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Adoring crowds in Ottawa greet William and Catherine

Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrive at an official welcoming ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa June 30, 2011. Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, are on a royal tour of Canada from June 30 to July 8.


Call it a dress rehearsal for the rest of their public life.

And as witnessed on Thursday, the Canadians who turned out to see Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in Ottawa love the royals, especially this couple, and made their first official trip a little easier for them.

Married in April, the couple chose Canada for their first international trip. And on Thursday afternoon, they finally arrived for their nine-day tour amid cheering and adoring crowds, some pomp and circumstance - and, of course, paparazzi.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston officially welcomed them, with Mr. Johnston describing this country as the "honeymoon capital of the Commonwealth."

Today, pomp, pageantry and protests are expected to colour their first full day in Canada as the royal couple participates in Canada Day, the country's birthday celebrations.

William and Kate begin their day at a citizenship ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., where they are expected to be met by demonstrators. A small group of people is planning to strum guitars and wave placards to protest having to swear the mandatory oath of allegiance to the Queen.

A more welcoming crowd is expected on Parliament Hill for Canada Day festivities, where the royal celebrities are expected to draw larger-than-usual crowds to the annual July 1 celebration.

The festivities, which get underway at around noon ET, boast a roster of performers that includes Newfoundland band Great Big Sea, Quebec's Sam Roberts Band and YouTube sensation Maria Aragon.

On Thursday, Mr. Harper described their upcoming tour for them, noting they were travelling to Prince Edward Island, the birthplace of Confederation, and later to Calgary - "the rising energy colossus of the West."

He also noted that he couldn't attend their wedding because of an election campaign.

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When the young Duke took to the podium, he spoke his first official words in French: "Thank you very much your Excellency and Prime Minister for your warm welcome."

Not exactly challenging French, but the effort was there and rewarded with more cheers, as was the Prince's joke that his French "will improve as we go on."

He added that his parents and grandparents "love this country" and he and Catherine had been "looking forward to this moment for a very long time."

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Catherine, meanwhile, who is very tall and very thin, was wearing a chic, navy-blue lace dress with a white satin underlay by Canadian-born, British-based designer Erdem Moralioglu. She added nude patent platform heels that had her looking eye to eye with Mr. Harper, and a matching clutch purse. Her dark hair was pulled back.

The Prince told the crowd: "And before we were married, we had a longing to come here."

Judging by the estimated 6,000 people at Rideau Hall, and the large numbers at the National War Memorial, where the couple laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Canadians have been looking forward to it, too.

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The biggest moment of the tour comes on Friday on Parliament Hill, when William and Catherine help celebrate the country's 144th birthday, on what would have been the 50th birthday of William's mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. As many as 500,000 people are expected.

William is much like his mother - tall and slim, and he even has the same disarming blush. In addition to her looks, he's inherited her easy way with people.

He gave Catherine the sapphire and diamond ring that Prince Charles gave to Diana on their engagement.

It couldn't be missed on Thursday, catching the sunlight as the Duchess gestured with her hands while speaking to Governor-General Johnston, his wife, Sharon, and the Prime Minister's wife, Laureen Harper.

Diana's biographer, Andrew Morton, told The Globe in a recent interview that the Prince always has his mother in his thoughts. On Thursday, he demonstrated that he has her curiosity and people skills.

At their arrival, the royal couple were greeted at the Ottawa Airport by Mayor Jim Watson and Kellen Schleyer, 9, who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, Mr. Watson noted that the Prince leaned down to give the young boy his full attention.

He even helped allay Kellen's nerves when the young man mistakenly tried to give his bouquet of flowers to William.

"I think you want to give those to my wife," he said with a smile.

While Catherine is not speaking publicly, she has no problems chatting with the public. Later, inside Rideau Hall, the royal couple met with young Canadian athletes - celebrating youth is one of the themes of their trip - at a barbecue. The event was moved inside because of rain.

The Duchess more than held her own, asking questions and nodding with interest.

The Prince, speaking to some Olympians, noted that he watched the Vancouver Olympics and that it was "amazing."

"I loved it," he said, referring to some of the events as "insane."

This was a very casual event, with the Prince wearing a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and khaki pants. Catherine changed into a black-and-white printed short-sleeved dress. It was by Issa, one of her favourite British-based labels.

They are truly a rock-star couple, with more than 1,300 reporters covering their every move. British reporters are thrilled about this visit, noting that it's a bit more fun than the regular royal tour.

Seeing the couple race in dragon boats or the Prince play road hockey, as he is to do, will be a highlight.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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