Duke and Duchess of Cambridge start Canada trip

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge begin their first overseas tour as a married couple today visiting Canada and California.

William and Kate's arrival in the Commonwealth country is eagerly anticipated and their appearance later in the capital, Ottawa, is expected to draw thousands on to the streets.

The royal couple will one day be King and Queen of Canada and their trip will be closely followed by the media and public alike.

They will travel to seven cities during their nine-day visit meeting a diverse array of Canadians and getting to grips with the challenges and excitement of being on tour.

Almost 1,400 journalists, broadcasters and photographers from across the globe, including just short of 100 from the UK, will be covering the visit - 500 more than those who accredited for the Queen's visit last year.

Highlights of the trip will include Canada Day, celebrated tomorrow, when the Duke and Duchess will join hundreds of thousands of people in Ottawa - many dressed in the national colours of red and white - to celebrate the nation.

On Prince Edward Island the royal couple will play starring roles on opposing vessels during a dragon boat race and will be given the task of steering their team-mates to victory across a lake.

Their visit to Calgary coincides with the start of the world famous Calgary Stampede - a legendary annual rodeo, exhibition and festival dubbed the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" which they will start.

The cost to the Commonwealth nation of flying the couple around in a Canadian Forces Airbus and staging federal events is estimated at 1.5 million Canadian dollars, but does not include the bill for security.

Young Canadians appear ambivalent to the royal visit according to a poll commissioned by the Toronto Star newspaper, with more than 50% of 18 to 34-year-olds questioned expressing indifference to the trip.

Asked about the relevance of the royal couple to the nation Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen, who has co-ordinated the tour, said: "I think given the dynamism of this couple (they) continue to reaffirm the important role the crown plays in this country."

The Duke and Duchess will tour Canada under a new royal flag, unveiled yesterday and created in celebration of their visit.

The banner is William's personal flag but will come to symbolise the couple as it flutters from the luxury limousines used to drive them around or from the roofs of buildings they are visiting.

Speaking at its launch Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, said: "I believe you will see a very warm welcome right across the country. The exact turnout depends on weather and other factors, but we expect to see very robust crowds to welcome their Royal Highnesses."

The royal couple's first act today will be to pay their respects at Canada's National War Memorial in Confederation Square in the capital Ottawa, home to the tomb of the unknown soldier.

The official welcoming ceremony will be staged at the Governor General's official residence, Rideau Hall, and will feature a guard of honour, with William saying a few words.

David Johnston, sworn in as Governor General last October, will host an informal reception for around 120 young Canadian volunteers who have worked with some of the good causes benefiting from the couple's Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund.

The California leg of the visit to North America will see William and Kate promoting Britain's interests through the prism of their own passions from July 8-10 in and around Los Angeles.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the couple's private secretary, has described the US west coast as an important market for British business and said they would support UK technology investment as well as the creative industries through Bafta.

He added that they would also "highlight the bond between the US and UK's armed forces, particularly focusing now on the next step of re-integration of servicemen and women into civilian life once they have finished active service".

The highlight of the US visit will be a black-tie Bafta reception and dinner staged in the Belasco theatre in Los Angeles on July 9, which will be a classic red carpet affair but details of possible A-list guests from the US and UK have yet to be released.

William is the organisation's president and the event has been staged to connect the best young British talent with Hollywood's "movers and shakers" and showcase the skill and talent of the UK's creative industries.

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