Prince George and Princess Charlotte steal the show as royals touch down in Canada
Published 25/09/2016 | 07:55
The Duke of Cambridge has said his children were beginning their own "lifetime of friendship" with Canada as Prince George took his first tentative steps in the country.
Holding on to his parents' hands, the three-year-old future king of Canada walked down the steps of a military plane when they arrived, while Princess Charlotte was cradled by Kate.
The family of four were beginning a highly anticipated eight-day visit to the Commonwealth country which is a homecoming for the royals as Britain's monarch is also Queen of Canada.
During a ceremonial welcome in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, the Duke told a crowd of thousands gathered outside the imposing Legislative Assembly of British Columbia: "Catherine and I are delighted to be back in Canada. When we were here last time, we had been married only three months.
"The warm welcome that you gave us at that important moment in our lives meant a lot to us - and we have never forgotten it.
"That is why we are so pleased that George and Charlotte can be with us in Canada this time round, beginning their own lifetime of friendship with this wonderful country."
All eyes were on the young prince and princess when they emerged from the Royal Canadian Air Force jet that had flown the Cambridges to Patricia Bay, the home of a maritime helicopter squadron close to Victoria.
They are rarely seen in public together and the tour is Charlotte's first official royal visit, but George travelled to Australia and New Zealand with his parents in 2014 when he was nine months old.
George appeared a little hesitant as he walked down the steps from the plane and despite holding on to his father's hand he reached out for his mother's dress and she quickly took his hand.
The future king was dressed in a jumper, shirt and shorts by Pepa & Co- similar to the outfit he wore when he was taken by William to see his sister soon after she was born - while Charlotte wore a floral dress, thought to be from M&H.
Waiting at the bottom of the plane's steps to greet them was Canada's young charismatic leader prime minster Justin Trudeau, who last summer invited the Cambridges to visit, and his wife Sophie Gregoire.
The politician's spouse looked stylish in a purple outfit and a trilby-style hat worn at jaunty angle and in the fashion stakes held her own with Kate, who wore a blue Jenny Packham dress, the Queen's diamond maple leaf brooch and a hat by Lock & Co.
As William chatted to Mr Trudeau, Kate tended to a somewhat shy George, asking ''Are you OK?'' as she crouched down to hold his hand before lovingly stroking his hair and cheeks.
During the formal welcome in Victoria the prime minister joked with William and Kate, saying: "As any parent travelling with children knows, it's a whole different experience when you bring your family with you.
"I want to commend you and thank you for introducing our part of the world to Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Although let me caution you from my own experience, if they are anything like our kids, getting them back on the plane after a visit to our beautiful west coast will really be a challenge."
At the ceremonial welcome in the centre of Victoria the Duke and Duchess were joined by dignitaries who had greeted them at the airport.
They included Governor General David Johnston and his wife Sharon, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia Judith Guichon and Christy Clark, premier of British Columbia.
When they first arrived William and Kate were directed to the Cenotaph war memorial, where, in sombre silence, they listened as a bugler played the last post before a minute's silence was observed.
The couple then jointly laid a wreath holding hands briefly to steady the Duchess as they walked backwards down the steps.
A card signed 'William and Catherine' read: "Never forgetting those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Canada."
The couple then spoke with local dignitaries, asking them about their roles in Victoria and praising the event.
The Duchess also revealed how excited she was about the visit, saying: "Both of us love mountains and there seems to be a lot of them here. We can't wait to explore. There is a lot to do in a short period of time."
Proclaiming their stay at the Governor's House "perfect", she answered questions about her children, disclosing they had been: "Super excited about the fact they were going to sleep on a plane."
Well-wisher Aurora Vandall, 36, from Victoria, said she had spoken to the Duke to welcome him to Canada: "He said 'I hope the children aren't tearing up the Governor's House right now'."
George and Charlotte were "fast asleep" by the time their parents returned to Government House for meetings with the Trudeaus and the Governor General.
"How about the children," asked Mr Johnston, as the couple sat down with him and his wife Sharon in the Drawing Room, "Are they fast asleep?"
William replied: "It sounds quiet" and Kate told their hosts: "They had a very good tea."
On Monday the royal couple will travel to nearby Vancouver by sea plane where they will carry out a day of engagements.
They will visit the Immigration Services Society of British Columbia where they will meet some of the thousands of Syrian refuges who have arrived from UNHCR camps and at a separate event learn about an outreach programme providing health and social services support to pregnant women and mothers with drug and alcohol issues.
A Kensington Palace spokesman said: ''The tour will see them take in everything from the bustling global city of Vancouver - population 2.5 million - to the emote and beautiful Bella Bella, home to less than 2,000 people.
''Along the way they will meet as many Canadians as possible, and will help celebrate Canada's First Nations communities, its arts and culture, pristine and beautiful environment, and its compassionate and innovative charitable sector.''