By ROB GILLIES
OTTAWA, Ontario — Prince William and Kate tried out their French in public and put on their best British charm for screaming Canadians as the royal newlyweds began their first official overseas trip Thursday.
Poised and confident, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they are formally known, thrilled the crowds with warm, unscripted gestures, wading into throngs of well-wishers to shake hands and accept flowers and other gifts.
To cheers of delight, William addressed his hosts in both English and French, then cracked a joke about his language skills. “It will improve as we go on,” the prince quipped, then noted how much he and Kate were “truly looking forward to this adventure.”
“Catherine and I are so delighted to be here in Canada. Instilled in us by our parents and grandparents, who love this country, we have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time — and before we were married, we both had a longing to come here together,” he said at the residence of the governor general of Canada.
“They are beautiful together, like a fairy tale,” gushed 15-year-old Daphnee Dubouchet-Olshesh, who was in the crowd with her mother. “He just sounded so cute and adorable with his English accent. He did pretty good with his French.”
Brenda Hoerle, who drove six and half hours from Waterloo, Ontario, with her two daughters, agreed.
“He did wonderfully. His candor was very appealing to the crowd. He joked about the fact that his French will improve. That’s what we look to see of the monarchy, to see that they are normal human beings,” she said.
Kate’s French also got a thumbs-up. Mayor Marc Bureau of Gatineau, Quebec, said he greeted the couple in French and Kate replied in French that it was a pleasure.
“I think French classes have served her well,” he said.
Arriving aboard a Canadian military plane, the couple were greeted by bright sunshine and stiff breezes along with dignitaries and cheering crowds of thousands.
The royal pair then headed straight to the National War Memorial, where they were met by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen. Each laid a wreath before stepping into the crowd to speak individually with veterans.
Stunning in tan stilettos and a figure-hugging navy scoop-backed dress with a lace overlay by Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu, Kate was greeted with cheers of “We want Kate!” at every stop. William wore a blue suit with burgundy tie.
“I wanted to witness firsthand their chemistry,” said 21-year-old Valerie Barrette, decked out in an evening gown and feather-decorated hat. “They are just so good looking.”
Later, the couple attended a reception for young Canadians. It was billed as a celebration barbecue but it was brought inside due to rain.
They will stay in Canada for nine days, taking part in Canada Day celebrations Friday and opening the world-renowned Calgary Stampede, as well as handing out flags to newly minted Canadians at a citizenship ceremony.
During the visit, William will show his skills as a helicopter rescue pilot by taking part in a water landing demonstration, and the couple is scheduled to put on aprons and take part in a cooking workshop in Quebec City.
The prince and his wife have star power to burn, and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore predicted this will be the most-watched royal tour in Canada’s history.
Earlier in the week, Harper unveiled a personal flag for William’s visit — the first to be created by Canada for a member of the royal family since 1962, when the queen adopted a personal flag for her own use in Canada.
Some anti-royal protests were expected in the French-speaking province of Quebec, with small groups planning protests in Quebec City and Montreal.
The prince and Kate jet to Los Angeles on July 8 and will host a gala dinner there the next night to introduce up-and-coming British film talent to Hollywood executives.
Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha contributed to this story from Toronto.