Royal To-Do at The White House Is Crowning Touch

Camilla Parker Bowles with Laura Bush
The Duchess of Cornwall and Laura Bush before dinner at the White House. (Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)
By Peter Carlson and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 3, 2005

When the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall drop by for a visit, you want to bring out the fancy china, rustle up some good grub and invite some of your most respectable friends -- you know, the ones who know which forks to use and that kind of thing.

And if you have any sense, you'll also invite your mom because if you don't you may never hear the end of it.

And that's exactly what President Bush did yesterday. He had the prince and his new wife, Camilla, over to the White House for lunch and that worked out so well that he had them come back for dinner, too.

Lunch was just a quiet little family affair -- the prez and the prince and their wives, plus the president's brother Marvin, his sister Doro and their spouses. But for dinner, Bush invited a whole slew of folks, including Nancy Reagan, Merv Griffin, Tom Brokaw, Tom Watson and Oscar de la Renta. Plus actor Kelsey Grammer, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell and Red Steagall, who's the poet laureate of Texas.

The poet laureate of Texas? How did he get in with this crowd?

"I got an invitation in the mail," he said.

This being Washington, there were also a lot of political types -- John Roberts and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and Bill Frist and Joe Lieberman and Condi Rice, who was escorted by ex-boyfriend Gene Washington, the former football star who is the NFL director of football operations (which is probably a far more important job than the NFL director of baseball operations).

The guest list also included two fun couples: First Daughter Jenna Bush with boyfriend Henry Hager and Second Daughter Mary Cheney with girlfriend Heather Poe. Hager, the 27-year-old son of former Virginia lieutenant governor John Hager, has been dating Jenna for more than a year, but this was the first big red-carpet night for the couple. Looks like Laura Bush was wrong earlier this year when she said Hager was not a "serious boyfriend." Poe sat in the Cheney family box at the Republican National Convention last year, but this was the couple's first major White House social event together.

As always, the names that did not appear on the guest list were at least as interesting as those that did -- no Scooter Libby, no Tom DeLay, no Karl Rove, no Harriet Miers. In other words, none of the folks who made last month so much fun made the cut.

Most of the invited had never met the prince. "But I live with a princess -- actually, two of them," said Lieberman.

A team of stylists has accompanied the duchess on this trip to present her in the best possible light. Last night she selected a black cashmere jacket embroidered with jet and a midnight silk taffeta skirt by Robinson Valentine, the British design team that created her wedding dress in April. It was perhaps not the most flattering choice, unless she was going for fabulous in a Barbara Bush kind of way. She accessorized the ensemble with a diamond serpent necklace. Laura Bush was more successful with a de la Renta gown in rust silk with taffeta flowers accented with amber beads. Rice outdazzled them in the red gown de la Renta created for her 50th birthday last year.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence but the president and the prince wore pretty much the same outfit -- black tuxedos with white shirts. And why not? They have a lot in common. The prince is a man who owes his exalted position in life entirely to the lucky accident of being born into a rich and powerful family. The president is a man who owes his exalted position in life . . . um . . . ah . . . partially to the lucky accident of being born into a rich and powerful family.

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