Royal couple marks Canada day on world debut tour

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Princess Catherine on Friday will celebrate Canada's national holiday on her international debut with Prince William as crowds throng to catch a glimpse of Britain's newest royal couple.

Packed with pomp and pageantry, the North American tour comes 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.

The couple were to cap off their visit to the capital by joining tens of thousands of revelers outside parliament for musical performances and fireworks to celebrate Canada's national holiday.

Canadians turned out en masse for a glimpse or a handshake as Middleton, now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrived in Ottawa on Thursday wearing a navy lace dress by Montreal-born designer Erdem Moralioglu.

"Welcome to Canada, honeymoon capital of the Commonwealth," said Governor General David Johnston.

The couple's arrival at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa triggered excited screams from an estimated 10,000-strong crowd -- several of the women wearing fascinators, the hair accessory of choice for the duchess.

"There he is. There's our future king," Pat Snair shouted from the fringes of the crowd as the 29-year-old newlyweds stepped from the cortege to place a bouquet of flowers before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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 represents the future of the monarchy, she's "excitement and youth," said Denise, in her 60s.

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

The princess was cool under fire and showed no outward signs of nerves on her first overseas walkabout, smiling broadly and exchanging polite banter as she shook hands with the crowd for longer than the intended hour.

"I'm hoping to find romance like theirs," said one wildly-impressed teenage girl.

From the war memorial unveiled in 1939 by William's great-grandparents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who established a tradition with the first royal walkabout, the show then moved on to the official residence of the governor general, the vice-regal representative of Queen Elizabeth II.

"Catherine and I are so delighted to be here in Canada," William said.

"We have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time. Quite separately, before we were married, we had both had a longing to come here, instilled in us by our parents and grandparents."

He spoke in both of Canada's official languages, French and English, and to laughs vowed his French would improve over the course of this trip.

"The geography of this country is world-renowned, as is the hospitality of its peoples," William said.

Support for the monarchy hovers above 50 percent in Canada and has risen from last year when Queen Elizabeth II 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 a cooking class, an aboriginal sports event and a rodeo.

Later Thursday, the royals attended a barbecue with 120 young Canadians at the residence of the governor general, where they are spending the night. A downpour, however, forced the event indoors.

William, in a buttoned down shirt slightly open at the collar, khakis and brown loafers, put his arm around the princess's waist to guide her around the room, chatting with guests.

Kate changed into a black and white dress by Issa for dinner, where a gourmet menu included Quebec cheeses, New Brunswick oysters, Qikiqtarjuaq sea urchins, musk ox prosciutto and potato-crusted Alberta yak tartar.

On Saturday they will embark on a countrywide tour, taking a cooking class in Montreal before traveling on to Quebec City, Charlottetown, Yellowknife 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 three-day visit on July 8-10 whose highlight will be a black-tie celebrity reception for British filmmakers in Los Angeles.

© 2011 AFP

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