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They are the flip-side to polls showing sliding support for the monarchy in Canada - several thousand people who gathered last night to welcome Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and to celebrate Newfoundland's bond with Britain.

Dorothy Burridge, 61, noted that many residents of the province retain strong feelings for the Royal Family because the island was a British dominion only 60 years ago.

"We were all British subjects until 1949, so they were very dear to us and I think you just grow up with it," she said. "I really feel British. If I travel ... I never say I'm from Canada, I always say I'm from Newfoundland. Because we were one country so recently."

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A number of people on their way into the event mentioned fears of the H1N1 virus, but none was willing to miss the chance to see the Prince and the Duchess.

"You know, heritage and our head of state, or future king," said 50-year-old Jeff Smith, explaining why he'd come. "The way I look at it, the Catholics got their Pope so the Protestants got to have their king."

A poll released yesterday by The Canadian Press showed that Canadians who hold such views are members of a shrinking group. The poll, conducted by Harris-Decima, revealed that only 31 per cent of Canadians feel that Charles should be king, while 41 per cent would rather see the throne pass directly to his son, Prince William. Prince Charles was chosen as the most popular royal by a mere 4 per cent of respondents, while 39 per cent felt ties with the monarchy should be severed after the Queen dies.

Although some at Mile One Stadium last night acknowledged they had come for the spectacle as much as to show loyalty, they offered a warm welcome as Charles and Camilla began an 11-day royal tour.

Five-year-old Allison Clarke had a fairy-tale vision as she approached the venue with her mother. Asked what came to mind when told a prince would be visiting the province, she said shyly: "I think of going to the castle."

She would have appreciated the pomp that followed. Among the elaborate ceremonies was a 21-gun salute as Prince Charles inspected a guard of honour drawn from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Decimated at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the regiment has special significance for Newfoundlanders. To this day, many here mark July 1 as a day of mourning, rather than the anniversary of Confederation. Wearing a poppy in his lapel, Prince Charles stopped to chat with several members of the regiment before mounting a dais for a rendition of O Canada.

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"Given our deep devotion to members of the Royal Family and their devotion to Canada, these visits are regarded as homecomings by Canadians," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said moments later. "On this day of celebration we say to you, Your Royal Highnesses, welcome. Our home is your home."

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, greeted with extended applause from the crowd as he took the podium, struck a less formal tone. He spoke about the province's cultural cachet and reminisced about his time at Oxford, where he remembered appreciating the Beatles and the miniskirt phase then sweeping Britain.

The Prince, noting that he was on his 15th visit to Canada, said this one was special as a chance to introduce his wife to the country. "Every time I come to Canada a little more of Canada seeps into my bloodstream, and from there straight to my heart," he told the crowd. He praised this country's natural beauty and "the strength of the Canadian character," citing past military missions and the troops now serving "with the greatest possible distinction" in Afghanistan.

Charles also took the opportunity to sound the clarion call for action against what he called "the threat posed to all humanity" by climate change.

"We are at a defining moment for our civilization," he said. "Unless we can all, both individually and collectively, take the actions which we now know are necessary, the future is going to be very bleak indeed."

The royal couple had no further public engagements last night and go this morning to Cupids, a small town near St. John's that is celebrating its 400th anniversary next year.

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