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William, Kate visit will boost royalty in Canada

Decades have passed since Canadians abandoned the Union Jack and replaced "God Save the Queen" with "O Canada," but the royalty-lovers among them are in for a thrill when Britain's newest royal couple arrive Thursday on their first official overseas trip.

Meanwhile, those who leaf through the government's updated guide to good citizenship will notice that the oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II has been moved from the back of the pamphlet to the front.

Royalty seems to be making a comeback of sorts in Canada.

Part of it is simply the afterglow of the sumptuous April wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. But something more is afoot than mere stargazing: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the most pro-monarchy Canadian leader since the 1950s, and his ambition is to foster a national identity that is more conservative and more aware of its historical roots.

"He thinks that emphasizing Canada's monarchical traditions is key to refashioning Canadians' self-image," said Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto.

Ordinarily, most Canadians are indifferent to the monarchy, even though Queen Elizabeth II, 85, is their titular head of state, is portrayed on their coins and stamps, and has visited them 22 times as head of state. But a royal visit usually brings out the crowds, and Heritage Minister James Moore reckons this one will be the most-watched in Canada's history.

The monarchy is "part of our fabric, part of our future and it's one of the central institutions to our identity as Canadians," Moore said.

Many in the French-speaking province of Quebec disagree. Small groups have taken to the streets on past royal visits to show their displeasure.

Overall, the anti-royal movement in Canada is minuscule, meaning that William, 29, will almost certainly be king of Canada one day. One reason is that abolishing the monarchy would mean changing Canada's constitution. That's an inherently risky undertaking, given how delicately it is engineered to unite a nation of 34 million that embraces English-speakers, French-speakers, indigenous tribes and new immigrants.

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