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Torontonians pack in for close encounter with royal couple

Prince Charles reactes after being aced while playing badminton while touring the future site Pan/Parapan American Games Athlete's Village in Toronto on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. The royal couple are on a four-day visit to Canada to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.


Prince Charles and Camilla drew enthusiastic crowds in Toronto on Tuesday as they wrapped up the second leg of their three-day tour of Canada.

Hundreds of people showed up at each of the pair's brief stops in the city, pressing against barricades and juggling cameras and cell phones in an effort to record a close encounter with the royal couple.

It was a marked departure from the tone of Charles and Camilla's previous visit, in 2009, when they were greeted by lukewarm crowds in many cities and forced to enter through a back door at one venue because of anti-monarchy protests in Montreal.

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In Toronto, Charles shrugged off a naysayer with a bullhorn outside Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone but was greeted by largely supportive crowds at most of his stops.

Amy Elliott and Laura Licht, two Google employees, said the heir apparent stopped to joke with them about the Internet company's success, saying it was already taking over the world and asking if they'd be taking over the rest of the building they worked in as well.

"We had a bit of a laugh with him," Ms. Elliot said.

Charles and Camilla crisscrossed the downtown core on Tuesday, glad-handing at local charitable organizations, participating in military ceremonies and meeting with dignitaries that included Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Assembly of First Nations chief Shawn Atleo. On Wednesday, Charles will be in Regina to visit First Nations University.

He had a red carpet-style reception in the Distillery District Tuesday, where a phalanx of photographers and fans pressed against barricades for a closer look.

Well-heeled men in black suits and dark sunglasses pushed back enthusiasts when they ventured too close for comfort. At one event, fans shouted, "Camilla, we love you," as the Duchess of Cornwall stepped out of a car in front of the Ontario legislature.

The three-day tour is expected to cost less than $1-million before security costs are factored in, which will make it the least expensive of the past four royal trips. But opposition MPs have levelled harsh criticism against the Conservative government for spending heavily in a time of fiscal austerity.

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While many of the royal couple's admirers admit they would rather be meeting the more glamorous William and Catherine, they said they didn't want to pass up a chance to see the man who could potentially be Canada's king.

Justyna Zegarmistrz, 18, handed Camilla a bouquet of Lilies of the Valley, which she said the Duchess pronounced as "her favourite."

She said she thinks Will and Kate's visit last year has helped pave the way for a better reception for Charles and Camilla.

"We noticed at Queen's Park it was mainly the older generation," her friend, Melanie Muzos, said. "But we saw this opportunity."

Brigitte Chard, 61, wore a purple fascinator and clutched a bouquet of baby's breath and chrysanthemums she hoped to hand to Camilla.

"I'm a monarchist," she said as she waited for the pair to arrive at the legislature. "I enjoy the history and the continuity."

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