MONTREAL — Prince Harry and his wife Meghan faced a backlash in Britain over their shock announcement to step back from frontline royal duties, but in Canada -- where the couple plans to live part-time -- anticipation is growing.
Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan announced the move after spending several weeks in Canada celebrating Christmas with their son Archie.
Meghan is familiar with the country, the American actress having lived and worked in Toronto for 7 years while filming the television series "Suits."
She also has girlfriends she can lean on in Canada for support.
It is here that she met in 2011 Jessica Mulroney, the wife of Canadian television host and son of a former Canadian prime minister, Ben Mulroney.
The 2 would become close friends, and according to British media, Jessica watched baby Archie while Prince Harry and Meghan returned to England to plan their move.
"The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both," a spokeswoman for the couple said in late December.
"They are enjoying sharing the warmth of the Canadian people and the beauty of the landscape with their young son," born in May 2019, she said.
Canada would be a "safe haven for them," Cape Breton University politics professor David Johnson told AFP.
Here they could expect "less media hounding," he said, compared to Britain or the United States, as they look to dim the spotlight on their daily lives and avoid British tabloid criticisms of Meghan's purported whims and luxurious spending.
HALFWAY HOUSE FOR ROYALS
But since the couple's announcement, Canadian media have been tepid on the idea, focusing largely on who will pay the hefty security costs for hosting Prince Harry and Meghan.
The Canadian government has not yet decided if it will bear these costs, estimated to be Can$1.7 million (US$1.3 million) per year.
The National Post suggested Prince Harry and Meghan should have to apply for Canadian citizenship "like everyone else."
Its columnist Chris Selley said "Megxit" has "activated a sort of dormant monarchism" in some Canadians while having "utterly incensed those who think monarchies are a grotesque anachronism."
The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deny the couple's request to move to Canada, saying this country has "never had a class system with hereditary aristocrats like Britain."
"Canada is not a halfway house for anyone looking to get out of Britain while remaining a royal," the daily said in an editorial.
WARM CANADIAN EMBRACE
Many Canadians, however, have been more receptive. Trudeau said in December: "You're among friends, and always welcome here."
"Canadians know (Meghan) for watching her in 'Suits," Johnson explained. "Her character (in the television series) is very likeable."
According to a poll, a majority of Canadians (61 percent) would support making Prince Harry the country's next governor general, replacing former astronaut Julie Payette when her term expires in two years.
The governor general is Queen Elizabeth II's representative in the former British colony, a member of the Commonwealth.
The favorable poll came despite Harry never having expressed any interest in the post, which has been held by Canadians since the 1950s but was previously held by Britons.
Overall support for the royals is arguably strongest in English-speaking Canada.
"Quebecers would be the least interested and the quickest to say (Canada) should abolish its ties to the British monarchy," said Johnson.
He said "there's no deep affection for the royal family" in the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec, which along with the rest of Canada was ceded by France to Britain in 1763 in a treaty to end the Seven Years' War, but maintained its language and culture.
However, Prince Harry and Meghan residing in Canada would certainly "raise the glamour profile of Canada," according to Johnson.
"They're international celebrities, whether they like it or not," he concluded.
© Agence France-Presse