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Will, Kate off to Canada, US in first tour

Published 5:03pm Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prince William and Kate arrive in Canada on Thursday for their first official overseas trip since their wedding, in a visit that is expected to draw record-numbers of star-struck crowds and well-wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, open the Calgary Stampede and go canoeing in the Northwest Territories during their nine day-tour of their future realm before taking off to Los Angeles.

“I think given the youth and the dynamism of this couple they will simply continue to reaffirm the important role the crown plays in this country,” said Kevin MacLeod, the Canadian secretary to Queen Elizabeth II and the chief organizer of the nine-day Canadian tour.

Canada’s prime minister has even unveiled a personal flag for use during William’s visit. It is the first flag to be created by Canada for a member of the royal family since 1962, when the queen adopted a personal flag for her own use in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the flag was approved by the queen and William.

The young prince also plans to demonstrate his skills as a helicopter rescue pilot by taking part in a water landing demonstration, and the couple is scheduled to put on aprons and take part in a cooking workshop in Quebec City.

But the couple won’t be welcomed by all. Some anti-royal protests are expected in the French-speaking province of Quebec, with small groups planning protests in Quebec City and Montreal.

The prince and Kate jet to Los Angeles on July 8 and will host a gala dinner there the next night to introduce up-and-coming British film talent to Hollywood executives.

The southern California trip includes a $4,000 three-course meal and a charity polo match up close with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they are formally known. So far, about 1,000 VIP tickets have been sold to the polo match along with about 400 general admission passes, raising nearly $4.4 million for the July 9 event. William plans to play in the match, and his wife will award the trophy to the winning team.

Decades have passed since Canadians abandoned the Union Jack and replaced “God Save the Queen” with “O Canada.” Ordinarily, most Canadians are indifferent to the monarchy. However the 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth II — William’s grandmother — remains Canada’s titular head of state, is portrayed on its coins and stamps and has visited 22 times as queen.

This royal couple is expected to draw thousands. William got a reception fit for a rock star the last time he visited Canada as a 15-year-old in 1998. He wowed teen-age girls who wolf-whistled him when he visited Vancouver, British Columbia, with his father Prince Charles. William looked aghast at the commotion back then. That trip was the first official foreign visit for him since the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash in Paris in August 1997.

William will be celebrating Canada’s birthday on Friday, the same day his mother would have turned 50.

He is due to say a few words at a number of stops. Kate is not scheduled to speak.

The couple will travel from the sub-Arctic to oil-rich Calgary, Alberta, from busy Montreal to bucolic Prince Edward Island of “Anne of Green Gables” fame. They’ll sit around a campfire with young people, dress casual for the Calgary rodeo, join a cookout in Quebec City and hand out flags to newly-minted Canadians at a citizenship ceremony.

Harper is the most pro-monarchy Canadian leader since the 1950s, and his ambition is to foster a national identity that is more conservative and more aware of its historical roots.

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