King has ‘open invitation’ to New Zealand, says country’s PM

Christopher Luxon, the New Zealand prime minister
Christopher Luxon, the New Zealand prime minister, extends an 'open invitation' to the King - MARTY MELVILLE/AFP

The King has an “open invitation” to New Zealand, the country’s prime minister has said amid claims that his planned visit in the autumn has been shelved.

The monarch’s tour of the South Pacific later this year is still scheduled to go ahead but has been scaled back in lieu of his cancer diagnosis.

While the King and Queen are still expected to visit Australia and attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Samoa in October, plans to extend the tour with visits to New Zealand and Fiji have been scrapped on doctors’ advice, according to reports.

Asked about the development on Sunday, Christopher Luxon, the New Zealand prime minister, extended an “open invitation to King Charles”.

Buckingham Palace officials, including Clive Alderton, the King’s private secretary, are understood to be in Australia this month making final arrangements for the visit.

The King is said to be “disappointed” not to be visiting New Zealand but both sides are said to be aware of the need to pace himself amid his ongoing cancer treatment.

The King and Queen on their last visit to New Zealand in 2019
The King and Queen on their last visit to New Zealand in 2019 - Chris Jackson

The Australian leg of the tour is said to have been reduced to around six days, with a break lasting up to two days before the King and Queen travel to Samoa for three days.

A source told the Mail on Sunday: “Officials first decided to drop Fiji and then New Zealand, because a trip like that is quite strenuous. The tour will probably last around 10 days, covering Australia and Samoa.”

New Zealand’s opposition MP Adrian Rurawhe said: “Nothing has been announced so far over here, but if the royal visit is cancelled, New Zealanders will be typically reasonable about it.”

Hopes for King to attend horse race

Meanwhile, officials in Sydney are delighted about the King’s impending visit and are hoping he will present a trophy for the first horse race named in his honour.

The change in dates means that the King, who failed to secure a winner at Royal Ascot last week, should be able to attend the Everest Day meeting at Royal Randwick racecourse in Sydney on Oct 19.

Peter V’landys, chief executive of Racing NSW, said the monarch had been “officially invited” to present the trophy for the $5 million King Charles III Stakes.

“We are extremely hopeful The King can be at Randwick on October 19,’’ he told the Sydney Telegraph.

“We have been working on this for 12 months and have been in communication with Buckingham Palace.

“At the moment it is all looking very promising as The Everest race meeting fits in with the King’s schedule.’’

Mr V’landys and Russell Balding, Racing NSW chairman, were both in England last year and personally spoke to the King about attending the 2024 event after becoming the first racing jurisdiction in the world to name a race in the King’s honour.

Royal Ascot officials renamed the King’s Stand Stakes to the King Charles III Stakes earlier this year.

King’s hectic summer diary

Palace insiders have cautioned that it is still early days and that future trips are wholly reliant on how the King reacts to ongoing treatment in the coming months.

The King’s schedule, which typically involves six or seven engagements a day, is likely to be reduced to include “significant downtime”.

It comes after his hectic summer diary raised some eyebrows in some quarters and prompted the Queen on more than one occasion to observe that he should “behave himself” and slow down.

The court circular suggests that he has taken only three days off over the past two weeks, as he has held audiences, receptions and attended key events in the royal calendar such as Royal Ascot, which he attended on four days out of five, Garter Day and Trooping the Colour.

The King was diagnosed with cancer in February and has been having weekly treatments since. He was cleared by his medical team to return to public duties in late April after responding well to treatment.

The King has made 15 visits to Australia, the most recent being in 2018 to open the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. His last visit to New Zealand was in 2019.