OTTAWA — Diana already had two years in the spotlight as a member of the Royal Family before she first touched down on Canadian soil.
But her eldest son’s new bride will have only had two months.
Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton are to visit Canada this summer on their first trip as a married couple, the Governor General and the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Wednesday.
The newlyweds arrive on June 30 and then celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa.
They’ll tour until July 8, stopping in the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Quebec, where they will visit both Montreal and Quebec City.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper invited the couple to Canada after they announced their engagement last November. The wedding is April 29.
“Canada looks forward to welcoming the young couple this summer and providing them with all that our country has to offer — including, of course, the special hospitality and warmth reserved for members of the Royal Family,” Harper said in a statement on Wednesday.
As news of the visit spread online, reaction ranged from “who cares?” to “can’t wait!”
“William & Kate are going to be here for Canada Day. Oh my GAWD. Best news of the week,” wrote one user on Twitter, who tagged her post with the words “royal obsession.”
Royal watchers are already pegging the tour as a major test for the new bride.
British tabloids have reported that aides are aware that she and William will be under the microscope and are planning the trip carefully.
One British news organization reported Thursday that she has agreed to do one event in Canada without William by her side.
The Governor General’s office says the tour will be co-ordinated by Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen. He handled arrangements for the 2009 visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and for the Queen’s tour last year.
A more detailed itinerary will be released by Canadian Heritage in the coming months.
Heritage Minister James Moore said the choice of stops was a joint effort between the royals and the Canadian government.
While taxpayers will pay for the tour, Moore said the money has already been set aside as part of the department’s regular budget for VIP visits.
“We have a responsibility as a government to make sure things are done in a way that is responsible with taxpayers money. Everybody recognizes that,” he said.
“It will be done with existing allocation of funds and require no new taxpayer money.”
Critics of the monarchy suggested it is absurd that taxpayers are on the hook for the visit.
It is one thing to pay for the Queen to come to Canada, as she is the head of state, suggested Tom Freda, national director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic.
But to pay for her children and grandchildren makes no sense, he added.
“They are simply celebrities and nothing more,” he said.
“Canadian taxpayers should no more pay to have this famous couple visit Canada then to pay for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or David and Victoria Beckham.”
William and Kate have suggested they don’t want big bucks spent on their nuptials in an acknowledgment of the dire financial situation in Britain.
Moore said their Canadian tour will also reflect that.
“This will be a respectful visit. Respectful in every context: respectful of a young couple who has just been married, respectful of the heir to the throne, respectful of taxpayers and respectful of audiences who want to have access to show their appreciation and their best wishes for a newly married couple,” he said.
Appreciation for what? asked Freda.
“Basically, the monarchy and members of the Royal Family are just a reminder to Canadians that we haven’t cut that last apron string,” he said.
“I don’t know if that’s something Canadians would want to show appreciation for.”
But they represent the same things that Charles and Diana represented 30 years ago, said Robert Finch, the chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada.
“It’s a sense of renewal, a sense of new energy,” Finch said. “That can only be a positive thing.”
William’s participation in Canada Day festivities will mark the second time in two years that a royal has been part of the celebrations — the Queen was in Ottawa last summer.
“It is my sincere hope that their tour will be the start of a lasting relationship with Canada by the royal couple,” Harper said.
Discussions are underway about what the Canadian government will give the couple as an official gift. They have asked for contributions to charity.