Prince Charles, his wife, and a wardrobe full of dresses jet off to the United States Tuesday on a tour designed to celebrate trans-Atlantic ties, promote Charles' environmentalist causes, and test reaction to his new bride in a nation still smitten with the late Princess Diana. "This is Diana country," said Lisa Stewart, a member of a small Di-hard band of devotees called the Diana Circle U.S. "We love Diana still."
The 56-year-old heir to the throne and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will visit New York, Washington, New Orleans and San Francisco during the Nov. 1-8 tour, their first official overseas jaunt since marrying in April.
The royal couple will unveil a memorial to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in Manhattan, dine at the White House with U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and meet aid workers and residents on a flying visit to hurricane-hit New Orleans. Visits to farms, markets, schools and museums will give Charles a chance to highlight issues close to his heart, organic food production, the environment, education and classical architecture.
Aides hope the prince's first official tour of the U.S. since 1994 won't be eclipsed by memories of a visit in 1985, when a radiant Diana danced with John Travolta at a White House dinner, and the beautiful young princess captivated many Americans.
"For a long time the (British) media has regarded the States as Diana territory," said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. "But there's nothing to suggest Camilla won't get a warm welcome."
But in Washington, Stewart and other Diana supporters plan to protest the visit.
"They're not welcome here," said Stewart, 35, a full-time parent from Tampa, Florida. "To look at the both of them is to remember what they did to Diana."
The prince's office says the trip is intended to recognize "the importance of the relationship between the two countries and their common bonds and shared traditions."
It is also part of a careful palace plan to win acceptance for the duchess, long reviled in the British press, and among Diana-philes, as the woman who broke up the royal romance. "There were three of us in that marriage," Diana told a television reporter in 1995.
Charles and Diana divorced in 1996; Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris the following year, the AP reminds.
Since then, a careful series of joint milestones has helped soften public attitudes toward the prince and Camilla, whose relationship began more than 30 years ago, before either was married.
The couple's first public appearance together was in 1999; the first public kiss in 2001. In April they married in a civil ceremony near Windsor Castle. A poll at the time suggested almost two-thirds of Britons supported the marriage, although most still balked at the idea of Queen Camilla.