Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Angie Hung and a few friends will be on royal lookout next week when the the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spend two days in Calgary this summer as part of their first official royal visit to Canada. (Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail/Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail)
Angie Hung and a few friends will be on royal lookout next week when the the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spend two days in Calgary this summer as part of their first official royal visit to Canada. (Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail/Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail)

The new royal watchers: young and celebrity-obsessed Add to ...

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge peer out at the crowds during their nine-day royal tour, it won't be wall-to-wall grey-haired monarchists waving Union Jacks back at them.

Among those diehards will be a younger crew of spectators waving nothing more conspicuous than a digital camera or cellphone above their heads. They will be there to unabashedly cheer on the glamorous young royals - just don't call them monarchists.

More related to this story

In Calgary next week, Angie Hung, 34, is organizing a handful of likeminded friends who immediately agreed to attend a number of the couple's scheduled public events with her after she posted a rallying cry on her Facebook page.

She laughs at the suggestion that she'd also be heading out if the Queen were in town. Ms. Hung says she's a fan of William and Kate in particular and would be thrilled to score a handshake with either of them. "I'm definitely not a monarchist," says Ms. Hung, who works in information technology.

"I have nothing against them, but I really don't - and I mean this in a good way - think or care about it. But the fact that they're coming to Calgary and will be in the Stampede Parade, it's just something really cool."

Despite the feel-good nature of the royal tour, the couple's plans to attend the Stampede could prove controversial. Animal advocacy group PETA is urging them to cancel their visit, saying animals in the annual rodeo are injured and killed all for the sake of entertainment.

Yet the excitement generated by the visit has so far eclipsed any bad publicity provoked by the claims. And for spectators like Ms. Hung, the couple's relatively relaxed style, their good looks and their youth are much more of a draw than the meaning or function of royalty.



"I think both of them are so much more in tune with how people growing up today experience things," Ms. Hung says.

Alison Eastwood, the editor-in-chief of Hello! Canada magazine, says she heard a similar sentiment on the streets of London leading up to the Royal Wedding in April. She says William and Kate's fame transcends their royal status and is more in the realm of A-list star appeal.

"The interest among the younger generation in William and Kate is like the interest they would have in Brad and Angelina," Ms. Eastwood says. "William and Kate are a supercouple."

So, like Brad and Angelina, the pair burns brighter together than either did before they were engaged. The appetite for celebrity details of any kind - from Kate's wardrobe and hair to the possibility of a baby - has grown to match their new status.

Their ubiquitous images filling celebrity magazines and websites linger in the popular imagination and, in a way, supplant the need for fans to collect physical souvenirs the way previous generations might have.

Kempton Lam is another new-style royal watcher. Also from Calgary, he plans to be in the crowd with his wife to cheer the newlyweds as they open the Stampede. He says he wouldn't do the same for the Queen or Princes Charles, but he's been impressed by William's character: his ethics, his work as a coast guard rescuer and the couple's request for charitable donations instead of wedding gifts.

"To me that's a new kind of royal. That intrigues me," says the fortysomething Mr. Lam, a writer who has blogged about his plans to attend. "I think they are different - I'm more interested in that aspect rather than just the celebrity."

And while he has softened a previous anti-monarchist stance - he says he saw the value of having a Queen's representative during the prorogation of Parliament - he would not describe himself as a monarchist.

"No way," he says. But Mr. Lam says he's disappointed in anti-royal commentary he's seen leading up to the couple's visit. He posted a comment on a newspaper Facebook page lamenting what he sees as "rude and uncourteous" attitudes toward the pair.



For her part, Ms. Hung says her interest in the Royal Family began with a teenage crush on William and has morphed into a respect for the life he's carved out of a seemingly staid, remote institution and his solid-looking relationship with Kate.

"When I was young and thought of the monarchy, I thought of people who were very removed from everyday life," she says. "They're a gorgeous couple who seem down to earth, not separated [from us.]rdquo;

Ms. Eastwood says the shift from unquestioning loyal subject to dewy-eyed royal watcher started with Princess Diana, when she and Prince Charles visited Canada in 1983. Today, not only does Diana's son embody some of that Diana glow, but William has also managed to resist his father's fusty reputation, observers say. While Prince Charles was only three years older than William when he married, he seemed that much older because Diana was only 20.

The footing between William and Kate, both 29, seems more even. "With Diana, she was single-handedly remodelling the face of the monarchy, whereas with William and Kate, it's a partnership," Ms. Eastwood says.

And in shedding a number of royal conventions, the couple seem even more accessible. While they remain at the upper echelon of the upper crust, Ms. Eastwood points out that they live in a farmhouse in Wales, not a castle. Kate has been photographed shopping in a local grocery store. They don't surround themselves with the usual phalanx of helpers and servants.

"These are all things that, when they're made public, a lot of us feel good about that, especially young people who don't have those resources at their disposal," she says.

The Hello! doyenne suggests that the more William and Kate continue to draw younger, non-monarchist admirers willing to show respect, the more those admirers might find themselves gradually nudged over to the monarchist side of the fence.

"The fact that William has made that life for himself, even if it's for a finite period of time, says so much not only about his character, but about how he wants the monarchy in the 21st century to be perceived," she adds. "Those of us who already respect and love royalty are hoping that this strengthens the monarchy."

So, as far away from being the stereotypical doting collectors of royal-themed china Ms. Hung and Mr. Lam seem, "Maybe one day they will be," Ms. Eastwood jokes.

With a file from Canadian Press

Correction: Angie Hung's name appeared incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories