TORONTO - It's going to be one of the most closely watched baby bumps in the world, and it's of particular significance to Canada.
As news of a royal pregnancy was announced by St. James Palace in England on Monday, Canadians in particular were quick to offer their congratulations to Prince William and his wife, Kate.
Both the prime minister and the Governor General conveyed their good wishes on Canada's behalf, while many Canucks took to the Internet to express their individual delight at the news.
"I love the royals, so it was pretty exciting," said Toronto resident Alanna Glicksman, who has followed news of the royal couple since they dated in university and tweeted a photograph of William as a baby soon after the pregnancy was announced.
"Their whole story was really nice to watch it play out. It's not so much of a monarchy thing, it's just how they are. They seem so relatable as people."
The 25-year-old Toronto resident said being a Canadian, however, enhanced her interest in the royal couple to an extent.
"It's nice to feel like you're part of it," she said. "As Canadians it's nice to feel like we still have our ties to the monarchy."
Indeed, some observers suggest news of a royal baby is particularly significant for Canadians since the child — regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl — will be in line to become Canada's head of state one day.
The leaders of Britain and the 15 former colonies that have the monarch as their head of state agreed in 2011 to new rules which give females equal status with males in the order of succession. Although none of the countries have officially legislated the change yet, the British Cabinet Office has confirmed it as a de-facto rule.
"Royal births in the past have often been an impetus for various kinds of reform...This event is very significant in terms of symbolizing the monarchy's future," said Carolyn Harris, a royal historian based in Toronto.
"There's going to be huge interest on how they will raise their child."
Self-identified Canadian monarchists agree, saying the buzz around the royal pregnancy will serve to highlight Canada's connection to the Crown.
"The thing about the Royal Family is that it's an incredible institution in that it brings a personal union of 16 different countries under one Crown," said Eugene Berezovsky, a spokesman for the Monarchists League of Canada.
"People are interested in continuing this tradition both for its historical and constitutional relevance, but also because it is a beautiful story reflective of so many of our traditions and hopes for the future."
Regardless, however, of how individual Canadians feel about their country's connection to the monarchy, most appear united in their warm views of the royal couple, said Berezovsky.
"Canadians are definitely paying attention. Even those who might not be interested in the monarchy are certainly happy for Will and Kate and their future," he said.
Amid all the well wishes from Canadians on Monday, however, there were some who took to Twitter to question the hype and what the announcement meant for Canada.
"I couldn't care less that Kate's pregnant. The monarchy is a waste of Canada's money," tweeted one woman. "We live in Canada. Most of us don't care about the British Royal Family," posted another.
Meanwhile, a group which has long pushed for Canada to cut its constitutional ties to the monarchy congratulated the royal couple but also repeated its call for change.
"We wish them luck and I'm sure, like all Canadians, we're happy for them. But we don't believe it should have any constitutional relevance to Canada," said Tom Freda, national director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic.
"Removing our constitutional link from them will have no bearing on whether we're following their pregnancy or marriage...they're celebrities and that's not good enough reason to be next in line to be Canada's head of state."
Freda added that the sharp spotlight on the lives of William and Kate has, however, served to re-engage Canadians in a discussion over the country's links to the monarchy.
"It's a wonderful thing that Canadians now find this an interesting subject," he said, adding that his group would like to see Canada cut its ties to the monarchy after the Queen's reign ends.
"Canadians are gradually beginning to understand that there's a difference between the cultural, historical and I guess entertainment value of the royals."
St. James's Palace announced the pregnancy Monday, saying the Duchess of Cambridge was in hospital being treated for a severe form of morning sickness. It added that she was expected to remain hospitalized for several days and would require a period of rest afterward.
There has been no announcement of when the child is due and the palace has only said that the 30-year-old Kate has not yet reached the 12-week mark in her pregnancy.
Many expect Prince William and Kate will talk about the pregnancy themselves in the near future.
The palace said the Royal Family was "delighted" by the news.
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