Charles and Camilla – The U.S. Tour
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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s long-awaited U.S. tour, like the wedding, was a big disappointment in my book.

Despite being regularly criticized in England for the cost of his official travel ($2 million last year), Charles chartered a private aircraft at a cost of $370,00 to cart himself, Camilla and their 16-member entourage around. The entourage included a butler, valet (there’s a difference?), dresser, hairdresser/colorist, makeup artist, private secretaries and a doctor. The dresser helps Camilla choose which outfit to wear, wrinkle-free, of course. The hairdresser/colorist and makeup artist are dedicated entirely to Camilla’s appearance. They are on call 24 hours a day to make sure the duchess looks her best. They also brought a 50-dress wardrobe for Camilla. Let’s see—eight days, 50 dresses, that would be…um…fifty divided by eight…6.25 dresses per day. The reason for all the dresses was to give Camilla a choice of outfits depending on her mood before various events. You know how it is.

Anyway, on November 1, 2005, the Prince of Wales and his “darling wife,” the Duchess of Cornwall, flew in a private jet across the pond. The first stop was New York City, where the prince and the duchess visited Ground Zero and unveiled a dedication stone at The British Memorial Garden at nearby Hanover Square. This garden is still under construction but in honor of the prince’s visit, a fake garden was created. I imagine this was done so the prince could get an idea of what the garden will look like completed. I think this was kind of tacky; a display of a model of the garden would have sufficed. Instead, the grass was fake, the stone bench was actually made of wood, and vinyl potted ivy abounded. The topiaries were real, but the black plastic buckets they were in were barely concealed beneath wood chips, and in the background was a 20-foot poster of a hedge. The only other thing that was real was a big pile of dog poop, courtesy of Bonan the bomb-sniffing dog, but someone picked it up before their royal highnesses got there. Thank goodness. We can’t have them stepping in poo.

Camilla wore a rose-colored Italian wool crepe jacket and dress with velvet chiffon trim to the dedication. No hat, much to my dismay. I was so looking forward to a hat. However, like her mother-in-law the Queen’s ever-present handbag, Camilla carried a clutch purse. At the unveiling of the dedication stone at the memorial garden, Camilla awkwardly had one hand tugging on the green drape while the other held the clutch purse. I just don’t understand why she needed a purse. Maybe it held her souvenir money.

That night the couple attended a champagne gala at the Museum of Modern Art where 300 of New York’s finest and richest turned out. Well, what did you expect? Charles and Camilla whooping it up with the dregs of New York society? Bah. Camilla wore a blue velvet dress (again with the velvet) and — gasp — no hat. By now she must have been going through withdrawal in a hatless society. She carried a Union Jack clutch purse and waved it around saying, “I’m flying the flag.” The New York Times said Camilla’s blonde hair was stiffly coiffed with bangs worn so long over her eyes that she had to look sideways to see who was talking to her. (Now I understand. If she wore a hat with her hair in her eyes, she'd be walking into walls.)

According to Bob Colacello of Vanity Fair magazine, when Charles and Camilla showed up at the museum, the guests were jockeying for position to rub elbows with them. Yoko Ono nearly knocked over news correspondents Paula Zahn and Claudia Cowan in her efforts to have a chat with Charles. Yoko, in a huge black lace hat (didn’t she get the memo?--no hats), cornered the duchess at the museum and talked her ear off. Even after receiving a smile and a nod from Her Royal Highness, a clear indication of dismissal, Yoko kept prattling on. Honestly, some people.

Next stop was a visit to Washington D.C., where Charles and Camilla had a “light” lunch with President and Mrs. Bush. The lunch consisted of watercress soup with applewood smoked bacon, lemon sole with herbed crust, chicory, petite asparagus and black cherry tomatoes and salad with a champagne dressing, lady apple sorbet, brandy snap basket and spiced autumn fruit basket. The wine was Peter L’Apres Midi 2004.

The President and Mrs. Bush gave a state dinner for the couple that same evening. (I don’t think the president was too thrilled with this — he likes to go to bed early, and he’s not much of a partier. He's a busy guy.) Unlike Diana’s visit 20 years ago when she danced with John Travolta, the guest list was comprised mainly of politicians as opposed to celebrities. The dinner was said to be celery root and shrimp soup, buffalo tenderloin and autumn vegetables, blood orange salad, Vermont Camembert and spiced walnuts. No word on the wine.

