QUEBEC – Speaking only in French, Prince William hailed Quebecers’ “vitality and vigour” on Sunday as he visited a city where a key British military victory more than 250 years ago still resonates politically.
“It’s an honour for me to be here with you in Quebec today,” he said in Quebec City after inspecting members of the Royal 22e Regiment, commonly known as the Van Doos.
“For me, as a soldier and an airman, it is a privilege to have inspected a great regiment like the Royal 22nd.
“Your reputation is as strong as it is legendary. This place has such beauty and history. You, the Quebecois et Quebecoises, have such vitality and vigour.”
The couple then delighted the crowd by going for a walkabout and shaking hands with dozens of excited well-wishers.
William and Kate’s visit to Quebec City, which came one day after they toured Montreal, rankled many sovereigntists.
One reason is that the couple visited the Citadelle, a fortified residence at the foot of the Plains of Abraham, where the British defeated the French in a key battle in 1759.
Many in Quebec see the monarchy not only as a colonial relic, but also as a reminder of ancestors who had their land conquered by the British army; they resent that the sovereign still serves as Canada’s head of state.
Anti-monarchy slogans and middle-finger salutes greeted the royal couple in Montreal on Saturday.
On Sunday, a few hundred Quebec sovereigntists took to Quebec City streets to once again protest their presence in the province. The event went off peacefully.
“We do not recognize the authority, the legitimacy of the Crown, of the monarchy here in Quebec and it’s not a national symbol for us,” said Maxime Laporte of the Reseau de resistance du Quebecois.
“It’s rather a symbol of imperialism, of war crimes against humanity, against our people.”
The pro-independence group claimed responsibility for a banner carrying the slogan “Vive le Quebec libre” that flew from an airplane over Quebec City.
Just like in Montreal, however, the anti-monarchy contingent was outnumbered by royal supporters or those just curious to see what all the fuss was about.
David Cheater, who moved to Quebec City from London a few years ago, was carrying a red and white English flag as he waited for his compatriots to show.
“I was surprised they (the royal couple) would be here,” said the 28-year-old. “I thought they would only go to one city. When we heard they were coming to Quebec City, it was fantastic news.”
Hannah Hoelscher and a friend drove up from Rutland, Vt., for the day’s activities because the royals are “young and they’re fun and they seem to really care about everyone.”
“I was really crossing my fingers, but I did not dream in a million years that we would actually get to meet both of them — first William and then the big shocker was Kate,” said Hoelscher, 20.
“I told her she was beautiful and she laughed it off and we wished them well in California.”
The royals’ day began with a prayer service aboard HMCS Montreal, which transported the couple to Quebec City from Montreal overnight.
Kate looked resplendent in a blue lace Jacquenta dress by Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu and could be seen smiling at times during the service, while William looked more solemn.
Right Rev. Dennis Drainville, who helped preside over the religious service, said the royal couple’s presence was significant.
“The Anglican Church, of course, shares a long history with the monarchy,” Drainville said in an interview.
“So the prince’s presence is important for all Anglicans.”
About a dozen sailors presented a guard of honour as they left the vessel to head off to La Maison Dauphine, a shelter for troubled youth.
William and Kate were also to visit Forts-de-Levis, where a family-filled crowd of all ages, numbering in the hundreds, waited for them.
The fort was built between 1865 and 1872 under the supervision of British military engineers.
It completed a defence network protecting Quebec from future land invasion by Americans. It is also the highest point in the region.
After their Quebec stay, the royals were headed to Charlottetown, where they were to attend an informal media reception Sunday evening before retiring for the night.
Yellowknife and Calgary are their other Canadian stops before they leave for California on Friday.