After the black-tie glitz of a gala White House dinner, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla took their U.S. tour Thursday to humbler settings that reflect causes close to their hearts, health care, architecture and religious tolerance.
On their second day in the U.S. capital, the prince and the Duchess or Cornwall were due to visit the National Institutes of Health, the National Building Museum and a seminar on religious faith at Georgetown University, before an evening reception hosted by British Ambassador Sir David Manning.
The engagements had personal significance for the royal couple. At the National Institutes of Health, they were due to attend a seminar on osteoporosis. The duchess' mother and grandmother both suffered from the bone disease, and she is patron of Britain's National Osteoporosis Society. At the building museum Charles was accepting an award for his contribution to architectural understanding, a chance, perhaps, to share his views about the importance of classical architecture and the baleful effect of modernism.
And the university seminar on faith and social responsibility could give the heir to the throne a chance to gently chide the U.S. government about its fraught relationship with the Islamic world. Three days into a weeklong trip, the couple's first overseas tour since marrying in April, Charles and Camilla have already dined with President George W. Bush at the White House, hobnobbed with Sting and Yoko Ono at a New York reception and met students at an inner-city boarding school.
Dutiful Charles at times appears not to enjoy the accompanying media glare. Asked Wednesday at the White House how the trip was going so far, he replied dryly: "I'm still here. I'm alive."
Camilla, eager to win over the many Americans who have fond memories of the late Princess Diana, was decidedly more enthusiastic. Greeted by Bush and his wife, Laura as the couple arrived at the White House, the all-smiles duchess could be heard declaring that something Mrs. Bush said was "fabulous."
Wednesday was a day for high-powered hobnobbing, as the couple mingled with luminaries from the worlds of politics, history, diplomacy and sports at a White House dinner, a rare honor from Bush, who is known to prefer an early night.
The royal couple, the Bushes and about 130 guests dined on celery broth with rock shrimp, medallions of buffalo tenderloin, roasted corn and wild rice pancakes in the White House's State Dining Room.
Dinner was followed by music from cellist Yo Yo Ma and dancing, sure to evoke memories of Princess Diana's spin around the dancefloor at a similar dinner in 1985.
It was Charles and Camilla's second meal of the day at the White House. Earlier, they lunched on lemon sole alongside about a dozen guests in the building's Family Dining Room.
Interest in the royal visit has been muted in Washington, which has been preoccupied with scandals involving top White House and congressional figures, battles over a Supreme Court vacancy and the rising death toll in Iraq.
There were no military bands, no pomp and ceremony, as the couple were welcomed to the White House, just smiles and handshakes in the driveway.
Also Wednesday, Charles and Camilla visited an innovative public boarding school where they were met by students holding hand-painted banner proclaiming enthusiastically - but inaccurately, "Welcome Prince Charles and the Duchess of Wales." Camilla is the Duchess of Cornwall, reports the AP. I.L.
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