updated 2 Apr 2011, 04:44
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Thu, Mar 24, 2011
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British royals fascinate Canadians, even francophones

MONTREAL - Royal wedding fever sweeping the Western world is making its way across Canada, including Quebec, despite conflicting emotions among Quebecois over the monarchy's role in the francophone province.

Canadians, whose head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, felt a particular twinge of pride after Prince William and his future bride, Kate Middleton, announced plans to travel to Canada this summer for their first official trip as a married couple.

In Montreal, 25-year-old Alexandra Arbour, a medical student, proudly displays her royal collectibles - coffee mugs bearing the faces of the queen and her husband Prince Philip, and William's parents Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, who married in 1981.

Arbour has pictures of William as a newborn and admits to regularly trawling the Internet for the latest information about the second in line to the British throne, after his father, and his long-term girlfriend, who are set to embark on a new life together under the full glare of a grasping, global media.

But Arbour says her interest in the royal family stems more from a fascination with the power of celebrity, than with the monarchy, per se.

"Living in Quebec, I don't feel like one of Her Majesty's subjects," Arbour told AFP.

"I admire the queen like I would admire a movie star. I think she has a symbolic power and I respect the symbol because it is part of our heritage."

Arbour's attachment with all things royal would unlikely resonate with most Quebecois, many of whom still chafe at their French ancestors' losses against British troops on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in the 18th century.

A fringe nationalist group called the Reseau de Resistance du Quebecois announced on its website that it intends to openly protest William and Kate's nine-day visit to Canada at the end of June.

The royal couple is expected to visit Quebec, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and the Ottawa region.

But the RRQ website has called on militants to mobilize their forces under the credo: "William, Get Out."

In 2009, Prince Charles's visit to Montreal was marred by anti-monarchy protests by a group of 100 Quebec nationalists whose members included the RRQ.

In 2010, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip skipped Quebec when they visited Canada.

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