Quebec City: Prince William and Kate thrilled hundreds of adoring fans with an unscheduled walkabout on Sunday in a city that was the site of the key British victory in the conquest of the French — a historical event not forgotten by French-speaking separatists protesting nearby.
The newlyweds were on the fourth day of a nine-day trip to Canada, part of their first official overseas trip since their April 29 wedding.
The visit hit a nerve among French-speaking separatists. Prince William and Kate had a private lunch at the Citadelle, a fortified residence where the British flag was raised at the end of the pivotal 1759 Battle of Quebec, when British forces defeated the French to seal the conquest of New France.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they are officially known, encountered small but vocal protests for the second straight day during their visit to predominantly French-speaking Quebec, following protests in Montreal.
"What they`ve seen in Quebec, in Montreal the last two days is, for them, just part of the rich fabric of Canada and in no way detracts from how much they respect and admire the country," said the couple`s spokesman, Miguel Head. He added that the couple have been impressed by the welcome they`ve received.
"They`ve very much fallen in love with the country," Miguel said.
The jeers contrasted with the start of the royal couple`s Canadian trip in the largely English-speaking capital, Ottawa, where they were cheered by tens of thousands of people on Friday`s Canada Day holiday.
Quebec separatists are angry that Canada still has ties to the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is still the country`s head of state.
Police were out in force in downtown Quebec City. About 200 protesters, some wearing black and waving flags, demonstrated about two blocks from City Hall, where Prince William, a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, attended a ceremony to honour and inspect the Royal 22e Regiment, the most famous French-speaking unit in the Canadian military.
A larger crowd of several hundred supporters, chanting "Will and Kate" were allowed closer to City Hall and greeted the royal motorcade with loud cheers when it arrived.
After a military band played the first six bars of "God Save the Queen”, Prince William made brief remarks entirely in French.
"You, the Quebecois et Quebecoise, have such vitality and a remarkable pride. We are simply delighted to be here," he said. "Thank you for your patience with my accent, and I hope that we will have the chance to get to know each other over the years to come. Until the next time. See you soon."
The crowd laughed when he mentioned his accent and then started cheering. Undeterred by the nearby protesters, Prince William and Kate further charmed the Quebeckers with an unexpected walkabout. The royal couple went to the barricade, chatting and shaking hands with enthusiastic supporters in the square around City Hall before leaving by motorcade.
Alexandra Powell, a 20-year-old French-Canadian, said the royal couple greeted her with "Bonjour" before she shook Kate`s hand.
"I think it`s a childhood dream to be a princess and meet the monarchy," said Powell. "I`m still shaking a little bit."
Police set up barriers to keep the protesters away from City Hall, but the demonstrators brought a pickup truck with audio equipment and speakers to amplify their chants. They carried signs reading "Pay your own way" and "The monarchy, it`s over”.
The protesters chanted "RRQ”, the initials of the anti-monarchist, separatist group, Reseau de Resistance du Quebecois, or Quebecker Resistance Network, which organised the protests in Montreal and Quebec City.