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Royal couple begin Southland visit

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are greeted by a throng at LAX, before heading to a Beverly Hills panel discussion and a Hancock Park reception.

July 09, 2011|By Nicole Santa Cruz and Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times
  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are greeted by dignitaries including Gov. Jerry Brown, center, at Los Angeles International Airport.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are greeted by dignitaries including… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

The plane carrying Los Angeles' much-awaited guests was a few minutes late touching down Friday at Los Angeles International Airport.

But that was OK: It gave TV reporters a few more minutes to speculate about what Catherine would be wearing and offered the throngs of people, red-faced and sweating in the midsummer sun, a little extra time to get in place in hopes they could catch a glimpse of the future king of England and his consort — or at least the SUV carrying them through town.

Shortly before 4 p.m., the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge emerged from the plane to begin their highly choreographed weekend of meet-and-greets as part of their first sojourn across the Atlantic as a married couple.

Photos: William and Catherine in L.A.

Catherine did indeed change clothes between Calgary, their last Canadian stop, and L.A. She stepped off the plane in a pale lavender dress — the commentators on television and Twitter approved — and Prince William wore a dark suit, with a blue button-down shirt and maroon tie.

After walking through a receiving line that included Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the couple stepped into a Range Rover for what turned out to be a slow-moving tour of the Westside's shopping centers and empty sidewalks, as news helicopters hovered above.

Friday evening, the couple sat on a panel about British technology in a hotel conference room. The prince kept his hands clasped in his lap; Catherine tapped her finger on her clutch and nodded as other panelists spoke.

From Beverly Hills, they moved on to a private reception at the Hancock Park home of the British consul general. Catherine changed again — this time, into a green silk dress — and the newlyweds mingled with California civic and business leaders. Helicopters continued to buzz overhead.

Their weekend agenda includes a polo match in Carpinteria, an event for British film and a job fair for veterans in Culver City.

They'll also encounter fans. Although Friday's crowds weren't as robust as those that gathered for the Canadian leg of their trip, in some places scores of people congregated in the hope of seeing the couple, if just for a second.

Many of them had watched William grow up, remembering him first as an infant cradled by his mother, Diana. Others, particularly younger women, had come to swoon at the dashing prince and the elegant woman he married.

Among the latter were three recent high school graduates from Yorba Linda. They had pooled their graduation gift money so they could spent two nights in the Beverly Hilton — at $220 per person — and have a better shot at seeing the couple.

Hannah Schade, Shirley Lahr and Tara Campbell stood outside the hotel wearing homemade T-shirts commemorating the April wedding and waved a British flag emblazoned with a photo of the couple. They discussed what seemed like a storybook romance, the tale of a prince falling for a sweet-natured commoner. They bet the two would live happily ever after.

"I feel like their marriage is going to make it," Lahr, 18, said.

Vida Largaespada, 67, took a series of buses to get from her East L.A. home to Hancock Park. The Nicaraguan immigrant, who spoke only Spanish, ventured across L.A. without the couple's itinerary in the hopes of seeing them. "I'm looking for my prince," she said.

Her home, she said, had become something of a shrine to royalty, a passion that developed with Grace Kelly. She was clutching a faded copy of a Spanish-language magazine devoted to Diana when her chance to see royalty finally came.

As they approached, her eyes welled with tears.

"He looked so adorable, so jovial," Largaespada gushed about Prince William.

And, she noticed, he's much taller in person.

Photos: William and Catherine in L.A.

Los Angeles Times staff writers Ricardo Lopez and Kate Mather contributed to this report.

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