EDP gets insight into royal couple’s Canadian trip

A publicity stunt? An opportunity to build on the success of the royal wedding? Or a move by the royal family to show their commitment to the Commonwealth.

Call it what you will.

But as the curtain closes on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first state visit to Canada, one thing is for certain: the Canadian people have fallen head-over-heels in love with the royal couple.

In a tour which saw them travelling the breadth of the nation, people turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of Prince William and Catherine Middleton as they stopped off in major cities and smaller towns.

I joined the couple on the first leg of their tour to Ottawa, where they visited the capital city for Canada day – a celebration of national pride marking the country's 144th birthday.


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Here, they were met with enough pomp and ceremony to rival the royal wedding.

It began when a battalion of royal guardsmen, wearing red jackets and black bearskin hats, announced the couple's arrival with the sound of marching feet and the warm notes of their brass band.

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Then a swell of screams and cheers began to build in the crowd.

On a big screen attached to a concert stage erected on Parliament Hill, the masses saw the royal couple for the first time that day.

The duke and duchess were being ferried through the closed-off streets in an open-top state landau, whilst more than a dozen Canadian mounties trotted ahead in rows of black horses.

The crowd's reaction resembled that of a rock concert than a royal visit.

It was estimated that more than 300,000 people descended on the city to catch a glimpse of the duke and duchess.

And when they did, there were screams of 'Will' and 'Kate' as they reached over the barriers in a desperate attempt to make contact with the newly-weds.

One Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, described the atmosphere as Canada's 'royal crush'.

But speaking to one woman in the crowd, this crush seemed to border on fanaticism.

'I have waited 11 hours to see Will and Kate,' she said. 'I wanted to do this for the memory of Lady Diana.'

Meanwhile, as the couple stood to pose for pictures on the red carpet there was a different reaction coming from the international media.

Standing yards away from the royal couple with photographers' long lenses creeping over both my shoulders, all I could hear were cries of 'Kate over here!' or 'Kate look this way!'

The absence of the prince's name was stark.

For the media, this tour seemed less about the royal couple, and more about the reception of Kate Middleton. It was a moment which drew parallels with the media obsession with Princess Diana.

However, the couple showed little sign of being caught out by the occasion.

There were the odd bashful smiles when greeting the crowds; those same smiles which made them appear overwhelmed on their wedding day.

But in the main, they appeared natural and relaxed. Even with more than 100 journalists from the international media scutinising their every move, they still shared comments and smiles with each other.

It was this sight of a young couple enjoying each other's company which kept the media entertained for the duration of the Canadian tour.

The boat race on Dalvay Lake on day five proved the perfect example – William showing little remorse as he beat the Duchess to the finish line.

The couple shared a hug as they stepped off the jetty afterwards, with Kate playfully pretending to push her prince back into the water.

However, it was not all plain sailing for the couple throughout their tour.

During two public appearances in Montreal, at Sainte-Justine Hospital and the Quebec Tourism and Hotel Institute, they were met by chants of 'down with the monarchy' from a small group of separatists.

The response by security was to hurry the couple into a limousine and onwards to a private reception, leaving a larger crowd of supporters with barely a chance to see the couple – let alone receive a handshake.

It demonstrated the extent of the gap between the French-Canadians' and the English-Canadians' perception of the monarchy.

With this in mind, it is important to ask a vital question. What have the duke and duchess achieved during their first state visit to Canada?

Judging by the thousands of Canadian people who came out to show their support it is safe to say that parts of the nation are becoming smitten with their Royal Family.

It was estimated in 2010 that the Queen attracted 100,000 supporters to Parliament Hill on her visit to Ottawa.

Meanwhile, the duke and duchess managed to triple these figures during their visit to the capital.

These numbers alone provide enough evidence to suggest that the Canadian people may no longer be as divided as they were.

That said, there was still more to the success of this state trip than the number of people spilling out onto the streets to see them.

The tour was also about building on the success of the royal wedding and allowing the Royal Family to continue to glow in the eyes of the media.

This was achieved in Canada – but not through the pomp and ceremony of Canada Day, or the couple's sympathetic visit to the Slave Lake community devastated by wild fires.

Instead, it was achieved through those moments when the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge melted away to reveal a young couple in love.

The sight of them paddling in a canoe, Kate laughing at William's poor hockey shot, or even their subtle exchanges of words during their high-profile engagements.

These were the sights which won the hearts and minds of the Canadian public – and the media.

However, a question still remains over how this royal couple can maintain their spate of good publicity when faced with the bigger challenges ahead.

In his final speech to the Canadian people Prince William vowed to return to the people of Canada.

He said: 'Canada has far surpassed all that we were promised. Our promise to Canada is that we shall return.''

But in what guise shall we see the couple on their next visit.

After all, there is that small business of becoming the King and Queen of England – and let's not forget Canada and the Commonwealth too.

ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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