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Duchess will have little to say in Canada

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk hand in hand from Buckingham Palace in London Saturday April 30 2011, the day after their wedding.

John Stillwell/AP/John Stillwell/AP

Princess Diana spoke only 600 words publicly between 1983 and 1991.

Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, will be in Canada for nine days and so many Canadians - and the 1,300 media from around the world who will be here, too - are anticipating what she will have to say.

Prepare to be disappointed.

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Andrew Morton, the British author and the late Princess of Wales's biographer, who documented Diana's words, says Catherine is a very conventional royal.

"She has to do what royal women have had to do for years," he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "Look good and smile for the camera."

And that means she will not speak publicly - following the script that was laid out, too, for her late mother-in-law - on what is her first international tour. This is also the royal couple's first tour as a married couple.

William and Catherine arrive in Canada on Thursday. Mr. Morton, who has just published a book about the couple and has launched a website,, says to expect a conventional pair with the "odd flash here and there" of spontaneity.

"They are not a vaudeville act," he said. "I mean it's not like a song-and-dance routine."

Their tour of seven cities, four provinces and a visit to the Northwest Territories is pretty standard.

There's a tree to be planted on the grounds of Rideau Hall; a very heavy military portion, given William's work as a search and rescue pilot in the Royal Air Force, and lots of meetings with Canada's youth.

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William is scheduled to make several speeches. The fact that Catherine will not make any public remarks is normal, Mr. Morton says. "I'm sure that once she feels more comfortable she might do," he said.

The author notes that Diana toed the line for most of her royal life - until "she upset the palace initially when she shook hands of the AIDS patients in 1987."

"That was the first glimpse of someone who was trying to establish a new kind, a new form, of royal contact," said Mr. Morton. "And from then onwards she blossomed."

Although Catherine, he says, seems to have been in the public eye for a long time as the prince's girlfriend, she has only recently taken up royal duties.

"This is her first test," Mr. Morton said about the Canadian tour.

Beautiful and glamorous, she presents as conventional for a young woman, never having taken a wrong step. But Mr. Morton sees a "hidden depth."

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"She's got a great eye for detail. She's got a very artistically creative sensibility that you saw in the whole wedding," he said, referring not only to her elegant dress but the way she styled Westminster Abbey with the trees along the aisle.

And look to her wedding dress, he says, for clues as to what kind of royal princess she will be. Where Diana was very much the ingenue - a "swirl of fairy tale" and swathed in layers of silk and taffeta" - Catherine was "restrained elegance," he said.

Although she is now following the lead of William, who Mr. Morton asserts is "quite strong-willed" and "calls the shots," Catherine's real personality will eventually emerge.

"I think, as Diana's astrologer Penny Thornton said to me, she will be a steel rod … she will give him the support that he needs in the coming years," said Mr. Morton. "She has only just been introduced to us."

He expects, too, that she will help to soften William's image as he is so wary, given what happened to his mother.

"Harry is the one, who as someone who helped organize the royal wedding told me, if you want somebody to break the ice or diffuse an awkward situation at the palace, you go to Harry," said Mr. Morton. "… he's got that easy manner … whereas Prince William is very aware that he is the future king, very aware of his own authority and he is very, very, very, very suspicious of the outside world."

As for what this tour will do for the Royal Family, Mr. Morton says that is pretty obvious.

"In terms of Canada - to keep them in their jobs," he said. "If people are happy with the Royal Family as the head of state, it keeps them in power, doesn't it?"

After they tour Canada, it's on to Hollywood, where Mr. Morton says they are "doing what the royals always do when they come to America."

"They get the cloth cap out, they put the hat round and raise money for their charities. California is kind of the breadbasket for celebrity causes," he said.

And this time next year? Mr. Morton predicts there will be a royal baby and he'll be talking about the colour of the nursery.

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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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