Birthday wishes greet royal couple

Britain's Prince Charles reacts as he meets Dori (left), a dwarf character from The Hobbit,...
Britain's Prince Charles reacts as he meets Dori (left), a dwarf character from The Hobbit, played by Mark Hadlow, during his visit to Weta Workshop in Miramar, Wellington. Photo by Reuters

Happy birthday tunes greeted Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at every corner - as well as a few marriage proposals - as they made their way around Wellington today.

People with their pets, children and banners declaring their love for the pair turned out in droves to greet Prince Charles and Camilla as they walked around the waterfront early this afternoon.

After walking almost a kilometre in the sunshine, their Royal Highnesses made their way to Weta Workshop where they were shown around by Lord of the Rings and Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop director Sir Richard Taylor.

Earlier in the day, their visit to Wellington began at Government House where the pair were welcomed with a powhiri and a 21-gun salute before opening a new visitors' centre at Government House, which is New Zealand's Diamond Jubilee gift to the Queen.

Camilla, dressed in a speckled grey coat, a Valentino slip dress and Philip Treacy hat, looked visibly apprehensive as a Maori warrior advanced towards their Royal Highnesses during a stirring powhiri.

But Prince Charles took it in his stride as he leaned down to pick up the dart placed at his feet - an indication that he and Camilla came in peace.

Later in the day, Camilla appeared more at ease when confronted with a hongi, the traditional Maori greeting.

As the pair made their way around Wellington's waterfront, the crowds continuously sang out 'happy birthday' to Prince Charles to mark his 64th birthday.

Many onlookers even practised singing as they waited for at least an hour to greet the pair.

In the crowd, estimated to be about 10,000 people, was Petra Simms, 22, who donned a T-shirt saying, "I want to marry Harry."

She said she had joined the crowd as she wanted to meet her future parents-in-law.

Bridget Neylan and Melody Holmes both brought down their 6-month-old boys to be part of the festivities, "so that when Charles becomes king we can say 'you went to their visit'," Ms Neylan explained.

For a group of Capital City Preschool children the chance to present Prince Charles with a happy birthday banner proved very exciting.

But while they might not have realised exactly who they were greeting, they did realise they were in the presence of a prince.

"They know there's a prince and a princess," parent Kyla Hamilton said.

About 200 people - many of them school children - stood outside the Miramar buildings hoping to catch a glimpse of Prince Charles as he was shown around Weta Workshop. They also sang Happy Birthday as he left the studios.

At Weta Workshop, Charles got a sneak peek behind the scenes of The Hobbit and watched actor Peter Hambleton, who plays Gloin, one of 13 dwarves in the yet-to-be released movie, get his make up done.

When he walked into the make-up room, Charles couldn't have uttered a more princely phrase when he said, "oh my goodness gracious me".

Actor Mark Hadlow, who plays the dwarf Dori in the upcoming film, spent two hours getting into costume and make-up, including a prosthetic dwarf nose.

Hadlow was completely in character when Prince Charles entered the room, kneeling down on one knee before the royal.

"I offer myself at the request of Sir Peter Jackson for you to command as you see fit, your servant Dori," he said.

A beaming Prince Charles was clearly amused by the gesture.

"I can't tell you how grateful I am - the best birthday present I've had in a long time," he said.

Prince Charles said he appreciated the actor's effort in getting dressed up for him.

Hadlow jokingly replied he had to dress up or he would "get beaten by Sir Peter".

The Duchess of Cornwall then met 25 female community leaders, while Prince Charles met with Prime Minister John Key and opposition leader David Shearer.

A birthday party to celebrate Prince Charles birthday is now underway at Government House.

A select group of 64 New Zealanders who share the same birthday as the Prince of Wales were invited to join in the special occasion.

The party is being hosted by Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, who is also celebrating his birthday.

- By APNZ and Fairfax

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