NEWS
07/08/2011 12:10 EDT | Updated 09/07/2011 05:12 EDT

William And Kate Bid A Fond Farewell

CP

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- CALGARY - It was a poignant end to a festive day Friday as Prince William and his wife Kate paid tribute to Canada's war dead before flying out to wrap up their nine-day Canadian tour.

In a ceremony at a north-end Calgary park, the couple placed a wreath, bowed their heads and observed a few moments of silence before the Portraits of Honour mural, which depicts the faces of Canadian soldiers who died in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

William then inspected a guard of honour from Lord Strathcona's Horse of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group before the couple was given a 21-gun salute.

Story continues after the slideshow.

Photo gallery The Royals In Calgary See Gallery

The prince was dressed in a dark-blue blazer, while his wife wore a scarlet, satin-and-wool Marianne coat-dress by Catherine Walker, the Queen's Maple Leaf brooch on the lapel.

The ceremony capped a busy day in the southern Alberta city.

It began before 9 a.m. when the couple, dressed in cowboy garb and snow-white Stetsons, pushed a big red button to launch fireworks and sound an air horn to formally start the Stampede parade.

Minutes earlier, they toured the parade route, waving to a crowd estimated by tour organizers at 425,000, from the back of a hard-topped car. That's almost double the number who turn out for the annual event in a normal year.

The tight security that has accompanied the royals throughout their visit was evident. Nevertheless, one exuberant fan managed to break through the cordon to try to hand the couple a white gift bag and wedding card.

Marlene Gould of Chauvin, 480 kilometres northeast of Calgary, tossed the bag at the car, but it fell short and thudded harmlessly into the street.

Police officers on bicycles pedalled to catch up to her as she dashed for the royal car and appeared to shout at her to get back. Gould later told media that she was unrepentant.

"I made this bag for Will and Kate because I was so honoured that they were coming to Calgary," she said, adding the bag contained a brochure of Chauvin, "where we have the biggest softball."

She wasn't arrested and later went back to retrieve the bag.

For the parade, Kate wore blue jeans with a camisole under a sheer white blouse by London-based Alice Temperley, reportedly one of her favourite fashion designers. The prince wore jeans and a green-checked shirt.

The route underwent a last-minute change that proved a bonus for some of those lined 10-deep along the street. They doubled back over a quarter of the route, giving some fans a chance to see William going one way, and Kate the other.

"That was the good part because we got to see them both -- not just one of them," said Alexandra Finotto, 21, who showed up with her mother Annamarie.

Her mother had one complaint.

"It was wonderful, fantastic, amazing, but they went by so fast," she said.

"It was short but it was lovely," added Sonia Shillington of Calgary.

After setting off the fireworks, the royals watched part of the parade from a special viewing box. They were accompanied by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston and their wives.

They took in marching bands, parade princesses and chuckwagons. There was the whistling of flutes, the booming of drums and the clip-clopping of hundreds of horses in what is considered the grandest parade second only to the New Year's Day Rose Bowl parade.

The couple then travelled to the Calgary Zoo to meet Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. They walked through a conservatory on a pathway that winds among tropical plants and chattering birds, then did a walkabout among the people gathered outside.

Kate stopped to talk to Pam Pritchard, who was holding up a black-and-white photo of her mother meeting then-princess Elizabeth in 1951.

"Catherine said it was a wonderful photo and what a lovely keepsake and it was lovely to meet me," said Pritchard, who added her heart was thumping and she was dry-mouthed the whole time.

"William said it was a wonderful photo, asked what year it was and where it was taken, and said thank you."

There was another touching moment on the airport tarmac just before the couple left. Frances Miller, 81, who missed her chance to meet royalty when she was a girl, presented roses to the duchess.

The visit, the couple's first abroad since their April 29 wedding, was by all accounts a success.

They celebrated Canada Day with hundreds of thousands on Parliament Hill, made lobster souffle in Montreal, raced dragon boats in Prince Edward Island and canoed in the wilds of the Northwest Territories.

They also met and hugged sick children and toured homes torched by a wildfire in Slave Lake, Alta.

The visit was not without controversy. Sovereigntists in Quebec gave the duke and duchess middle-finger salutes and derided the monarchy as historical relics and "parasites."

For fans, the experience was equal parts thrilling and fleeting. Royal watching resembled whale watching. Well-wishers stood in one spot for hours to catch a three-second glimpse of the royals as they surfaced, waved and disappeared.

Some monarchy-lovers picked out prime viewing sites and stood for hours only to have a security motorcade pull up and block their view.

There were unintentionally comic moments, born out of the need to keep the royals safe.In Yellowknife, just before the royals arrived for a ball hockey game, men in dark suits and sunglasses created an impenetrable ring around the kids already at play.

Yellowknife also symbolized the couple's future.

For more than a week in Canada, they were followed everywhere and photographed constantly -- from every curl under Kate's fascinators to the indelicate wind-driven swirls of her skirts.

They thought they would get a break in Blachford Lake, tucked into the rugged rocks of the Northwest Territories .Takinga canoe out over the choppy waves with a guide, they paddled off to a distant island.

Five minutes in, other boats were spotted with rowers chugging hard to catch up for a glimpse.

A reminder to the young couple that even in a rinky-dink boat in the middle of nowhere, their lives are not their own.