William, Kate receive red-carpet welcome

2012-09-12 08:17
Singapore - Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine were greeted by cheering well-wishers on Tuesday as they started an Asia-Pacific tour in Singapore to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 60-year reign.

The glamorous royal couple went from the airport to the leafy city-state's Botanic Gardens for the first engagement of their nine-day visit, which will also take in Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

William, wearing a dark blue suit and light blue tie, and Catherine, in a cream dress with orchid prints, were presented with a specially-bred orchid named in their honour.

William was shown another orchid named after his late mother Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Low-key first day

They were then taken to Singapore's grand, British colonial-era Raffles Hotel, where more than 100 people lined the gravel driveway and took pictures as the couple emerged from their car before stepping on to the red carpet.

Courtney Brassell, an American living in Singapore who brought her five-month-old boy along, said of Catherine: "I love her... She is always so pretty and I want to see what she is wearing."

Despite the spontaneous crowds, it was a relatively low-key first day for William and Catherine, who were expected to draw much larger turnouts at public engagements on Wednesday.

After taking a break at their hotel - named after colonial administrator Sir Stamford Raffles - they were formally welcomed in the evening at the Istana presidential palace, the former home of British governors.

Completed in 1869, the building was handed over to Singapore when the island attained self-government in 1959. Singapore joined the Malaysian federation in 1963 but became a republic in 1965.

Catherine changed into a purple floral dress for the Istana state dinner, featuring Chinese dishes, French wine and sliced baked mooncakes - a pastry served during the mid-autumn lunar festival now being observed across Asia.

'Singapore success story'

Singapore's President Tony Tan, in remarks at the dinner, hailed "the rich history, deep bond of friendship and close bilateral cooperation between Singapore and the UK".

William praised the economic success of Singapore, a former tropical backwater that is now one of the world's wealthiest societies.

"We are fortunate indeed to be with you here and to have the chance to see for ourselves the great Singapore success story.

"What you have done and become is admired around the world and we are delighted that the relationship between the UK and Singapore is now as close as it has ever been," he said at the dinner.

Public relations hiccup

They also played a prominent role during the London Olympics, but the family suffered a public relations hiccup when William's younger brother Harry was photographed nude with a female friend at a Las Vegas hotel.

William and Catherine, who were married in April last year, will stay in Singapore until Thursday.

They then head to Malaysia, where they will tour the capital Kuala Lumpur and Borneo's Sabah state from September 13-15.

The pair will then fly to the Solomon Islands, an impoverished former British protectorate north-east of Australia, and stay from 16-18 September, before a final stop in the tiny nation of Tuvalu until 19 September.

Queen Elizabeth is head of state in the Solomons and Tuvalu, both of which are members of the Commonwealth, as are Singapore and Malaysia.