'Fashion icon' Charles a hit with New Zealand crowds

'Fashion icon' Charles a hit with New Zealand crowds

Britain's Prince Charles is greeted by a well-wisher dressed in an animal suit in Queen Street in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: The Associated Press

Auckland:  Britain's Prince Charles joked that he was a "fashion icon" in his New Zealand wool suit on Monday but politely deflected a cheeky suggestion he would look good in a pair of Speedo swimming briefs.

The heir to the throne and his wife Camilla braved wet weather to greet hundred of well-wishers in Auckland on the final leg of a Pacific tour to mark Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee.

The rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, some of whom had queued for hours to catch a glimpse of the royals.

Charles and Camilla also visited the city's Millennium Institute sports centre, where they met Olympians from the recent London Games and members of the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team.

Local woman Rachael Jones, in the centre's pool for her daily dip, said she was caught unawares when the royals appeared and immediately apologised to Camilla for not being able to curtsey in the water.

"I told (Charles) he would look good in a pair of Speedos," she told reporters. "He said he'd have to hit the treadmill first. He laughed, he thought it was quite funny."

She said Charles and Camilla probably had the impression that "Gosh, these colonials are a little strange".

After a trip over Auckland harbour on a Coast Guard boat, Charles watched sheep shearers at work at a wool exhibition and spoke at length about his efforts to promote the natural fibre, a major New Zealand export.

"According to GQ magazine I am a fashion icon, so I just wanted you to know that I'm wearing some very, very smart gents' natty New Zealand wool," he said, gesturing to his light grey pinstripe suit.

It is the seventh time Charles has visited New Zealand -- most recently in 2005 -- and a first time for Camilla.

The pair, who have also toured Papua New Guinea and Australia on their Southern Hemisphere foray, have a rest day Tuesday before moving to Wellington.

While in the capital, they will view props and sets from director Peter Jackson's locally produced "The Hobbit" movies and Charles will celebrate his 64th birthday.

The trip ends Friday in Christchurch, whose residents are still recovering after a catastrophic earthquake last year claimed 185 lives.

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