"It will improve as we go on," the newlywed prince joked of his French, and noted how much he and Kate wanted to learn about the country that's providing them their first royal tour.
"Catherine and I are so delighted to be here in Canada. Instilled in us by our parents and grandparents, who love this country, we have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time – and before we were married, we had a longing to come here together," he said.
"The geography of Canada is unsurpassed and is famous for being matched only by the hospitality of its people. We are so very excited about having this opportunity to experience both – and learn much more about this amazing country."
William, 29, was speaking at the official welcome event at the residence of the governor general of Canada, Ottawa's Rideau Hall.
Minutes earlier, the couple had received a reception from a crowd several thousand-strong near to the national war memorial where they had laid a wreath. People stretched forward, handing Kate bouquets and gifts.
The crowd shouted for both members of the royal couple, but seemed to favor one, with shouts of "We want Kate!"
"Thank you so much. We are so delighted to be here," she said. Occasionally she looked over to her husband on the other side of the crowd to make sure she was moving at an appropriate pace.
Jennifer Baldwin, 19, drove for 21 hours from her home in Bloomington, Ill., and stood out on the street starting at 5:30 a.m. for a glimpse of the couple.
"I talked to William and congratulated him on the wedding and he said 'thank you very much', he's so polite!" she told reporters. "It was completely worth the journey just for that five seconds. I mean, I shook his hand!"
At the war memorial, the William laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior that remembers more than 116,000 Canadians, especially those without graves.
Blair Gable / Reuters / Landov
Kate placed a small posey at the memorial and warmly greeted the woman who had handed it to her, Mabel Girouard, whose son Bobby was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2006.
As she waited for her husband to finish his walkabout, Kate chatted with the Prime Minister and his wife saying, "That was so amazing, there were so many people there … How many do you think? We have been on the go since 7:30 this morning so it's been a long day."
As the couple got into their official car, Kate was seen leaning on William's shoulder and grinning broadly.