Five days without polo? Unimaginable.
Prince Charles will, indeed, get his game when he and Princess Diana visit the United States next month, thanks to the Polo and Country Club of West Palm Beach, Fla. According to the official schedule released by the British Embassy yesterday, he'll also spend some time at the Library of Congress and lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans' Day. The princess will visit a nursing home in Washington and Straight, an adolescent drug rehabilitation center in Springfield, and they'll both attend a tree-planting at the British Embassy.
Details of the Nov. 9-13 visit have been trickling out over the past few weeks -- a small White House dinner, a lunch with Paul Mellon in Upperville, Va. -- but Royal-obsessives were forced to speculate about much of the visit until now.
"It does wondrous things for the residents," said Jared Falek, executive director of the private, nonprofit Washington Home and Hospice, where Diana and Barbara Bush will go on Saturday, Nov. 9. "We even have one Home resident who was born in Great Britain and is very excited about the visit."
But while everyone receiving royal visits may be "very excited," the hosts tend to speak solemnly, saying no, no special preparations are being made, as if anything less subdued would somehow be undignified.
"I think they're fairly used to it, especially being from Washington," said Straight's regional director, Mel Riddile, of patient reaction to Diana and Nancy Reagan's upcoming visit. "Finland has been here and done some filming and Colombia, and Spain has been here. I think we've had every network.
"I don't think it's going to have the same kind of effect it would have for a program in another city," he said, and then rushed to say, "although it will have an effect!"
But at least one person involved in hosting the prince managed to retain a touch of irreverence.
"It's very hard to put one of these things together," said the person-who-shall-remain-nameless. "We're surviving by doing things like buying the royal family pop-up book. He [Prince Charles] has handlers. He can't go to the bathroom without someone along. There's so much protocol with something like this, it means the poor guy can't have a real experience."
Real or not, the experiences for "TRH," as they are referred to in the British Embassy's press release (Their Royal Highnesses, for the uninitiated), will be varied. On Saturday, Charles is scheduled to attend what is being billed as an "informal discussion" of urban revitalization at the American Institute of Architects with a small group of architects, urban designers and community leaders from Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore. Monday, he's off to the Library of Congress for a look at documents relating to the writing of the Constitution.
To end the visit on the right note, there's the Tuesday afternoon polo match in Palm Beach, where Diana will present the trophy. The event will be open to the public, with tickets ranging from $4 to $20.
"I would think there will be a lot of people here," said Patricia Fulk, the Polo Club's director of public relations, with the appropriate degree of understatement. "It's reserved seats, like Bruce Springsteen was reserved seats so you knew you'd have a seat."
Several hours later -- after the royal shower -- it's a dinner for Armand Hammer with the board of the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, one of six United World college-preparatory schools around the world described as being dedicated to promoting international understanding and peace through education. Charles is the international president of the colleges.
And then, after a night spent at the Polo Club, the royals will be on their way back to that sceptered isle, where the natives are used to this sort of thing.