All babies are cute to somebody, but a royal baby and future king may be the cutest of them all, as Prince George proved Wednesday in New Zealand at what is being called the most watched play date ever.
On Day Three of the Cambridge trio’s — George and parents Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge — first official royal tour as a family, the 8-month-old George was the star of a mum-and-child event at Government House in Wellington, the capital, as throngs of reporters watched, videoed and tweeted.
George, dressed in a sort-of sailor outfit, was in Kate’s arms in a living-room-style room at Government House as she moved around talking to other moms holding their babies. George was seen occasionally trying to touch some of them.
Soon he was crawling on the floor in a sea of other babies. Judging from the various New Zealand TV live-streaming, the room was noisy with the sounds of babies and adults talking.
It was the first official public appearance for the royal baby, the first of a lifetime of royal duties. But it looked, judging from the pictures, like George was OK with that.
It also looked an awful lot like it was 1983 all over again, only with better fashion and way better media technology.
Back then, when Prince William, then 9 months old, came to New Zealand and Australia with his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, he made his royal “crawlabout” debut on a blanket on the lawn of Government House in Auckland, before a crowd of jostling photographers.
The pictures and ancient film are unforgettable, in part because of what happened later (divorce, death) and in part because it is so clear now that George is the spitting image of William at that age — unquestionably cute.
Duchess Kate is shorter than Diana was, a decade older than she was then, and much more chic than she was in 1983, when she wore a somewhat frumpy long green dress with exaggerated white collar.
Today, as tweeters confirmed, Kate was wearing a patterned knit dress by Tory Burch (selling for about $450). It was somewhat similar to the MaxMara wrap dress she was wearing when the couple changed planes in Sydney before arrival in Wellington on Monday.
Duchess Kate holds Prince George during a parents group visit with 10 Kiwi tots and their parents at Government House in Wellington on April 9.
Back in 1983, William was in a bloomer-style romper. Today, George was wearing a white shirt under navy smocked dungarees with a sailboat, with navy shoes and socks. Twitter fans immediately identified the dungarees as by Rachel Riley.
Will and Kate and George are spending three weeks touring New Zealand and Australia, with a schedule packed with more than two dozen engagements for the duke and duchess. George was expected to put in an appearance in one and possibly two public events.
The first occasion was a Plunket gathering, a get-together of about 10 families of new parents and their babies, similar to scores that happen every day all over New Zealand. The families were chosen by Plunket and included Maoris, Samoans, Chinese, and at least one American, half of a gay couple and their daughter.
All the children were born around the same time as George. A meet-the-babies media session on Tuesday was described in the Dominion Post newspaper as “cacaphony.” In 1983, William got a Buzzy Bee toy; George is set to receive a Plunket bear.
The young royals were at this special parent-child gathering at Government House in Wellington to recognize the work of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, a charity that provides health services to 90% of new parents and their babies.
Known simply as Plunket in New Zealand, the society got its name from the wife of a British diplomat and former governor of New Zealand, Lady Victoria Plunket, who became the society’s patron.
Although a widely admired charity in New Zealand, there was a minor kerfuffle before the Cambridges arrived about the car seat the society obtained for George in the royal touring car. Instead of fitting it facing backwards, as Plunket recommends (and is recommended in the USA, too), the car seat was arranged facing forward, as is permitted in the U.K. and apparently was requested by the palace.
Some Kiwi parents reacted with critical comments on the society’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, while others defended the society and the royal couple, pointing out forward-facing seats are the usual choice in the UK for babies under 1 year. In fact, baby George was in a forward-racing car seat, installed by William himself, before they drove away from St. Mary’s Hospital in London the day after his birth in July 2013.
In the pre-trip media briefing, palace officials said that of all the engagements scheduled on the royal tour, this one was most likely to serve as George’s first official royal engagement, allowing him to crawl around with other babies around the same age.
But it was enough to revive warm memories in New Zealand of the scenes 31 years ago, when Charles and Diana arrived Down Under, still newly married, still happy and just as besotted with their baby as Will and Kate are today.
Duchess Kate, like Diana before her, has been seen carrying George on and off planes herself, even though his new nanny is on the trip.