On his last day in Washington, you felt bad for Prince Charles, who would have been a really big deal if he'd been born in another century, but as it is, doesn't even get the pleasure of throwing people in the tower.
Modern British royalty gets none of the power but must endure all of the ceremony, all those scripted strolls and murderously pleasant conversations about the weather. Yesterday morning, the prince and the duchess visited the World War II Memorial and exchanged pleasantries with American and British veterans.
The duchess "wanted to know if it's normally this kind of weather," said Gwendolyne Brown, whose husband served in the Army. "So I told 'em, No, we had it specially for them."
Now imagine eight days of this sort of exchange across America, eight days of broiling in the hot sun under a black hat and black wool crepe suit (as Camilla did yesterday), eight days of working rope lines and having people ask you what you think of their city, which must seem rather like the city before it, glimpsed from the back seat of a chauffeured car.
After the World War II ceremony, the royals made their final stop in Washington at the Folger Shakespeare Library and watched middle school students perform a scene from "Much Ado About Nothing." Oh, so fitting. Their visit, after all, was so many speeches and so little news.
When the prince and the duchess entered the Elizabethan Theatre, students were performing the scene titled "The Gulling of Benedick," which involves three tricksters loudly discussing Beatrice's secret love for Benedick while they're fully aware that Benedick is eavesdropping. Long secretly (and not so secretly) in love themselves, the prince and the duchess nodded and smiled as they watched.
Then, pleasantries with the students. They admired the duchess's pin. One student privately confessed that she'd hoped to see the prince's two hot sons instead. (Such are the indignities of being royal in this day and age. It's never enough just to be a prince, not if you're old and wrinkly.)
Earlier in the day, when the prince and the duchess visited the memorial to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the prince laid a wreath crafted of artificial poppies and three fluffy white Prince of Wales feathers in front of the fountain. When they spoke with veterans, lowly reporters, kept at a respectful distance, failed miserably at lip-reading. It was determined, however, that the duchess did at one point say, "I'm thrilled." Was she thrilled with . . . meeting the vets? The balmy day? That World War II had a certainty of purpose and a firmness of resolve, unlike the current messiness? Oh, probably not.
Perhaps she was thrilled to be almost done with yet one more carefully scripted ceremonial event.
Actually, that's us.
Farther down the line, a Navy veteran named Stan Levy, 81, passed the prince a tie clip with a submarine engraved on it. The prince accepted the gift, carried it with him for a bit, and then, when he had moved away a respectful distance, subtly passed it back to a private secretary.
Later, he and his wife departed for New Orleans, where they visited the city's Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. They were also due to travel to Northern California for a few days, where they were scheduled for a dinner, a speech, more pleasantries -- more, more, more.
God save the prince.