HONIARA: Britain’s Prince William and wife Catherine were greeted by huge crowds as they landed in the lush, steamy Solomon Islands on Sunday, while a row raged in Europe about topless photos of the Duchess.
Pacific warriors gave the glamorous royal couple a ceremonial welcome as they touched down in the capital Honiara as part of their nine-day Southeast Asian and Pacific tour marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
William, second in line to the British throne, inspected an honour guard of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force — the Pacific nation has no military — before the couple left for the capital in a colourful motorcade. Thousands of locals packed the route for a glimpse of the pair as they passed on an open-top truck decorated as a gleaming black and turquoise canoe adorned with frangipani flowers and a leafy canopy.
Their final destination was the city’s St Barnabas Cathedral where they were special guests at a Jubilee Thanksgiving service, marred by a brief power outage as the congregation waited for the generator to kick in. After calling briefly on Solomons Governor-General Frank Kabui later this evening the royal duo will be treated to a traditional island feast in the gardens of Government House.
Excitement has been building for days in the Solomons, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have two days of engagements, with at least one resort reportedly tidying its palm gardens ahead of the visit. It is the first stop of the Pacific leg of their Jubilee tour, which has already taken them to Singapore and Malaysia, where Kate made her first public comments on foreign soil, and they will move on Tuesday to tiny Tuvalu. Tuvalu is one of the world’s smallest independent nations, lying about halfway between Australia and Hawaii.
William and Kate are expected to take part in sporting activities and wear traditional dress while they are in the Solomons and Tuvalu, with warrior dancing and a canoe trip reported to be on the cards. The Duchess has already revealed her husband’s preparations, joking with Kabui in June that “William’s been practising his dance moves”. “We’re extremely excited. Both of us have never been anywhere near there,” William said at the time.
Queen Elizabeth, William’s grandmother, is head of state in the Solomons and Tuvalu, both of which are members of the Commonwealth, as are Singapore and Malaysia. The palace said the royal couple “remain focused” on their tour despite the furore after French magazine Closer published paparazzi snaps of Kate sunbathing in just her bikini bottoms by a pool.
William and Kate, both 30, are suing Closer for invasion of privacy over the images, which were reprinted on Saturday in the Irish Daily Star and are set to be published by Italian gossip magazine Chi on Monday.
The palace condemned the “greed” of the Irish newspaper and warned Chi that it would cause “unjustifiable upset” were they to proceed with their 26-page special edition on the photos. Britain’s younger royals are touring the globe throughout 2012 as part of celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth’s 60-year reign as they seek to maintain their relevance in a changing world.