Charles and Camilla begin US whirlwind tour

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will make their first official appearance together in the United States today.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will make their first official appearance together in the United States today.

Charles and Camilla will arrive in New York and head straight for Ground Zero to witness first-hand the scale of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

It is the first time either has been in the city since the atrocity.

From the World Trade Centre site in lower Manhattan, the two will be whisked on to the British Memorial Garden less than a mile away where they will unveil a centre stone dedicated to the 67 Britons killed.

They will later meet United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and attend a reception at the Museum of Modern Art.

Tomorrow they will dine with President George Bush in Washington before jetting south for a brief pit stop in hurricane ravaged New Orleans en route to San Francisco.

The couple will attend some 22 events during the whirlwind eight-day tour.

Aides will be hoping the Duchess can charm the Americans, traditionally seen as pro-Diana, as she undertakes her inaugural royal tour.

The late Princess of Wales enchanted American society when she danced with Hollywood heart-throb John Travolta at a White House gala dinner almost 20 years ago to the day.

So far, the US media has largely ignored the impending royal tour.

One poll revealed that 81% of Americans are not remotely interested in the couple and less than one in five wants to meet them.

But the tide could easily turn when the heir to the throne and his wife step out together amid a flurry of regal glamour.

The British Memorial Garden was designed by renowned British landscape architects Julian and Isabel Bannerman, known for their work on Charles’ own garden at Highgrove.

The building phase, which includes the installation of benches and paving stones and the planting of flowers, shrubs and topiaries, is expected to be completed by next spring.

Central to the £3.6m (€5.3m) project will be a sculpture to unity by British artist Anish Kapoor.

The first seeds to be planted were delivered by the Princess Royal two years ago and were taken from royal palaces in Britain.

Camilla Hellman, president of the garden’s trust, said: “We are delighted and excited by their Royal Highness’s upcoming visit to our garden-in-progress.”

Among those attending the brief dedication ceremony are Sir Evelyn and Lady Rothschild, Eileen Guggenheim, Lord Colin Campbell, Sir Harold Evans and his wife Tina Brown, the former Tatler editor who is writing a biography about Princess Diana.

As Charles and Camilla prepared to turn on the charm across the Atlantic, royal aides sought to counter claims that the Duchess’s on-tour beauty regime is being paid for by taxpayers.

Camilla’s hairdresser Hugh Green, make up artist Julia Biddlecombe and a dresser are travelling with the royal party for the visit.

“All costs for the wardrobe are being met by the Prince of Wales’s private income – this includes hair and make up. All other staff are being paid for by the Prince as well,” a spokeswoman said.

The Foreign Office does pay for travel and accommodation for the staff.

Clarence House denied the couple were taking a 40-strong entourage with them to America.

A spokeswoman said they would be accompanied by 16 people – including the hairdresser, make up artist and one dresser.

The other members of staff include Camilla’s assistant private secretary Amanda MacManus, an assistant private secretary to the Prince, the Prince’s communications secretary Paddy Harverson, two valets, a butler, an equerry, three travel organisers, a press officer, an office PA and the royal doctor.

The couple will make a short trip to devastated New Orleans in the southern state of Louisiana on Friday.

They will spend a couple of hours in the city, meeting emergency workers and families affected by the disaster.

More than 1,200 people were killed along the US Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina struck in late August and the world was left stunned at America’s slow response to the disaster.

Initially, it was thought New Orleans had escaped the worst of Katrina, but it quickly emerged that key defensive barriers had been breached, leaving floodwater pouring into the city.

Over the weekend, American channel CBS broadcast an interview with the Prince where he spoke to the current affairs programme 60 Minutes about his fears concerning the figures on climate change and global warming.

The subject will probably be avoided over dinner with President Bush, who has refused to sign the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gases.

Asked whether he felt he was making a difference, Charles replied rather gloomily: “I don’t know. I try. I only hope that when I’m dead and gone, they might appreciate it a little bit more.”

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