maori plan to greet them upon arrival in both Dunedin on April 13 and in Christchurch the following day, but there's no mention of a meeting with King Tuheitia.
Their big trip abroad with 8-month-old Prince George will mark their son's first public appearance since his christening and it will be Kate's first time in Australia and New Zealand. Kensington Palace noted that William is hoping that his wife loves the area as much as he does.
Expect the fanfare, even without a Maori welcome ceremony, to be plentiful.