It's spring! So someone from the royal family must certainly be off to some "hardship" spot somewhere. And sure enough, Prince Charles and Princess Diana are roughing it on a 17-day tour of Italy. The Samsonite couple, sans Chubby Cheeks and Little Hank, visited the La Scala opera house in Milan and walked the streets, stopping to shake hands with the common folk.

They also visited an Italian navy frigate, and when Prince Charles, resplendent in one of his many military uniforms, was invited to inspect the top-secret control room, Princess Diana insisted on being included. The Italian Defense Minister, Giovanni Spaldolini, was shocked by her behavior, something he obviously doesn't see at home, but granted the request. "We made an exception for her. We would not have done it for anyone else. There's a trace of England's first Queen Elizabeth in her," he said. Next hardship spot is Florence. At least there are no top-secret frigates sailing the Arno . . .

There is now another Nazi link to the royal family. The Sunday Times and The Mail reported that Prince Christoph of Hesse, brother-in-law of the queen's husband Prince Philip, was a brigadier general in the SS and an aide to Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler. Killed in an air crash in 1943, Christoph had married Princess Sophie of Greece, Prince Philip's sister. There is still considerable controversy about last week's disclosure that the father of Princess Michael of Kent, wife of Queen Elizabeth's cousin, was a member of the SS and the Nazi party.

The queen, who celebrated her 59th birthday yesterday at the Badminton Horse Trials, made a public show of her support for Princess Michael by inviting the princess and her husband into the royal box.