If Ottawa provided the Kodachrome picture-postcard royal welcome, Quebec offered William and Catherine a more complex cinéma vérité depiction of the country they claim to want to know. Canada’s two solitudes collided during the couple’s two-day, two-city Quebec sojourn as separatist and anti-monarchist protesters, though in the minority, determined the agenda. Fear of a repeat of Prince Charles’s 2009 visit to Montreal, when eggs were hurled at his car, prompted organizers of William and Kate’s tour to not schedule walkabouts in the cities. Their concerns appeared founded, as several dozen protesters from pro-independence group Réseau de Résistance du Québécois appeared at Ste-Justine Hospital, the first stop of the couple’s eight-hour swing through Montreal. Chants of “Will and Kate, Will and Kate” vied with “royals go home” in French and English. And a few eggs were thrown, one landing on the back of an older woman who had waited hours in the sweltering heat.
Clearly forewarned, the duke and duchess exited their car briskly upon arrival, barely acknowledging the crowd. After an hour touring the neonatal, high-risk pregnancy and cancer wards, they exited under heavy security as black SUVs blocked the crowd of some 500—much to the crowd’s disappointment, including 11-year old Victoria Sicurello, who had hoped to hand Kate roses and a handmade card.
A similar 10-to-one well-wisher-to-protester ratio was evident at their next destination, the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, where they took part in a cooking lesson with students and dined on Brome Lake duck, Charlevoix lamb and an Îles-de-la-Madeleine lobster soufflé.
The day ended with more fireworks, the pyrotechnic kind, before an overnight voyage to Quebec City on a Canadian navy frigate. Given the day’s events, the warship accommodations seemed prescient.
The next morning began amid tight security with an on-deck prayer service, then visits to La Maison Dauphine, a centre that helps homeless youth, the Citadel, and then city hall for a Freedom of the City ceremony, a tradition introduced by the British in 1748 to confer upon armies the privilege of entering a fortified city bearing weapons and also to honour its allegiance with the Royal 22e Regiment, the Van Doos.
As SWAT teams scanned from rooftops, and 200 protesters aired grievances while a plane flew a “Vive le Québec libre” banner overhead, Prince William gave an all-French address praising Quebecers “vitality and vigour,” while apologizing for his language skills.
The couple then surprised and delighted the crowd by approaching the barricades, where two little girls had been plucked by organizers to present flowers to Kate, providing an adorable photo-op. The visit to La Belle Province ended 40 minutes later on a higher plane, at a community event at Fort-de-Lévis, the highest point of the region, where crowds clamoured to see and to touch the royals. Signs read “We love you William and Kate” and “Merci d’être à Lévis,” reflecting a momentary solidarity in the face of celebrity.