William and Kate opt out of Calgary tradition

Associated Press
William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are presented white cowboy hats by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, right, and Alberta Lieutenant Governor Donald S. Ethell upon on their arrival to Calgary, Alberta Thursday, July 7, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Dentte)
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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Prince William and Kate appeared to initially snub their Western Canadian hosts by declining a time-honored Calgary tradition of trying on white cowboy hats presented to them by the city's mayor.

The royal couple, on their first official overseas tour since their April wedding, landed at Calgary's airport on Thursday where they were scheduled to try on the white cowboy hats.

But William and Kate opted out after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, himself sporting a cowboy hat, presented them.

The controversy set the microblogging site Twitter abuzz and was a rare misstep for the young royals, who have charmed Canadians at every stop.

Miguel Head, a spokesman for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, told The Associated Press that the couple was looking forward to wearing the hats land "in no way are they snubbing what is a very honored gift."

Sure enough, hours later the royal couple later donned the white cowboy hats as they arrived in less formal wear on a stagecoach in downtown Calgary. Kate wore jeans and a blouse by Alice Temperley.

Kate, who was having trouble keeping her primrose silk crepe dress by Jenny Packham down in the blustery conditions at the airport, focused her attention on a six-year-old cancer patient who presented her with flowers. The Make-a-Wish Foundation had arranged for the girl to be there.

Nenshi, the mayor, hinted that the cowboy hats would be on the royal heads before long.

"Stay tuned," Nenshi said. "I am thrilled they accepted the gifts with magnanimity. They asked how it should be worn. When you have guests, you don't tell them what to do. I expect you will see some western regalia before they leave."

The custom-made white Smithbilt cowboy hats are Calgary's version of the key to the city. The white-hatting ceremony has been celebrated by dignitaries visiting Calgary for more than 60 years and is a symbol of the city's cowboy culture. Its honorees range from the Dalai Lama to Dr. Phil.

Previous members of the Royal Family to be white-hatted include Prince Philip, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Philip, who received his third cowboy cover in 1969, ruffled some feathers when he quipped about not knowing what to do with another hat other than to carry water or plant flowers in it.

That prompted the city to give Prince Charles a black cowboy hat when he arrived eight years later.

The couple arrived in Calgary after a private break where they spent the night at Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. Head said they spent their time "exploring the local area on foot and enjoying the peace, tranquility and picturesque scenery around the Lodge."

The newlyweds are scheduled to kickoff the world-famous Calgary Stampede, the 10-day exhibition and rodeo that celebrates the western way of life. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will have a full plate as they wrap up their nine-day Canadian visit.

They are scheduled to tour a high-tech laboratory at the University of Calgary before attending a reception with host Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The couple will be given a brief bull-riding demonstration and the prince is to have his picture taken as he throws a stove into the back of a chuckwagon.

On Friday, they are to open the Stampede parade, visit the zoo and meet homeless youth, attend an Alberta government reception and lay a wreath before leaving Canada and heading to Los Angeles.

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Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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