Hold on a second here — two meals at the White House? On the same day? What is this? Isn’t there anywhere else to eat in the D.C. area? There were better eats in Washington than at the Prince and Duchess’s “lavish” royal wedding last spring. This is an outrage! Did we pay for this?!? In between meals, Charles and Camilla planted a tree at a school for underprivileged children to commemorate their visit.

The following day they attended seminars in the D.C. area — she on osteoporosis, he on “Faith and Social Responsibility.” Hmm. They also visited the Second World War Memorial and participated in a children’s workshop at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

(Yawn. Excuse me.)

Then it was on to New Orleans to gawk at the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. According to the BBC, in anticipation of his visit to New Orleans, Prince Charles said, “We will have the opportunity to meet some of the brave and resilient people trying to rebuild their lives and to pay tribute to the astounding efforts of emergency workers.” When he got there, Charles told the relief workers to “keep up the good work” and donated $25,000 from an architecture prize he received in Washington to help the reconstruction efforts in Mississippi.

Also during the New Orleans visit, the royal couple climbed up and down a levee, and Camilla wore a skirt and jacket with high heels. Come on now, Camilla, you don’t ride your horse or muck out the stalls in high heels, do you? Diana didn’t run around the land mines in high heels, did she? Camilla also carried around a shopping bag of Mardi Gras decorations given to her by a New Orleans resident. The shopping bag looked spectacular in the pics, upstaging the standard clutch purse.

The final leg of the journey was a visit to San Francisco, where organic food was the theme and Camilla essentially ate her way from one end of an organic food market to the other. She helped herself to an apple from a vendor’s stall (without offering to pay), took two big bites out of it and handed the remains to her protection officer. What do you suppose he did with it? Put it in his pocket? Maybe he carries Baggies and Wet Ones for just such an occasion. Hey, that Mardi Gras shopping bag from New Orleans could have come in handy here. Camilla also had some green beans, butternut squash soup, organic cheese and honey ginger smoked wild salmon. She tried to chow on a persimmon, but the stall owner stopped her. Apparently, the fruit was unripe, so Camilla had to make do with swishing organic wine around her mouth. (I bet she swallowed. What else could she do? Spit the wine in the protection offer's pocket?) She also sampled some brownies and dabbed some rose moisturizer on her nose. Every little bit helps, I suppose. A couple of goats tried to eat her bouquet.

By the way, maybe some of you don't know that Prince Charles is a purveyor of organic food grown in his own gardens. Oxfam America’s Simon Billennesss said, “Prince Charles is like the Paul Newman of England.” That’s a heck of an endorsement. Can you see Charles' puss on a bottle of salad dressing?

Camilla did get to wear a hat in California, much to my relief. It was a black-and-white number with some sort of spiral thing sticking out of it that looked like it could poke an eye out.

The U.S. visit ended on November 8 with a tour of a hotel for the homeless in a seedy neighborhood of San Francisco where one of the workers addressed the prince as “Your Honor.” Hey, better some respect than none at all.

I found it interesting throughout the tour that Prince Charles walks four steps in front of Camilla — a royal protocol dictating that all attention must focus on the senior royal. Is there someone in attendance who counts the steps? “Oooh, no, no, Camilla dear, you’re only three steps behind the prince. Back up now, Honey. There’s a girl.” (And what? It’s all right to shack up for 30 years while married to others, but marry each other, and she has to walk four steps behind him? Yeah, okay. That would never fly in the U.S.)

The cost to the Brits for their Royal Highnesses’ U.S. jaunt--£250,000, totally justifiable because according to Charles’ PR guy, “The prince and duchess are traveling at the request of the Foreign Office to support British interests in America and to recognize the close relations between the two nations.” Okay. We all know the purpose of the trip was to promote transatlantic ties--and to test public sentiment toward Camilla. A senior courtier (who are these people--and what makes them senior?) said the object of the tour was “to make Camilla’s first tour a PR success and nothing else really matters.” An editorial in the Los Angeles Times summed up public sentiment about Camilla, saying the main question was not whether America would “accept this woman” but rather “who cares?” Who indeed?

By all accounts the couple was gracious, but it appears they didn’t rock the world of the American public. The AFP described the tour as “lacklustre” due to its failure to generate much enthusiasm. Well, you know, there are other things that require our attention at the moment.

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