William And Kate In Calgary: White Hats For Royal Couple (PHOTOS)
THE CANADIAN PRESS -- CALGARY - There were a few grumbles among Calgarians on Thursday when Prince William and Kate initially appeared to pass on a decades-old tradition, but for others it was hats off to the royals for fulfilling the wish of a sick little girl.
In the midst of strong winds, the couple did not immediately don the cowboy hats presented to them by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi upon their arrival in the city -- a 60-year-old ceremony called "white hatting."
Instead, the Duchess of Cambridge quickly turned her attention to Diamond Marshall, a six-year-old girl decked out in a pretty pink dress with a matching band encircling her bald head.
Diagnosed with from Stage 4 undifferentiated sarcoma last December, Diamond had two life-saving surgeries in recent months and had spent nearly a month in intensive care.
The youngster's biggest wish was to one day meet a "real princess." She had written Kate a note from the hospital bed where she watched the royal wedding earlier this year, and the Children's Wish Foundation went to work.
See photos of the royal couple's final days in Canada. Story continues below
The Royals Leave Canada
Will and Kate wave goodbye to Calgary as they conclude their royal Canadian tour.
The Royals Sign The Guest Book
William and Kate sign the guest book at the ENMAX Conservatory in Calgary with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, left, and Lt. Gov. Donald S. Ethell.
Kate Meets Frances Miller
The Duchess of Cambridge meets with Frances Miller as she prepares to leave Calgary with her husband to head to Los Angeles.
The Portraits Of Honour
Prince William and Catherine view the Portraits of Honour on display at their official departure ceremony in Calgary.
The Royals In The Conservatory
William and Catherine tour the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.
Kate Arrives At The Zoo
The Duchess of Cambridge visits the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.
The Royals And Stelmach
Will and Kate speak with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach at the ENMAX Conservatory in Calgary.
Will And Kate In Matching Hats
The Royals at the Calgary Stampede Parade.
Will and Kate wave to the crowd while at the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Watch The RCMP
Will and Kate watch the RCMP march in the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Watch The Parade
The Duke and Duchess watch the beginning of the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Duke Arrives
Prince William arrives in cowboy gear to the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Push The Button
Will and Kate push a button to start the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Rodeo Shocks Kate
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch a rodeo demonstration at the Calgary Stampede.
Kate And A Calgarian
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with a little girl while at the Stampede.
The Duchess Receives Flowers
Catherine meets well-wishes and receives flowers at a Government Reception in Calgary.
The Government Reception
A view of the Government Reception at the BMO Centre in Calgary.
Kate Checks Her Hat
Will and Kate watch Stampede activities in Calgary at the BMO Centre.
Will Tips His Hat
Prince William during a speech at the Calgary Stampede.
The Royals At The BMO Centre
Will and Kate watch traditional Calgary Stampede activities.
Will Gets Down To Work
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, throws a barrel into the back of a chuckwagon during his visit to the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Calgary, Alberta.
Royal Tour Canada
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive via stage coach for a reception at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Canada as they continue their Royal Tour of Canada Thursday, July 7, 2011.
The Royals And Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, second from right, Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Laureen Harper, left, watch a child sheep ride event at the Stampede in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday, July 7, 2011.
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper watch dancers while attending a reception at the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta.
The Royals Go Western
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, wear their new Smithbilt cowboy hats as they watch a rodeo demonstration in Calgary, Alberta, July 7, 2011.
The Royals Wave To Admirers
Prince William and Kate after a tour of the 21st Century Research and Innovation Centre in Calgary.
Will Waves From The Car
Prince William waves from his car with Kate on the eighth day of their Canadian tour.
The Duke And Duchess Are Greeted
Prince William and Kate are greeted when arriving at 21st Century Research and Innovation Centre Calgary.
Kate Inspects A Mannequin
Kate follows her husbands lead and saves the life of a medical test mannequin at the University of Calgary.
Will And Kate Tour U of C
Prince William and Kate are shown how to save a life with a medical test mannequin at the University of Calgary's Ward of the 21st Century.
The Royals And RCMP In Calgary
Prince William and Catherine look at a RCMP officer after arriving in Calgary.
A Calgary Chinook?
Kate's hair doesn't agree with the wind as the Royals land in Calgary for the final stretch of their Canadian tour.
Will Meets Shy Calgarian
Prince William meets -- or tries to meet -- shy 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary.
Catherine Gets A Hug
Kate hugs 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary after arriving.
Kate Is Greeted
The Duchess meets with shy 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary.
Will, Kate And Flight Crew
The Royals get their photo taken with flight crew members as they arrive in Calgary.
Will Gets A White Hat
Prince William is presented with a white cowboy hat from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The Royals Land In Calgary
The Royals land in Calgary for the last Canadian city on their tour of the country.
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, pose for a photo with members of the Canadian Forces flight crew upon their arrival in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday, July 7, 2011.
As the royal couple emerged from their helicopter, strong winds forced Kate to pull her long hair out of her face and she struggled to keep her primrose dress from flying up.
Diamond ran up to her, thrust a handmade gift and flowers toward the smiling Duchess and then bolted back to the safety of her parents. Kate entreated the shy little girl to come back and after they exchanged a few words they gave each other a hug.
"She was beautiful," an enthralled Diamond later told reporters, her words muffled as she tired to hide her face in her dad Lyall's chest.
"This is a big boost for her and we're very proud of her," her visibly moved father said. "It's a big win for all our family and friends, it's great."
The heart-warming airport encounter marked the beginning of a busy couple of days for the royals in Calgary.
The couple's arrival in Cowtown after a private break -- reports say they spent the night at a remote Rocky Mountain lodge near Lake Louise, Alta. -- coincided with the kickoff to the world-famous Calgary Stampede, the 10-day exhibition and rodeo that celebrates the western way of life.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will have a full plate as they wrap up their nine-day Canadian visit.
They were to tour a high-tech laboratory at the University of Calgary before attending a reception with host Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The couple will be given a brief bull-riding demonstration and the prince is to have his picture taken as he throws a stove into the back of a chuckwagon.
On Friday, they are to open the Stampede parade, visit the zoo and meet homeless youth, attend an Alberta government reception and lay a wreath before leaving Canada and heading to Los Angeles.
The couple's choice not to don the hats on the windy tarmac raised a few eyebrows among those gathered to greet them.
"Ohhhh!" gasped Candice Chow, who had camped overnight with her son Kristian to get one of the coveted wristbands allowing them to attend a rodeo demonstration that that William and Kate later attended.
"They're welcomed anyhow," she added with a laugh. "Maybe she'll put it on later."
Indeed, they did. In just a couple of hours, while attending the outdoor event, William and Kate emerged before the crowd wearing their custom-made, white Smithbilt hats, which are considered Calgary's version of the key to the city.
The white-hatting ceremony representing the city's cowboy culture and pioneering past has been celebrated by dignitaries ranging from the Dalai Lama to Dr. Phil.
Previous members of the Royal Family to be white-hatted include Prince Philip, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Philip, who received his third cowboy cover in 1969, ruffled some feathers when he quipped about not knowing what to do with another hat other than to carry water or plant flowers in it.
That prompted the city to give Prince Charles a black cowboy hat when he arrived eight years later.
Other white hatters include Pope John Paul II, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, former U.S. president George W. Bush, former British prime minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On the entertainment side, add Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Luciano Pavarotti, Tommy Chong and even Ozzy Osbourne.