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Canada Day: William and Kate make their international married debut

The latest polls show Canada is as smitten with William and Kate as the couple seems to be with each other. But will that help them convince Canadians of the royal family's continued relevancy?

By Anita ElashCorrespondent / June 30, 2011

Britain's Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at a charity event for Absolute Return for Kids, ARK, in London, in this June 9 file photo.

Alastair Grant/AP/File

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Toronto

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known as William and Kate, arrive in Canada on their first international visit today with two goals: to ease the prince and his commoner bride into their public lives as a married couple and to convince their subjects the monarchy is relevant and worth saving.

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The first should be easy. Canada has strong ties to the British monarchy and is considered a friendly place for the royal family to visit.

The second will be harder, but not nearly as difficult as it would have been a year ago. The latest polls show the royals have surged in popularity in Canada compared with a year ago, largely because people are just as smitten with William and Kate as the two seem to be with each other.

“The popularity of this couple is global,” says Sean Simpson, author of a new Ipsos Public Affairs poll on Canadian attitudes toward the royals. “They are clearly in love and people can see that and that is telling them there is a secure future for the monarchy down the road.”

The poll results do not show overwhelming support. Forty-eight percent of Canadians still think the monarchy should be abolished. But that is 10 percent fewer than a year ago, when William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, visited Canada. Mr. Simpson says it is a significant change in a country where the royal family’s popularity has been steadily waning.

“Canadians have been pretty fickle on the monarchy,” he says. “Basically, we’ve got other things to think about.”

Is there a place for fairy tales today?

The royal family’s popularity has waned in Canada since the massive immigration from outside Europe started in the 1960s. Although references to the monarchy are woven into every aspect of Canadian life – from rose gardens and freeways named after Queen Elizabeth II to the fact that new legislation must get royal assent before it becomes law – it has little real influence on everyday lives.

Most Canadians are not sure what role the monarch or her representative, the governor general, play in Canada. Younger people and a growing population of immigrants simply cannot relate, says royal expert Carolyn Harris.

Concerns about whether Prince Charles, who is considered too outspoken and old-fashioned, is fit to be king have also eroded the monarchy’s popularity, says Ms. Harris.

Like many Canadians, James Levergood, a tattoo artist from Toronto, says he thinks the royals are quaint but unnecessary.

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