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Sparse crowds and bleak weather greeted Prince Charles yesterday as he toured some of the oldest English settlements in Canada with his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Rain held off until mid-afternoon, but the wind was biting. The duchess kept her shawl wrapped tightly, and many of those with whom the royal couple spoke remembered comments about the weather.

In both Brigus and Cupids, communities near St. John's on the Avalon Peninsula, the small public turnout made for intimate walkabouts by the Prince of Wales and the duchess.

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"There's not much goes on here sometimes, so we came out to meet him," said John Fowler, who has family roots in Cupids and recently returned from Ontario.

Mr. Fowler was one of about 75 locals who gathered to greet the couple, in Canada for an 11-day tour.

The English presence in Canada began in Cupids in 1610. The settlers didn't stay permanently in the rugged spot, vacating the site in the 18th century for a few generations, but archaeological remains were rediscovered in the 1990s.

"It's a very important site," said Bill Gilbert, chief archeologist with the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation, who took the couple on a tour of the dig with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen.

"You could compare it to Quebec [City]as far as New France is concerned, or Jamestown in Virginia as far as America is concerned."

Charles, who has studied archaeology, was full of questions. But the group was feeling the cold as the temperature hovered in the single digits. Mr. Gilbert joked that it would take too long to show off all the best finds.

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