Prince George’s luggage for his journey home got even bulkier Friday when he was given the perfect souvenir of his family’s tour of Australia – a personalized surfboard.
It was an emotional day for the couple, who had earlier visited a children’s hospice, but they got perhaps their warmest welcome yet from as many as 12,000 well wishers at Manly Beach near Sydney.
The royals were there to watch children 15 and under take part in the New South Wales Surf Life Saving Nippers club. The children learn about surf safety and life saving in between beach games and races in the sea.
Naomi Flood, a coach and Olympic kayaker, who was with William while Kate toured another part of the beach, said, “We talked about George being a bit messy and drooling everywhere. Kate is just beautiful. We saw the crowd erupt when she walked near to them. They seem really normal people living in a totally different world to the rest of us.”
Jean Hay, the mayor of Manly, gave them the surfboard with a picture of the beach and the words “Greetings from Manly” on the front.
“The duchess said, ‘Oh good, we’re looking forward to being able to use it, because we all love the water,’ ” Hay said.
“She said she wished she could have brought George as he would have loved it here, but he was asleep when they left,” added Kara Blackley, 14, who spoke to Kate.
Visit to a Children’s Hospice
George was on the couple’s minds earlier in the day, too, when they met a dying boy who is the same age as their son.
Visiting a children’s hospice, they met 9-month-old Max McIntyre, who had been born happy and healthy but six weeks ago was struck down with bacterial meningitis and given days to live.
Williams and Kate struggled to keep their composure as they met the blond youngster and his parents. William was clearly shaken.
“He was asking about Max and the issues he was having,” said nurse Philly Smith. “He said he welled up and was really worried he would start crying. Once he started, he couldn’t have stopped, as he was a similar age to George.”
Asked about George, William told Smith his son “was a bit jet-lagged and it was a bit hot for him – so he had to stay in the shade here.”
Giving her only speech of the tour, Kate said she wanted to create a “community of best practice” with the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) in the U.K., of which she is patron. Of the visit generally, she added: “To be here together as a family has been very special, and we will always remember it with fond and happy memories.”
Max’s mother, Amy McIntyre, told reporters that she was grateful for the royal visit. “It was lovely meeting them, and they are very charming and caring,” she said. “But meeting them was obviously bittersweet. We’d give anything not to be here.”