Royal fan Tibeth write on time to meet 'pen pal' Charles

The Prince of Wales has received the warmest of welcomes from one royal fan - a hug and an unexpected kiss.

Tibeth Smith, 80, has regularly written to Charles over the decades, congratulating him on birthdays, wishing him well at Christmas and other significant occasions.

So when the heir to the throne arrived at a garden party in her New Zealand home town of New Plymouth, she seized the moment to meet him.

She first hugged Camilla and then got to grips with her favourite royal and said afterwards: "That was absolutely thrilling."

Mrs Smith added: "I said to him, 'I've given Camilla a hug, can I give you one?' and he said, 'Go ahead', so I gave him a hug and a kiss as well."

When she met Charles, Mrs Smith, who emigrated from the UK to New Zealand 50 years ago, was clutching some of her royal correspondence from the Prince's office and a picture of the royal couple sent by Clarence House to mark her 60th wedding anniversary in 2014.

She said: "When he lost Diana I wrote to him about it and when everybody hated Camilla I wrote and said she was a very regal lady - I knew people would come round eventually."

Many of those at the garden party had won their invites in a competition and the royal couple mingled with the guests who included former New Zealand rugby player Peter Burke.

The event was held in a marquee at Brooklands Park and just outside, Camilla joined a group of women weaving mats from the leaves of the harakeke plant.

Artist Kim Kahu talked the Duchess through the process and as she became engrossed in the work she said: "I can see it's very therapeutic."

Ms Kahu said: "She picked it up very quickly, I just showed her a couple of times and she knew exactly what to do."

Later Charles crossed the architecturally-stunning Te Rewa Rewa bridge designed by Peter Mulqueen, which has a shape reminiscent of a whale's skeleton.

It crosses a river close to the New Plymouth area's eight-mile long coastal walkway that has majestic views of the sea and landscape.

Charles met local groups associated with the outdoors including young surf guards and members of a walking club.

He joked with Ivor Ellis, a sprightly 91 year old, who has been walking for decades, that his activity was "the secret of longevity". 

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