NEW YORK: Britain’s Prince William laughed and joked with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Monday while his pregnant wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, greeted disadvantaged children in New York.
On day two of a lightning visit to America’s biggest city, the royal couple parted company as they sought to mix diplomacy, support their favorite causes and promote British business.
William smiled and swapped jokes before the cameras with a beaming US president at the White House in a meeting hailed as a coup and groundbreaking for the prince by British commentators.
Second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, William is increasingly taking on more long-haul work for the British monarchy as Queen Elizabeth II approaches her nineties.
He sought Obama’s support for his campaign to end illegal wildlife trafficking and the president, reportedly an ardent admirer of William’s grandmother, appeared only too happy to oblige.
“Very important work,” said Obama when asked by a reporter what he thought of the prince’s efforts.
William spoke to Obama about welcoming his second child with Kate next year, joking that during all the excitement of his son George’s birth, he didn’t realize whether it was a boy or girl.
“You forgot to ask?” laughed Obama.
William continued his first visit to Washington DC with a speech at the World Bank, saying annual profits of $20 billion from illegal wildlife trade funds organized crime and armed groups.
In 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa with numbers poached exceeding the rate of births, he said, announcing that British former foreign minister William Hague would chair an international taskforce to work to shut down wildlife trafficking.
“Cooperation is our greatest weapon against the poachers and traffickers,” said William. “By taking a truly international approach, we can get one step ahead of them.”
Left behind in New York, his wife, who is five months pregnant, spent around an hour wrapping Christmas presents and helping young children with art and crafts and a development center.
Kate covered her baby bump in a $1,000 black coat by British label Goat, embellished with nude tabs on the cuffs.
With her auburn hair gently waved and half swept from her face, she waved to well-wishers who braved the freezing cold at the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem.
Accompanied by Chirlane McCray, wife of New York mayor Bill de Blasio, the duchess exited the building with a wide smile to loud cheers, before crouching down to accept a bouquet from a child.
She was then whisked off to meet British expats at the British consul general’s residence, before an afternoon of rest.
A New York ambulance has been dispatched to accompany her at all times, reportedly as a precaution for her pregnancy.
Their visit continues when William returns to New York to attend a conservation reception with expected 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea.
The couple will then attend their first NBA basketball game when they will see LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Brooklyn Nets.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player nicknamed “King James” said it would be a honor to lead the Cavaliers in search of their seventh win in a row at the Barclays Center before royalty.
“You read about people like them only in books growing up,” James said. “To hear that they’re coming to town to see me play and they want to see me do what I do best, it’s a huge honor.”
The couple may also get a brief brush with the days of protests that have gripped New York demanding justice for black men killed by white police officers with a demonstration dubbed #RoyalShutDown called at the Barclays Center before their arrival.
Demonstrators earlier Monday briefly blocked rush hour traffic on the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn.
The couple, who are in the United States without their one-year-old son, are expected to fly home as soon as their last function concludes on Tuesday night.
They are staying at the Carlyle Hotel, where William’s mother Diana used to stay, and where jubilant royal watchers cheered as they stepped out of their presidential-style motorcade on Sunday.
Their arrival has drawn comparisons with the 1985 visit made by Charles and Diana, when the princess dazzled Americans by dancing with US president Ronald Reagan and Hollywood star John Travolta.