Prince William and Kate heckled by protesters in Quebec

Anti-monarchist separatist movement tells 'parasite' duke and duchess to go home

Visite royale au Québec - juillet 2011 - William et Catherine

Prince William and the royal party could have been forgiven for not noticing, but there was a part of Quebec that had no intention of welcoming him and his wife, except with whistles, saucepan lids, vuvuzelas and, incongruously, bagpipes.
The prince – a rare British royal venturing into the heart of francophone, would-be separatist Quebec – received a formal welcome and inspection parade outside the city hall by the bearskin-helmeted members of the locally recruited 22nd regiment, known as "Les Van Doos". The mayor's words of welcome were warm, and even the regimental goat, Baptiste, looked benignly upon him.
So far, all in a day's work. But a few streets away, around 300 demonstrators had a different message. Mostly young, T-shirt clad and some facially studded, but with a scattering of older folk, they had gathered outside an Irish pub to bellow, toot and whistle the message that the monarchy should get out of Canada.
Blue and white fleur-de-lys Quebec flags were waved, as was the green, white and red standard of the failed insurrection of 1837. Their handmade banners told the story: "Parasite go home" said one, "And don't come back" added another. "Pay for your trip" said a third. "William dégage" was the message. Even more bluntly and in English: "Kate go UK yourself". And one for students of Britain's victory over France in the seven years war: "We are still waiting for your excuses for 1755."
Their cries scarcely wafted up the hill to the prince in city hall – a double line of gendarmes prevented the demonstrators from getting any closer – but they lacked nothing in passion. The arrival of a busload of reinforcements from Montreal was greeted with passionate fraternal cheers.
It may be rather doubtful, however, if those storming the Bastille in 1789 handed out leaflets urging: "No violence will be tolerated in the ranks, nor towards the admirers of royalty, nor the police or other demonstrators … gardez votre calme."
"We have no bad feelings about the British empire," explained Julien Gaudreau, 23-year-old spokesman for the Quebec Resistance Movement. "We want to change the constitution here, not because of what happened in the past, but what will happen in the future. We have hired a plane to fly overhead with a banner for free Quebec, but we don't know whether it is going to be able to take off with the weather around.
"We think the monarchy should be abolished in Quebec. It may not be a good time for independence, but we are all right with that. We are young and we are going to be about for a long time. Independence is not going to go away."
Polls indicate that a majority of francophone residents support the idea of independence, but don't see its practicality, and the separatist Bloc Québécois was thrashed in May's federal election, losing all but four of its 47 seats.
Up the hill, the prince was trying out his schoolboy French – "C'est un honneur pour nous d'être parmi vous … merci votre patience avec mon accent" – and was cheered for doing so. Overhead, the plane and its banner finally made an appearance – a $1,000 gesture it looked as though the demonstrators could ill afford.
There was also a demonstration at the couple's earlier engagement in Montreal on Saturday evening when a group of young protesters with placards gathered outside the Sainte-Justine university hospital next to a larger crowd of wellwishers.
This was a minor quirk in a day of engagements: a tree-planting and meeting with war veterans in Ottawa, the hospital tour to visit sick children and premature babies, and to conclude a cookery lesson at a training college for chefs in Montreal.
The latter is the sort of thing the royals have to endure on tours: a strangely artificial demonstration of ordinariness at which they are either supposed to show surprising aptitude or – all the better for the media – hopeless ineptitude. There, the prince was shown how to prepare a lobster souffle and Kate was given instruction in the not-too-difficult creation of an amuse-bouche of foie gras on a toasted brioche.
Theresa Rindress, the student asked to show the duchess how to do it, confided afterwards: "She was fantastic. She was very competent with the knife. I asked her if she liked to cook at home and she said she likes to cook but does not do fancy things. She more makes big batches, throws a few ingredients together, trying new things. That's how chefs experiment."
Last night the royals were heading back to anglophone Canada – to Prince Edward Island, land of one of the duchess's favourite books, Anne of Green Gables – and the prince's spokesman could afford to be condescending towards the demonstrators: "The couple are taking it in their stride. They are getting a very warm welcome. They consider [the demonstrations] as all part of the rich fabric of Canada."

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