A royal couple that clearly likes each other
On their Canadian tour, Will and Kate show an intimacy that was not always apparent before
They came. They saw. They charmed.
Will and Kate's cross-Canada adventure ended after nine days of adoring crowds and intimate moments. But the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was much more than a successful public relations exercise put on by the House of Windsor with help from a co-operative Canadian government.
The visit gave the world the first real insight into the couple at the heart of the monarchy's hope for the future, and the early reviews are all good.
"People who were so disheartened by the monarchy before finally feel that there is a hope, that this is the monarchy they want to see moving forward," says Ciara Hunt, a royal expert and a CBC commentator throughout the visit that ended Friday. "With this couple at the helm, people believe and want it."
Kate: the fashion diplomat
They were known names in the fashion world. Beyond that, not so much.
Then the Duchess of Cambridge donned a blue blazer by Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe, the Toronto designers behind the Smythe fashion label.
Kate wore the Smythe jacket over a blue dress as she walked across the tarmac at Heathrow and boarded a Canadian Forces jet bound for Canada on June 30. A few days later, she teamed the jacket with a blouse and jeans.
Smythe wasn't the only Canadian designer on Kate's radar during her visit. She also wore two dresses by Montreal-born designer Erdem Moralioglu, who is well established in the U.K.
Royal watcher Ciara Hunt says Kate's decision to champion Canadian designers is significant "because, as we know, what Kate wears sells."
Shortly after Kate was spotted in the Smythe design, Barbara Atkin, vice-president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, said the phone began ringing off the hook at the luxury retailer, which sells the blazer exclusively in Canada for $550.
With files from The Canadian Press
"With William and Kate, the reason why this tour is so significant and will be remembered not just by Canada but by the world is because this is the first time we saw the couple interact. They were always so guarded before they were married."
Not now. The intimate moments and gestures were there for all to see. There was Kate's gentle, reassuring tap on the knee when Prince William seemed to be growing more and more embarrassed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's gushing welcome to the newlyweds on Parliament Hill.
Then there was William's playful hug for her after he beat her in the dragon boat race in P.E.I. Indeed, throughout the visit, there was a real sense of a team effort on the part of the couple to put the best royal face forward.
"They have both relied on one another," says Hunt. "You've seen how one has guided the other, particularly Prince William guiding Catherine when it comes to protocol, and where to stand and what to do.
"You can see how she has guided and comforted him at times as well."
To say the tour has gone over well is an understatement. Even in Quebec, where there had been nervousness at the welcome the royals would receive, the protests were relatively muted.
As well, coverage by the British media — not always the royals' best friends — has verged on adulatory.
Kate's presence crucial
In a speech in Calgary as the tour wound down, William said the couple's experiences had "exceeded all our expectations" and that Canada "far surpassed all that we were promised."
From Hunt's media-watching perspective, the visit has been equally successful, "beyond all our wildest expectations."
William and Kate did "phenomenally well," she says, chalking much of that up to the presence of the Duchess of Cambridge.
"Prince William, yes, he's done phenomenally well, royally well, but it's definitely because he has Catherine by his side."
Hunt sees a difference in the prince now compared to his bachelor days.
"He was so guarded before in public but he obviously feels with her by his side that he can open up a bit more."
Funny, witty, intelligent, compassionate
Then there was Kate herself.
It's "unbelievable how she has eased into this role," says Hunt, who met the couple at a media reception in P.E.I.
"We hadn't heard her utter a word, nothing, but then we saw that she's funny, she's witty, she's got a sense of humour yet she's an intelligent woman."
Compassion was on display, too, whether the royals were meeting young children with cancer, people devastated by the wildfires this spring in Slave Lake, Alta., war veterans or Canadian Forces' families. Every walkabout ran over time.
Kate seemed to enjoy herself, and was also very open in her conversations with Canadians, talking with people in the crowds about her grandfather or her apprehensions about William's duties as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.
"You really got an insight into the couple that we've never seen before," says Hunt.
Honeymoon in full swing
Royal visits offer that kind of personal insight, whether it is positive as it has been for William and Kate, or troubled. Strain in the ultimately doomed marriage of William's parents, Charles and Diana, emerged publicly when the media saw them in close quarters during trips like this one.
For this trip, though, the honeymoon — for the young royals themselves and the monarchy in general — was clearly in full swing. Hunt can't come up with any examples of ways in which the trip fell short. Not even any hiccups.
"I don't think they put a foot wrong," she says.
In his Calgary speech, William promised that he and Kate will return to Canada. They can only hope the next adventure goes off as well.