Royal couple marks Canada Day on debut tour

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Princess Catherine and Prince William celebrated Canada Day among huge crowds Friday on the couple's first official international outing as ecstatic Canadians thronged to catch a glimpse of British royalty.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in a glossy black state landau to join about half a million Canadians on the lawn of parliament.

"It will be crazy, crazy, crazy," said a young mother with her daughter among the jubilant throngs lined up on Wellington Street at dawn to secure a view of the couple when they make their way from the governor general's mansion to Ottawa's government precinct for musical performances and fireworks.

"Usually, 100,000 to 200,000 people gather in downtown Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day, but this year it will be much, much more," predicted Hugh Henderson, an Ottawa retiree.

Canadian media estimate the crowd will top 500,000 -- half the population of Ottawa.

"The women are coming to see the prince, the men the princess. It's true that she is very beautiful," Henderson said.

Packed with pomp and pageantry, the North American tour marks the couple's first foreign trip as newlyweds, coming just two months after a radiant Kate Middleton walked down the aisle in a fairytale royal wedding watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide.

Arriving in the capital Ottawa Thursday afternoon, they were greeted by large crowds eager to catch a glimpse of Britain's newest royal golden couple laying a wreath at Canada's National War Memorial.

Several women at the event wore fascinators, the hair accessory of choice for the duchess, while wide-eyed girls expressed hope of "finding romance like theirs."

"Welcome to Canada, honeymoon capital of the commonwealth," said Governor General David Johnston before a gourmet barbecue in the evening that was pushed indoors by a sudden downpour.

Day two of the royal tour kicked off with a citizenship ceremony for 25 immigrants at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

William and Kate, in a stunning recycled white dress (worn at her engagement) and maple leaf fascinator, presented each one with a Canadian flag with its distinctive red maple leaf as they took an oath pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.

The new Canadians took the citizenship oath "for the first time in the history of Canadian citizenship in the presence of one of (the queen's) heirs who we hope will in the fullness of time become one of her successors as the king of Canada," said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The monarchy has been represented in Canada by the governor general for 400 years.

The royals then arrived at Parliament Hill in a 1911 carriage pulled by Warmblood thoroughbred horses from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride branch, "specially chosen for this duty for their size and disposition," said organizers.

William and Kate will be treated to a 21-gun salute, a military jet fly-past and performances by Canadian bands Delhi 2 Dublin and Great Big Sea, as well as Pierre Lapointe and Sam Roberts, among others.

While Prince William, second in line to the British throne, has plenty of experience at royal duties, Kate is a relative rookie. But it was clearly the elegant Berkshire, England native that many in the crowd had come to see.

She did not disappoint, taking flowers and gifts from fans (which overloaded her handlers) and showing no outward signs of nerves on her first overseas walkabout, smiling broadly and exchanging polite banter as she shook hands with the crowd for much longer than the intended hour at their first stop.

She represents the future of the monarchy, she's "excitement and youth," said Denise, in her sixties.

"William is OK, but Kate is fascinating," echoed two teenage girls.

Support for the monarchy hovers above 50 percent in Canada and has risen from last year when the queen visited, although there is still a vocal anti-monarchist minority planning to protest in Quebec City on Sunday.

In addition to official and military ceremonies, the royal schedule has lighter moments planned, such as an aboriginal sports event and a rodeo.

On Saturday they will embark on a countrywide tour, taking a cooking class in Montreal before traveling by navy frigate on to Quebec City, then Charlottetown, Yellowknife in Canada's far north and Calgary.

Prior to their final stop in Canada, the newlyweds are expected to sneak away on a romantic getaway to a secluded and undisclosed location in the Rocky Mountains.

After wrapping up their Canadian tour, they will travel to California for a July 8-10 visit whose highlight will be a black-tie celebrity reception for British filmmakers in Los Angeles.

© 2011 AFP

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