WELLINGTON (AFP) - Britain's Prince George hosted his first ever official function on Wednesday - maintaining a regal calm on a play date with a group of New Zealand toddlers, even as some of the others burst into tears.
The eight-month-old, whose parents Prince William and Kate began a tour of New Zealand on Monday, met 10 babies at Wellington's Government House at a play session organised by non-profit childcare group Plunket.
Prince George, who was born on July 22 last year, looked comfortable in the spotlight as his mother gently rocked him in her arms and chatted to his playmates' parents.
The babies sat in a room with a large portrait of George's great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II looking down from the wall, with cushions and toys scattered on the floor, including a giant blue teddy bear.
There were tears from some of the other infants as introductions were made but Prince George, dressed in dark-coloured dungaree shorts and a white t-shirt, appeared calm even after dropping a toy to the floor.
Plunket president Tristine Clark said the babies were all roughly the same age as Prince George and were born to first-time parents.
She said the parents were also selected to reflect the diversity of New Zealand society, including various ethnic groups and a same-sex couple.
"The parents are a spread of all the communities in New Zealand, including Maoris, Samoans, people of Chinese descent and gay couples," she said ahead of the session.
"This is a very multi-cultural country and we wanted the Duke and Duchess (of Cambridge) to meet people from all backgrounds."
The Duchess wore a simple black and white dress for the occasion, while Prince William opted for an open-necked blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up as he sipped on a soft drink.
Plunket's Wellington manager Tina Syme said the event was designed to be fun for the royals, who said they wanted to meet as many locals as possible as they kick off their three-week tour of New Zealand and Australia.
"We wanted something quite special for the duke and duchess, not just a meet-and-greet and shake hands but something that was actually really enjoyable for them as well," she said.
While the atmosphere was meant to be relaxed, Ms Syme said the parents had been advised to address the royals as "Your Royal Highness" on the first instance, followed by their name after that.
She said the parents had also been told not to hesitate to intervene if a royal row erupted between the prince and some of his pint-sized subjects.
"They said what you do at a normal play group, you can do here. If you're the nearest parent and you need to intervene for a child's safety, then you would."
The New Zealand Republic lobby group said any of the 10 Kiwi babies at Government House would be better qualified as the country's head of state than Prince George, who is third in line to the throne in both Britain and New Zealand.
"Baby George is as cute as any other baby... but unfortunately he cannot be New Zealand's future head of state, not unless he one day migrates to New Zealand and becomes a citizen," it said.