NEWS
06/26/2011 01:53 EDT | Updated 08/26/2011 05:12 EDT

William And Kate Canada Visit Will Find Royal Couple Under Intense Scrutiny

AP

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- TORONTO - Prince William and Kate's visit to Canada is no summer vacation -- the young couple will face intense scrutiny during a first official tour that could set the tone for the rest of their lives within the monarchy.

The newlyweds could be the king and queen one day, but they will have to prove themselves within the Royal Family -- and next week's visit to Canada is where they will cut their teeth, said Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine.

"William and Catherine will be doing many royal tours both before and after they get the top job, so it's important that they get the first one just right," Little said from his office in London.

The Queen Mother once said the six-week coast-to-coast tour of Canada she and King George VI took in 1939 defined them as a royal couple, recalled Richard Berthelsen, an expert in royal tours.

"I have a feeling that this has the potential to do the same thing (for William and Kate)," said Berthelsen, who was involved with royal tours in Canada from 1978 to 2002.

In a country where such tours often spark debates about the relevance of Canada's ties to the monarchy, a visit from young, popular royals is meant to illustrate that those ties are strong and viable, said royal expert Carolyn Harris.

The tour will also be a test of William and Kate's more informal approach to royalty -- most notably their decision to travel with a pared-down entourage, which won't include a lady-in-waiting or a dresser for Kate, Harris said.

"They're introducing innovations into the tour, and so the success of this tour will, in a sense, show the success of these innovations," said Harris, a Queen's University PhD student studying British royalty.

The high level of scrutiny the couple is expected to face will be especially focused on Kate, since she is still relatively unknown in the public sphere.

"In spite of how long she and William have been together, she has not conducted very many public engagements," Harris said.

"This is her first foreign tour, so there is going to be a rather intense interest in how she adjusts to this."

Prince William and Kate -- also known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- are set to arrive in Ottawa on June 30, travelling to Quebec, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Alberta before leaving July 8 for California.

The parallels between Kate and William's mother are hard to ignore.

In 1983, when Prince Charles and Diana embarked on their first Canadian tour, Diana was still relatively new to the Royal Family and very much a curiosity. She did no public speaking on that tour, prompting the media to scrutinize her every move, focusing on the smallest movements and gestures, Harris said.

So far, Kate has held up well under the merciless scrutiny of the British tabloids, but that may only serve to intensify the media's gaze even more, said Little.

"It's inevitable that if things do happen, they will most definitely be picked up on and reported," he said. "We have a thing in the British media that we set so many people up on pedestals, and then after a while, we take great delight in knocking them off."

So intense was the tabloid interest in Diana that it was said by many to have played a role in her death in 1997, when her limousine crashed in a Paris tunnel while being pursued by a gang of paparazzi photographers.

Though public inquiries later blamed the reckless driving of bodyguard Henri Paul, who had been drinking at the time of the accident, the editors of Britain's top-selling tabloids later accepted responsibility for having helped to fuel a frenzied atmosphere around Diana.

Little was quick to point out that his own publication doesn't engage in that sort of journalism. But when it comes to the royals, the British tabloids have always proven inescapable.

"It's happened with Diana, and it's happened with other members of the Royal Family, and inevitably it will happen at some point with Kate," Little said.

"I would hope that it doesn't happen for some time."