Max Foster: On the road with the royals
The Jakarta Post
Max Foster is again on the road with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (i.e., Prince William and his wife, Kate) and their toddler, Prince George, as their highnesses tour New Zealand and Australia.
Foster, CNN's London-based anchor and royal correspondent, topped the charts as a student with an exclusive interview with the great UK actor Anthony Hopkins, who played Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.
Since then Foster's star has risen dramatically.
'I was having lunch in a hotel restaurant and [Hopkins] was at a table nearby. I left a note at reception for him asking for an interview for the BBC. Two months later, while I was a student, a letter arrived saying 'yes',' says Foster of the beginning of a career that has led him to travel with the royal family.
'Hopkins had just received his knighthood and was not giving interviews. He gave me an exclusive that made the papers nationally. It was very generous of him.'
Foster spoke with The Jakarta Post via telephone after arriving in Sydney from New Zealand midway through the 19-day event.
'This tour has not been as busy as Canada, which was really fast paced. The tour is slower, because Prince George is with his parents and based in Wellington. George is there with his nanny [...] In Australia they have bases in Canberra and Sydney and [William and Kate] try to get back each evening. So there have been no early starts and late nights ' it has not been too hectic,' says Foster.
Royal tours are organized with military precision, he adds. 'The palace came out months ago ' they know exactly what will happen and when.'
This is the second time a future British monarch has visited Australia following the birth of an heir to the throne.
'Queen Elizabeth, after the birth of Charles, came to Australia. She was away a long time and did not bring Charles. Diana and Charles broke the mold on their visits. Diana and Charles brought William, so they followed tradition coming to Australia after the birth of their first child,' according to Foster.
Bringing the infant, he continues, 'makes for a more informal and relaxed tour'.
The young couple's approach to parenting ' and to the people ' is similar to William's mother, Princess Diana. Kate has been revered by the people for her openness and humor and her popularity is becoming legendary.
'I think Diana is part of the Kate story,' Foster says. 'Diana was the biggest star in the world ' glamour combined with royalty ' and Kate is following in those footsteps. It is easy to understand her story: She was not an aristocrat and married into royalty, then had a baby. It is a simple narrative to follow. Even if you don't like the royals, you can follow the story,' says Foster of the young duchess who sailed and played cricket during the New Zealand leg of the tour, highlighting her zest for life and down-to-earth side.
On what the prince and duchess are like behind closed doors, Foster says it is difficult to say. 'I am part of the media meeting them as a journalist, but saying that, when meeting them you cannot fail to be impressed. They are very likeable, tall, good looking, easy to talk to and informal.'
Foster, who conducted the first interview with Prince William following the birth of George, describes the tour, as in between 'a political tour and a rock star run'.
'I think the difference [on tour] is we don't get to speak to the people we are traveling with. With politicians, I would speak to them informally. With the royals, we are observing and speaking to the people around them. The royals are part of the fabric of society.'
People today are fascinated with Kate, William and George as were the crowds that lined the streets across Australia in the late 1950s for Queen Elizabeth's visit and again to welcome Princess Diana and Prince Charles ' evidence that the British royals are not an anachronism in the 21st century.
The reasons for their popularity and significance is as varied as the 16 nations of which the queen is crown head.
'It depends where you are. When [the royals are] in the Solomon Islands, speaking to people, there are huge crowds fascinated with London,' Foster says. 'In America, young girls are all called princesses ' then there is a real-life princess in Kate and there is the celebrity. In Canada, and Australia these are their heads of state and part of those nation's history. For New Zealand, this was an occasion where you have a global media pack traveling around.'
Foster is next setting off to cover the Australian leg of the royal tour with Kate and William, as they visit Uluru, Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney.
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