Prince Charles and Camilla tour Canada with many subjects dubious about future king

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

The ruddy-cheeked, bemedalled balding man who reminisced about his days training to be a helicopter pilot at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick on Monday could have been any aging veteran.

But he was Canada's future king about whom his subjects are decidedly ambivalent.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are on a four-day visit to Canada for the Diamond Jubilee of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Charles will be using the tour to recognize the work of Canadians in service to their communities and abroad, highlighting the theme of the jubilee, according to the Prince of Wales website.

Royal couple's itinerary for Canadian tour

Charles has been heir to the throne longer than any other in British history.

A recent Angus Reid poll suggests many in Britain and the Commonwealth would rather he step aside in favour of his more glamourous, charismatic son William and his wife Catherine. Only 17 per cent of Canadians polled want him to take the crown.

William and Catherine were treated like rock stars, accompanied by a battalion of journalists, when they toured Canada last year. Charles, 63, and his second wife, the fulcrum of the breakup of his marriage to the beloved Princess Diana, are getting a fraction of the coverage.

Prince Charles was trending on Twitter but Denise McMasters spoke for many with "I kinda wish it was Will and Kate again."

There's also been some kvetching over the million-dollar price tag of the trip.

"I'm a grudge-monger, I'll admit it," Ottawa blogger Rose Simpson wrote. "As a Canadian taxpayer, I do not want my government to spend a single dime on Camilla, not after the whole tampon thing [referring to the infamous leaked phone conversations between Charles and Camilla during the doomed marriage to Diana]."

"I mean, really? How can we forget that she was the Queen of Tarts."

The group Citizens for a Canadian Republic has taken the visit as an opportunity to distinguish between the popularity of William and Catherine and the relevance of the monarchy to Canadians. According to its press release, only 33 per cent of Canadians want the country to remain a monarchy.

The Toronto Star noted crowds were modest the last time Prince Charles and Camilla showed up in Toronto in 2009, something royal watcher Victoria Arbiter said must have been disheartening to the royal couple.

"You can't help but get out of the car and see that maybe three little old ladies have come and stood near the barricades," she told the Star.

Prince Charles to ride public transit in Toronto

The prince has earned a lot of respect for his charitable work, the Star noted, and he's tried hard to shake some of the stiffness he exhibits outside tightly scripted events. Witness his recent gig as a funny BBC weather forecaster.

"He's really trying to do well, and do right, and unfortunately he's always being eclipsed by somebody," Arbiter said.

Photos: Prince Charles, Camilla arrive in Canada