NEWS
07/02/2011 09:48 EDT | Updated 09/01/2011 05:12 EDT

William And Kate: Quebec Welcome Not So Warm For Royal Couple

THE CANADIAN PRESS - MONTREAL - There were a few middle-finger salutes and vulgar chants about the Queen. Loud boos.

And forget those fancy fascinators: here, crowd members dressed like Middle Age peasants to ridicule an institution they derided as archaic.

Bienvenue au Quebec, Prince William and Kate.

As they arrived in Canada's only predominantly French-speaking province for a two-day tour, the royals were given a loud, raucous reminder that not everyone in this country likes the monarchy.

Photo gallery The Royals In Ottawa And Montreal: Tour Day 3 See Gallery

The sea of adulation they had encountered so far during their Canadian tour instantly gave way to a choppier response the moment they entered Quebec on Saturday.

The conflicted cacophony of reactions was perhaps best summed up by 59-year-old Guy Ebacher.

Describing himself as a Quebec separatist, Ebacher affectionately held up a cardboard cutout, shaped like a heart, picturing

William's late mother, Diana, at the centre of it.

"I wanted Prince William to see that, in Quebec, his mother is loved and remembered and it's my personal homage and tribute to Diana," he said, standing on a crowded, blocked-off street.

"I had to do it, I really had to."

As for the protests: "I have no problem with ... the monarchy because I don't feel the threat. I don't understand their fuss and why they're so aggressive. I really don't get it."

There were mostly admirers at the royals' first stop at a children's hospital, as cheering supporters and camera-snapping onlookers far outnumbered anti-monarchist protesters -- by about 10 to one.

But that small, vocal contingent of naysayers managed to make itself heard; the unmistakable sound of jeers echoed among the cheers as the young couple quickly entered the building.

Dozens of Quebec sovereigntists were gathered outside the Sainte-Justine hospital, some carrying signs -- in both French and English -- calling the royal couple "parasites." There were chants of, "Abandon the monarchy." Some cars honked in support of the protesters as they drove by.

The demonstration was far more vociferous at the next stop.

Hundreds of people, the loudest being protesters, waited outside a downtown cooking school, booing and chanting as the motorcade arrived. It was around that moment that some people began flipping middle fingers and bellowing foul-mouthed slogans about the Queen, William's grandmother.

One man, perched above on a balcony, earned cheers from the crowd as he shouted before the couple arrived, "Vive le Quebec libre!"

The royals were arriving for a cooking class in the company of Premier Jean Charest and his wife, Michele, where they would don white apprentice uniforms and learn to make foie gras, lobster souffle and loin of lamb.

Given the unwelcome appetizer out in the streets, the royal motorcade zoomed by and the young couple moved inside without greeting the crowd.

But there was also mild curiosity, even moments of affection, to go along with those examples of unbridled animosity.

The couple mingled with sick children at their first stop; Kate complimented one boy on his art work and William told him, in French, "Tu es fort (You are strong)."

Outside the hospital, people waited to snap pictures of the couple.

Hundreds of fans even engaged the separatists in a duel of chants, as they greeted the chorus of nationalist slogans by repeatedly shrieking the names, "Will and Kate."

Fans expressed disappointment that the royals never paused to greet them at the first stops on their Quebec swing, which wraps up Sunday after a voyage by ship on the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City.

Philippe Picard of Boucherville, Que., even sought out a reporter to express his disappointment over the protests.

The 32-year-old said he supports the monarchy; he credits it for being the root of Canada's democratic freedoms and for helping protect the francophone minority.

He said he understands why people protest but, he said, they don't know their history. In his view the British system, from the 18th century onward, helped create a space in North America where French could survive.

"If we were in the United States we would be like Louisiana," he said. "The monarchy has allowed us to protect our identity."

But that's not the way most Quebec nationalists see it.

One pro-independence group issued a statement accusing the Crown of committing "linguistic cleansing" against francophones. It cited the 1755 deportation of Acadians, the suppression of the "patriot" revolt of 1837-38, and other alleged sins including the Crown's approval of the 1982 Constitution that Quebec never accepted.

"A strong majority of Quebecers wish to get rid of the monarchy, an obsolete institution that reminds us of our nation's subordination to another nation," said the group Cap sur l'independance.

The muted enthusiasm in Quebec was a far cry from the thunderous applause the royals received earlier in their tour, when they were surrounded by an adoring throng of hundreds of thousands on Canada Day in Ottawa.

Before leaving Ottawa for Montreal on a Canadian government plane Saturday, it was more of the same in the nation's capital --

with scenes of deep affection for the couple.

They were surrounded by artifacts of military might, but the only shooting going on at the Canadian War Museum was the din of snapping shutters as William and Kate capped their visit to the nation's capital with a stirring tribute to Canada's war veterans.

After a lengthy meet-and-greet session with veterans and war brides spanning several generations, the newlyweds shared unveiling duties by pulling back a curtain to reveal a towering, unfinished military mural by British artist Augustus John.

Betty Brown, 93, who served as a war nurse in England and was with invasion troops in Sicily in the Second World War at the end of the Italian campaign, was thrilled at meeting the couple.

"I loved them both," she said. "I thought they were absolutely beautiful."

Said she has met Prince Charles before as well as the Queen, but this was a different experience.

"They are much more modern, down-to-earth and more easy to talk to and easy to relate to," she said.

Hallie Sloan, 94, who was also a nurse, said she was honoured to be invited and that she very much enjoyed meeting William and Kate.

"I just hope they keep coming back to Canada," she said. "They started here and I think that's a great honour. I think they are so practical -- they are being careful about how they spend money."

Before the proceedings began, the duke and duchess toured the museum's art collection, beginning with a 1917 quartet of paintings called "The Roads of France," by C.W.R. Nevinson. They lingered over a gallery of nose art -- drawings and cartoons that adorned military aircraft -- and a row of paintings from the Beaverbrook War art collection.

But it was when meeting and mingling with veterans, war brides and their families that William and Kate lingered, shaking hands and making earnest conversation, throwing the military precision of their daily itinerary into disarray for the third straight day.

The duke and duchess began their last day in Ottawa by adding a royal flourish to a Canadian hemlock tree at Rideau Hall, a lasting imprint of their first official tour as newlyweds.

William wore a dark blue suit and Kate a conservative grey Kensington dress by designer Catherine Walker as the pair tossed shovelfuls of soil underneath the tree, chosen to symbolize their enduring love and marriage.

It's the 17th royal tree to be planted on the Rideau Hall grounds.

The guests who were on hand for the ceremony included couples who celebrated multiple decades of marriage -- 30, 40, 50, even 70 years -- on April 29, the same day as William and Kate.

Also among the guests was Terry Joyce, a terminally ill man whose dying wish to meet the duke and duchess was granted moments after the ceremony, when the royal couple spent several minutes talking with him in the shade of the garden.

Despite the smaller scale of the event, more than 50 people still gathered outside the main gate of Rideau Hall in the bright sunshine more than an hour before the ceremony.

After Quebec City, the couple head to Charlottetown, Yellowknife and Calgary.

They leave for California on July 8.