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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile as they meet with people at a youth event in Ottawa on Thursday, June 30, 2011. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile as they meet with people at a youth event in Ottawa on Thursday, June 30, 2011. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe editorial

The royal visit is no mere celebrity event Add to ...

Shortly after their arrival in Ottawa on Thursday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - also known as William and Catherine - stopped to pay their respects at the National War Memorial. On Friday, they are scheduled to attend a Canadian citizenship ceremony, and then participate in Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill. These are not the sort of official engagements that a foreign dignitary would ever undertake. The so-called "hottest couple on the planet" are in Ottawa for one reason, and that is because William is a prince of Canada.

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The itinerary for the Royal Tour illustrates the same point. The Duke and Duchess are not confining their activities to the national capital region, or for that matter visiting the country's largest city, Toronto. In barely more than a week, they will instead travel from Ottawa to Montreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown, Yellowknife and Calgary.

Some Canadians may be attracted by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as huge international celebrities, but they are not here as celebrities. Ordinary celebrities such Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would not present themselves to the public for days on end, in such a wide variety of regions and settings. They would not visit hospitals, meet with aboriginal elders and soldiers, and receive bouquets from schoolchildren. They might indeed go to the Calgary Stampede, but they would not go to the Ward of the 21st Century innovation centre at the University of Calgary. Not even the Kardashian sisters would be so generous with their time; this is much more than a reality TV show.

William and Catherine are here for us as citizens; they are part of Canada's Royal Family, part of Canada's history, part of Canada's present, and also its future. It is to be hoped that their presence will encourage not just star-struck gaping, but some reflection on the magic of the system of government that makes this possible, Canada's constitutional monarchy.

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