OTTAWA, Ontario —
Prince William and Kate began their first official trip abroad Thursday laying a wreath at Canada’s National War Memorial as excited onlookers screamed with delight and showered the young royals with flowers and gifts.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they are formally known, stepped off a Canadian military plane into bright sunshine at Ottawa’s international airport and shook hands on the tarmac with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and other officials.
The royal pair then headed straight to the National War Memorial, where they were met by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen, while screaming crowds lined the barricades. The couple walked up to the memorial and stood side by side before each laid a wreath.
The couple walked over to the barricades and shook hands and briefly chatted with veterans and excited onlookers, some of whom handed them flowers and other gifts.
Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, secretary to the duke and duchess, said the couple were keen for this visit to the memorial to be their very first stop, particularly as Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan is drawing to an end.
Escorted by the Governor General, the representative of Queen Elizabeth II as Canada’s head of state, the couple received their official welcome at the Government house, where a 21-gun salute was fired before the ceremonial guard played Canada’s national anthem.
William gave his first remarks, thanking Harper and Johnston for their warm welcome in French, inciting screams and cheering from the crowd.
“Instilled in us by our parents and grandparents, who love this country, we have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time — and before we were married, we both had a longing to come here together,” he said.
He broke into French again then and joked, “it will improve as we go along,” provoking laughter.
Later, the royals were scheduled to attend a barbecue for young people.
The newlyweds will stay in Canada for nine days, during which time they will take part in Canada Day celebrations, open the world-renowned Calgary Stampede and hand out flags to newly minted Canadians at a citizenship ceremony among other things before jetting off to Los Angeles.
The young prince and his wife have star power to burn and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore reckons this will be the most-watched royal tour in Canada’s history.
Canada’s prime minister has unveiled a personal flag for use during William’s visit. It is the first flag to be created by Canada for a member of the royal family since 1962, when the queen adopted a personal flag for her own use in Canada. Harper said the flag was approved by the queen and William.
The royal couple left London’s Heathrow Airport on a Royal Canadian Air Force plane Thursday morning. The duchess wore a navy blue knee-length dress by the French designer Roland Mouret paired with a navy blazer by Toronto-based Smythe les Vestes. William wore his customary dark blue suit with a red tie.
Kate appeared to have changed during the flight, and stepped off the plane in Ottawa wearing a navy blue scoop-backed dress with a lace overlay by Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu.
During the visit, the young prince will demonstrate his skills as a helicopter rescue pilot by taking part in a water landing demonstration, and the couple is scheduled to put on aprons and take part in a cooking workshop in Quebec City.
But the couple won’t be welcomed by all. Some anti-royal protests are expected in the French-speaking province of Quebec, with small groups planning protests in Quebec City and Montreal.
Canadian officials have estimated the royal visit will cost the Canadian government about US$1.55 million dollars (CA$1.5 million dollars), not including security.
The prince and Kate jet to Los Angeles on July 8 and will host a gala dinner there the next night to introduce up-and-coming British film talent to Hollywood executives.