William and Kate's Excellent North American Adventure

07/13/2011 at 08:00 AM EDT

Prince William, Kate Middleton's North American Trip
Duchess Catherine
Yes, they are the future king and queen of England, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are also newlyweds – a fact that was on full view during the 11-day royal tour that took them from Canada to Los Angeles.

"They seem very close, very connected," Steve Tisch, who hosted a benefit for the Duke's TUSK wildlife charity in L.A. on July 10, tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "It was beautiful."

Also on display during the couple's trip: their determination to chart a new, contemporary course – no curtsies, please! – for the royal family. From PDA to playful ribbing, "they were warm and nurturing," says Cynthia Harnisch, president and CEO of Inner-City Arts, where the Duke and Duchess, both 29, visited on July 10.

Despite the couple's warmth, they still managed to intimidate a room full of Hollywood's heaviest hitters – including Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez – at a BAFTA gala for the British film industry on July 9.

Says Owain Yeoman, who stars on the CBS drama The Mentalist and was among the "Brits to Watch" honored at the event: "It was the first time I've seen major stars becoming like little school kids, going, 'Um, when would it be a good time to say hello?' "

For much more on the royal couple's triumphant tour, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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