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Behind-the-scenes on the royal tour

By Max Foster, CNN
  • The royal couple have been touring across Canada
  • They will also visit Los Angeles
  • CNN's Max Foster had the chance to meet the newlyweds

Calgary, Canada -- I am not pretending that this is a war zone or an expedition to the outer reaches of civilization.

This is Canada -- probably the most civilized country I have ever had the pleasure to visit, but this royal tour has been intense.

Its not as easy to cover the royals as it looks. Being Royal Correspondent is the only beat I can think of where you report on people you never actually speak to.

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This is how it works: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a small but highly effective team of aides at their side. They are the brains behind this highly complex tour and they also masterminded the royal wedding -- one of the biggest media events in history.

This inner circle has backup in London and in the Canadian government, but it is within this tight group that the decisions are made and plans finalized. Believe me, there's an intricate plan behind everything you see the couple do in public.

How else could they actually carry out an engagement with the amount of people that show up everywhere they go?

The couple's tour team is headed up by private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who is supported by an assistant, an advisor and two press secretaries.

This entourage acts as a buffer between the royal couple and the outside world. They discuss things with the duke and duchess, who then make the decision that gets passed on to us.

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This week I got a rare chance to cut right though this buffer and speak directly to the couple themselves -- first William and then Catherine. We were at a harbor-side restaurant with other selected journalists and treated to fine wine and fresh lobster sandwiches.

Like I say, this isn't a war zone.

What did I make of the meetings? Well I actually changed my view on the couple altogether, and that was the value of the meet-up.

When I see the duke (or "dook" as the Canadians call him) and duchess working the crowds, they are impressive -- more impressive up close, I have to say, than comes across on TV.

They speak directly to individuals. They don't walk up to a group and speak generically to them, they talk to the people within the group one-on-one. When I ask members of the public what it was like to meet to the couple, they are always struck by how intimate the conversation was.

Like me, you may have had the impression that Catherine was more confident in public than William. I have to take my hat off to the way she handled the immense crowds that turned out for her wedding but she's handled the constant round of public engagements here in Canada with similar composure.

"William is entirely comfortable with the media -- in fact, he seemed to enjoy speaking to us. He was funny, witty, open and very friendly.
--Max Foster, CNN royal correspondent

I always thought William sometimes looks uncomfortable in public -- as if he doesn't always want to be there. The tabloid newspapers often suggest he doesn't like the media.

But this is where my impression has changed after having met them.

William is entirely comfortable with the media -- in fact, he seemed to enjoy speaking to us. He was funny, witty, open and very friendly. He wasn't guarded in any way and his team were very happy let the conversation drift in whatever direction it was going in.

I've decided that William takes his role very seriously. He wants the tour to be a success and he is enjoying the progress it is making.

So when I see William in public in the future, and he looks slightly uncomfortable, I will not think he doesn't want to be there. I will think he is just making sure he's doing it right.

My conversation with the duchess was also interesting. She took control a lot more, asking lots of questions. My impression was that she was very interested in what I, and my colleagues, had to say about the tour, even perhaps looking for reassurance that it was going well. She, like William, is entirely approachable and very easy to speak to.

I have a decade on the duke and duchess but I cannot imagine being under the type of scrutiny they are under. On Canada Day they sat through two lengthy shows on Parliament Hill.

There were hundreds of cameras at the event and 99 percent of them were pointing directly at them for the whole event. I felt bad for the performers on the vast stage because they almost became a side show. 300,000 people turned up on the Hill this year -- three times as many as last year.

How do you look natural in front of an audience like that? I wonder if you ever can.

If you want to get to know the real William and Catherine, I think the secret is to watch them speaking to people. That's when, I suspect, you get a true insight into their true characters. That is when they are at their most natural: one-on-one.