Royals end ‘memorable’ Oz tour

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iol pic royals down under REUTERS Britain's Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, holds her son Prince George as they prepare to board a plane with her husband Prince William to depart from Canberra on April 25, 2014. Photo: Phil Noble

The duke and duchess of Cambridge left the Australian capital for London on Friday after a wildly successful royal tour that buoyed monarchists and depressed republicans.

Those who have turned out to greet William and Kate got a bonus glimpse with the royal couple deviating from their schedule to make an impromptu appearance at a service marking the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) troops at Gallipoli in 1915.

Their surprise attendance with 37 000 others in a Canberra boulevard for the annual ANZAC Day dawn service at the War Memorial in the nation's capital served to underline the public's appetite for Windsor-watching. Every step of their way the young couple have been royally received, with well-wishers pressing into their hands toys and other tokens of affection for their son Prince George. Prince William, who spent seven years in the armed forces, will be at the ANZAC Day dawn service in Gallipoli a year from now. Brother Harry, still in the service of his country, will also be at the 100th anniversary commemoration in Turkey. At the War Memorial the royal couple planted a pine sapling grown from seeds gathered during the failed 8-month Gallipoli campaign to try and secure a World War I foothold for the British navy.

The duchess wore a blue-grey tweed trench adorned with a poppy broach given to her at a Thursday night reception in Parliament House by Emma Roberts-Smith, the wife of Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, who received a Victoria Cross for bravery in Afghanistan. “It's been one of the most memorable tours I have covered in 10 years of royal reporting & arguably one of the most successful in the last 30,” Rebecca English, veteran court reporter for London's Daily Mail, tweeted as William and Kate flew off. “And the couple have been bowled over by the extraordinarily warm welcome shown to them as a family by people everywhere they went.”

So successful has the tour been that William, on his third visit in five years, felt confident enough to say the pair “greatly look forward to coming back.”

Votes in a 1999 referendum on Australia becoming a republic fell just short of the requirement to snip the last links with Britain and have a local take over as head of state. But since then monarchists have taken back ground and support for the republican side has dropped to its lowest level in decades.

iol pic apr 25 Australia Royals~43.JPG Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, lay a wreath at the cenotaph of the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day in Canberra, Australia on April 25, 2014. Photo: Rob Griffith AP

Australian Republican Movement head David Morris took umbrage at avowed monarchist Prime Minister Tony Abbott looking to a future when 9-month-old Prince George would reign over Australia as King George VII. “The way he dragged the poor innocent baby into it yesterday in his speech is quite unfair,” Morris said in a statement, dismissing the royals as mere celebrities and their supporters as dupes.

“The last week has been an absolute celebrity festival,” he fulminated.

“To draw any conclusion about the republic from a visit from celebrities is absolutely missing the point.”

Prince George made only his third appearance of the tour, decked out in a bright red cardigan as he was taken aboard the Royal Australian Air Force plane. Mum was in the same coat-dress outfit she had worn all day against the cold of Canberra. - Sapa-dpa

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