Kate charms Canada
With her ready, warm smile and slender, elegant figure, Catherine has made a dazzling public debut as a royal seducing Canadian crowds on her first official visit with Prince William.
But royal watchers sense a bit of tension too.
From the Duchess of Cambridge's arrival in the capital Ottawa to Charlottetown on the Atlantic Coast, chants of "We love you Kate" seem louder than for the prince as the newlyweds step onto the international stage.
Full of pomp and ceremony, the trip comes just two months after a radiant Kate Middleton walked down the aisle in the wedding of the year, watched by two billion people worldwide.
Part of her attraction may be the lure of the Cinderella story: William was born to ascend to the British throne, but Kate's rise from commoner to future queen is perhaps proof that fairytales can come true.
"We've come to see her," said Marley MacCuaig, the five-year-old girl who was lucky enough to present the duchess with a bouquet of flowers during a walkabout in Quebec City, and told her idol, "I want to be a princess."
The same scenes have played out at every stop on the nine-day royal tour.
According to experts, or "royal watchers," Catherine has remained cool, showing no outward signs of nerves despite the cauldron-like atmosphere of public walkabouts.
Only once did the duchess briefly appear nervous as she watched her husband take the controls of a military helicopter to carry out emergency water landing drills on a Prince Edward Island lake.
And after smiling broadly and exchanging polite banter as she shook hands with an enthusiastic crowd for longer than intended at Canada's War Memorial in Ottawa, the duchess slipped into a car and rested her head on William's shoulder.
"It was a gesture that said: 'well, we got through that one,'" said the British newspaper The Times.
The lasting impression is a mixture of spontaneity and professionalism in the couple's gestures, as well as tiny moments of tenderness such as William's reassuring glances or when he stroked his wife's back as she spoke with gravely ill children at a Montreal hospital cancer unit.
"The underlying message is that none of this is easy. It is not easy coping with the constant intrusion of the media, not easy trying to come up with endless small talk for the hundreds of strangers she meets every day, not easy always being on show with a happy smile and an easy manner," opined Times correspondent Valentine Low.
In accordance with Buckingham Palace's protocol, the duchess will not make any public statements during this trip. In private moments, she also focuses on easy topics with the crowds of well-wishers.
A Huron chief welcomed her to Quebec City as the couple disembarked from a navy frigate and Catherine pressed him about the type of feathers used to make his headdress -- wild turkey feathers.
Her warm interest left him convinced that she would like to visit his village sometime soon in the future.
She has also taken care with her wardrobe, exhibiting the same easy fashion sense and grace with which she has already made a mark.
Her outfits have been perfectly matched to the events: Canadian colors red and white for a celebration of Canada's national holiday, a navy blue vest for a visit to a Coast Guard ship.
The elegant Catherine, standing tall in her stylish high heels, and Prince William stand out from afar despite their entourage and crowds of well-wishers.
And the visit has gone a long way toward boosting the image of Britain's future king and queen.
© 2011 AFP