An article in the Nov. 3 Style section incorrectly described the British queen's ceremonial guards as Beefeaters. They are known as the Household Troops and guard Buckingham Palace. (Published 11/4/2005)
So first there was lunch at the White House (lemon sole, petite asparagus, golden pea tendrils). Then later there was dinner at the White House (celery-and-shrimp soup, buffalo medallions, Chartreuse ice cream). And in between there was that obligatory adventurous outing for very, very important people who visit official Washington: a trip to see the common folks.
For Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla, that meant sojourning yesterday to Southeast Washington, accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, to the School for Educational Evolution and Development, a charter school that is home to 320 public school students. There was the usual diverse array of suspects on hand for the event: Mayor Anthony Williams, D.C. Council members Linda Cropp, Carol Schwartz and Marion Barry (who seems to recall he met Prince Charles once before, in the '80s, but was rather fuzzy on the details), and Eleanor Herman in a vintage hat, replete with fur and a feather, who has written a book titled "Sex With Kings."
Rolling up in a motorcade in the early afternoon, the royal couple received a much more enthusiastic greeting from the gaggle of students lining the school's front driveway than they had earlier in the day at the White House, where perhaps a dozen gawkers were on hand -- the regular mix of school kids and foreign tourists looking for something to photograph. Only two people waved at the arriving royals.
"I think I'm the only one here for Camilla and Charles," said Linda Hartwick, a stout Scottish lady holding a sign on the sidewalk. And she wasn't there to swoon, but to protest. "I'm their little pain in the butt," said Hartwick.
Her placard said, "Queen Elizabeth, Camilla Is Not Welcome in the USA." In the other hand she clutched a framed poster of the princess she adores -- the late, lovely Diana, clad in a cream-colored gown and tiara. Hartwick had staked out her spot at 7 a.m. to send an anti-Camilla message.
"I think Charles has nerve bringing her over here," said Hartwick, 46, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in Upstate New York and also protested the couple's visit Tuesday in New York City. "She's not Princess Diana and she never will be."
Poor Camilla took her lumps at the first stop on this U.S. tour, in New York, where her attire was dissected in the press and the New York Times was catty about the meaning of her black stilettos ("really, really trying"). But make the audience a group of eighth-graders, and the duchess knows how to work a room.
After taking a brief tour of the school led by students Kendra Roberts and Davon Jenkins, Prince Charles, Camilla, Laura Bush and Williams stopped to visit an English class taught by Melanie Brown.
While Williams expounded on the government's influence on Africa (or at least, that's what student Dashauna Washington thinks he was explaining) and the first lady explicated the day's reading lesson ("She was like another teacher in the classroom," Washington said), the duchess had other questions.
"Do they work you quite hard?" "How much homework?" Then, a little slyly, "Now, what are the punishments?"
Told the fallout for school infractions, Camilla arched an eyebrow. "So you miss all the fun? So it's not worth doing, then!"
The duchess then moved on to other topics, such as the quality of the cafeteria food, drawing a table-wide groan ("Horrible, with a capital H," replied student Britney Rempson). And a minor jewelry disaster was averted when another student, Drew Johnson, rescued Camilla's errant earring as it tumbled onto his desk.
Meanwhile, her husband queried another group of students about their television habits. "There are too many channels to choose from," he said agreeably, nodding his head.
After the classroom visit, the group reconvened in the courtyard, where the prince admired the English oak (Prince Valiant variety, to be specific) he was to ceremonially plant. Then, after some speechifying by Williams and the presentation of gifts, the prince and the duchess worked the rope line as students -- and, near the end of the line, council member Barry -- pressed forward for handshakes. Camilla nodded and stooped, slowly making her way along, stopping to talk to student after student.
"It's very rare for royal people to come to our school," said Denzell Grimes.
Not so rare, though, for the White House, where there was a decidedly ho-hum public attitude to the royal comings and goings. At the White House, Charles and Camilla were joined at lunch by the president and first lady, former first lady Barbara Bush, presidential brother Marvin Bush, and British Ambassador David Manning and his wife, Catherine, among others. Across the street, in Lafayette Square, there was a loud protest taking place, but the royal motorcade caused no stir as it departed for the charter school. There was, however, a guy in a cute bear costume on hand: PETA, the ever-vigilant animal rights group, sent him to call for an end to the use of Canadian bear fur to make hats for the queen's ceremonial guards -- those Beefeater dudes every tourist wants to photograph at Windsor Castle.
"It takes the entire skin of one, sometimes two, bears to make just one guard's headpiece," according to a handout from PETA. Who knew? Jason Huff did -- his bear suit, naturally, was made of faux fur and he carried a poster saying "God Save the Bears."
So, Camilla and Charles, take heart: Even if nobody else in the former colonies shows up for this historic trip, PETA pledges to be there on every stop, offering a grim message that as many as 300 innocent bears a year give their lives for the sake of royal pomp and circumstance.
Not far away, in the square, a woman carried a red poster board declaring "2,000 Is Too Many." It wasn't referring to bears.
To view a photo gallery of Charles and Camilla's visit, go to www.washingtonpost.com/photo.