Royals go cowboy for rodeo
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Calgary for the annual Stampede rodeo festival and join in with the cowboy spirit.
John Wayne might be gone, but there was a new Duke out west yesterday.
Dressed from head to toe in cowboy clothes – including ten gallon hats – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge let their hair down at the world’s biggest rodeo on the final leg of their tour of Canada.
The Calgary Stampede had never seen anything quite like it, and the Duke and Duchess had never seen anything quite like the Calgary Stampede, as they arrived in town on a 100-year-old stagecoach with grins as wide as a bull’s horns.
The Duchess opted for a distinctly designer cowgirl look as she twinned an Alice Temperley blouse with a £250 pair of Goldsign jeans. The Duke, on the other hand, made do with an old pair of Levi’s and a green and blue plaid shirt, looking very much the part, telling his wife: “It’s so nice to be in jeans.”
In fact, the Duke was enjoying himself so much that he gave his bodyguards a moment of panic as he decided on the spur of the moment to take the reins of a chuck wagon, as well as clambering on top of a metal pen to get a closer look at a rodeo bull.
Mike Casey, the Chairman and President of the Calgary Stampede, dispensed with the carefully planned itinerary after he explained the rules of chuck wagon racing to Prince William.
“Would you mind getting on?” he asked the Duke, who jumped up into the driver’s seat without hesitation and took the reins.
“What’s going on?” said a startled bodyguard. “I’ll be careful or we’ll be off down the street in seconds,” joked the Duke, who then clambered down and started a mock chuck wagon race by throwing a stove into the back of the wagon.
At a rodeo pen, the couple watched five-year-old Colton Powell riding a sheep in a child’s version of rodeo known as mutton busting.
“He’s so cute!” the Duchess said to her husband. “He’s so young. So brave!” She then congratulated the schoolboy on his skills, and asked him to stay with her to explain what was going on as a succession of cowboys rode bucking bulls in front of them.
The Duchess bit her lip as Scott Schniffer, 31, a former Canadian champion, stayed on for eight seconds before being thrown. "Oh my God! Oh my!" she said.
Then, as Mr Schniffer climbed out of the ring, the Duchess admired his leather chaps and giggled to her husband: "We should get you in a pair of these.”
At one point Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, turned to the Duke and asked: “What do we have to do to get you to do this?” The Duke replied: "You'll have to go first!"
The closest the Duke came was when he and the Duchess were invited onto a platform next to the bull pens to get within touching distance of them. The Duke decided to climb up the rungs at the front of the pen, once again giving his security detail – and his wife - a nervous moment.
As the Duke climbed over the pen and into the rodeo ring, the Duchess shouted: “William! William!” and beckoned him back to safety with a glowering look in her eye.
Mr Schniffer joked: "William really wanted to give it a go. He was asking so many questions. He said it's something he's wanted to try. I think if Kate or the security weren't around then he would have given it a go. I think he would be good."
The Duke and Duchess were wearing rabbit skin cowboy hats tailor made to measurements sent on by St James’s Palace, which were presented to them by the mayor of Calgary in a traditional Alberta welcome known as “white hatting”.
Among the dignitaries who were introduced to the Duke and Duchess was Gilbert Eagle Bear, a member of the Kainai Nation who was wearing a traditional costume of deer hide and weasel fur with a headdress made of golden eagle feathers.
The Duchess admired his outfit, telling him it was “gorgeous” as she chatted to him and to Eva Meguinis of the Tsuu T’ina Nation.
The couple also met Margaret Southern, 80, who met the Queen on a previous royal visit.
“I was proud to see them wearing their hats,” she said. “William said ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ and I thought that was very sweet.
“They didn’t have to wear the hats, but they did. Kate said to me ‘doesn’t William look handsome?’ He did!”
Then it was time for the Duke to make his final speech in Canada.
“Well, this is different!” he told a crowd in Western dress, before adding: “Canada has far surpassed all that we were promised. Our promise to Canada is that we shall return.”
Mr Harper summed up the couple’s effect on Canadians by saying: “We haven’t seen a love-in like that since the first visit of the Beatles!
“Indeed, everywhere you went you left a trail of utterly charmed Canadians in your wake.”
The couple were due to fly to the US tonight, landing in Los Angeles where they will meet a host of celebrities at a Bafta dinner