In Prince William’s mind Australia is a brave nation and on the last night of his tour Down Under the popular royal met three of the best.
Behind closed doors at Canberra’s majestic Government House on the eve of Anzac Day, William and his wife Kate were greeted by three of Australia’s surviving Victoria Cross recipients.
Corporals Daniel Keighran and Benjamin Roberts-Smith along with SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson joined about 100 guests – representing the arts, business, charity, conservation, the military and sport – at a reception hosted by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.
Earlier on Thursday William – who served in the British military for seven and a half years – tipped his hat to Australian troops.
“Over the years, Australians have fought bravely for freedom in numerous conflicts,” he said in only his second speech during a 10-day tour of Australia, delivered at the Great Hall of Parliament House.
William added that along with brother Prince Harry, he and Kate looked forward to being part of events for the Anzac centenary in 2015, marking 100 years since Aussie diggers landed on the shores of Gallipoli.
A palace spokesman later confirmed their involvement but said it was yet to be determined if the royals will travel to Turkey for the April 25 commemorative service.
During a brief speech at Thursday’s reception Sir Peter thanked the couple for showing a genuine interest in the lives of Australians.
“Particularly through your commitment to conservation, supporting members of our armed forces and their families, and helping children and young people,” he said.
William and Kate will be part of Anzac Day commemorations in Canberra on Friday, attending the mid-morning service at the War Memorial, where they will lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier and plant a tree.
“We are all delighted that you will be here in Canberra to take part,” Sir Peter said.
The couple picked up a shovel to start their Thursday, planting a tree at the National Arboretum, where 50 Canberrans, selected by ballot, were lucky enough to schmooze with royalty.
Among the crowd was Canberra mother of five Moira Lye and her six-year-old sons Oliver and Sebastian who watered the fleshly-planted English Oak Tree.
Sebastian, who has Down Syndrome and is hearing and visually impaired, was told he had done a “good job” by William.
After a stopoff at Parliament House, where royalty mixed with politicians, it was on to the National Portrait Gallery.
Kate, who graduated with honours in art history, told people in the crowd afterwards that the gallery was filled with wonderful works.
The duchess spent the day in a bold green Catherine Walker dress, matched with her trademark beige heels.
For the evening engagement she changed into a white cocktail dress by US designer Lela Rose, her hair swept up.
The couple, along with their son Prince George, will jet out of Australia on Friday afternoon.