Best royal playdate ever! Prince George continued his reign of cuteness on Wednesday, April 9, when he attended his first official overseas engagement with Kate Middleton and Prince William in Wellington, New Zealand. Looking his usual adorable self, the 8-month-old heir to the British throne joined the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Government House for a baby playgroup coordinated by the parent support organization Plunket.
The event is likely the first time baby George has played with a large group of infants, but he and his parents seemed right at home. Clad in navy “sailboat-smocked” dungaree shorts from Rachel Riley and a white babygro, the little prince made the rounds with the Duchess, 32, who looked chic in a patterned Tory Burch dress and black heels. At one point, George briefly grabbed the hand of a little girl in a polka-dot onesie. “He looked really happy and was kicking his legs,” an onlooker tells Us Weekly, noting that he was especially enthralled by the toys. (He grabbed a purple tambourine first.)
The scene was much busier and more chaotic than Princess Diana‘s Government House stop back in 1983. During that tour, she and Prince Charles were photographed playing with a then-10-month-old Prince William on the picturesque lawn of New Zealand’s other Government House in Auckland. Prince George’s stop, conversely, took place in the Blundell Room and was overflowing with kids and toys. “It’s madness,” the Duke quipped to one of the other parents. “There are babies everywhere!”
Prior to the engagement, 10 families were chosen by Plunket to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Each has a baby who was born within a few weeks of Prince George’s birthday on July 22, 2013. Among the lucky families are a gay couple and their young daughter, a single mother and her son, and a man whose daughter will be the fourth generation of his family to meet a royal visitor.
“The parents are a spread of all the communities in New Zealand, including Maoris, Samoans, people of Chinese descent, and gay couples,” Plunket president Tristine Clark explained. “This is a very multicultural country, and we wanted the Duke and Duchess to meet people from all backgrounds.”
One thing they have in common? Like Prince William and Duchess Catherine, they are all first-time parents. “We’ve been through the sleepless nights, and we can talk to them about our experiences,” 29-year-old tax accountant Kate Bainbridge explained. (Bainbridge and husband Jarrid, 32, welcomed daughter Sophie 11 days before Prince George’s birth.) “It should be quite easy to chat with them,” she said.
Added 40-year-old Philip Gray, whose wife Alana, 31, gave birth to baby Lily last July 16: “The good thing about kids is that they’re unpredictable, so I’m sure there will be a lot of laughter. Babies are a great ice-breaker.”
Gray also noted that his family has a history of royal encounters; his grandfather met Queen Elizabeth II when he was serving with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and his father met Prince William’s dad, Charles, Prince of Wales. “Now I’m meeting the next two generations down,” he said. “Maybe our daughter will meet Prince George’s children one day.”
For others — like single mom Tui Funaki, 30 — the royal visit is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I’m a little bit nervous,” Funaki admitted. “But I’m just going to be myself and see what happens.” She joked, too, that her son Levi is about the same size as Prince George. “They’re both big boys,” the former hotel chef quipped.
The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, known more commonly as just Plunket, was founded in 1907 by pediatrician Sir Frederic Truby King. Today, the nonprofit offers families free childcare advice, home visits, and services such as car seat rentals.