Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, spent their first evening in the United States mingling with celebrities at a glitzy New York reception _ but it was a tour of ground zero that seemed to make the deepest impact on the royal couple.
The pair kicked off a weeklong visit designed both to promote trans-Atlantic ties and to glamorize the resolutely middle-aged royals with a celebrity-studded evening gala at the Museum of Modern Art.
Charles told the guests who included Sting and real estate tycoon Donald Trump that he was pleased "to celebrate the long-standing and very special links between our two countries." To the delight of the guests, the 56-year-old prince referred to Camilla, whom he married in April, as "my darling wife."
It wasn't exactly the frenzy that welcomed Charles 20 years ago on a U.S. tour that saw his radiant wife, the late Princess Diana, dancing with John Travolta at a White House dinner. But it was a start.
Earlier Tuesday, Charles attended a roundtable with Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations and appealed to business leaders to help millions of young people find jobs, noting that in the Middle East alone, 100 million jobs will have to be created in the next 20 years just for new entrants to the job market.
The royal couple's first joint tour to the U.S. moves Wednesday to Washington, where Charles and Camilla will have an intimate lunch and a lavish dinner with President George W. Bush and his wife Laura _ the latter a rare honor from the early-to-bed president. The visit to the White House was to get underway with a traditional show of pomp during a midday South Lawn arrival ceremony.
Afterward, the royal couple was to be treated to an intimate lunch in the Bush's residential quarters, sitting down in the Family Dining Room with about a dozen guests, including both countries' ambassadors, said Susan Whitson, the spokeswoman for Mrs. Bush. After a tour of an innovative, inner-city boarding school, the real festivities were to take place in the evening, with the president acquiescing to the kind of late-night, black-tie affair he typically shuns. About 130 people were expected to dinner in the State Dining Room on the White House's grand main floor. There have been only five formal White House dinners honoring world leaders since Bush took office in January 2001.
Other than to say that "seasonal" food was being served, the menus and the guest list _ as well as Mrs. Bush's attire _ were remaining closely guarded secrets, Whitson said. The Bush White House is not known for its love of glitter and celebrity, so the guests were to feature plenty of names from Washington's A-list but few from Hollywood's counterpart.
Some press reports have speculated the prince will use his meeting with Bush to raise the issue of climate change, which he recently called "terrifying." Asked if the president wanted to discuss climate change, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush "looks forward to the visit. He's glad to talk about whatever issues Prince Charles may want to bring up."
British media had predicted scant interest from Americans in the trip. But several hundred onlookers who gathered at ground zero in lower Manhattan to see the royal couple were supportive.
Under unseasonably balmy November sunshine, small but enthusiastic crowds greeted the couple as they began their trip by paying tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks at ground zero, the vast site where the World Trade Center once stood, before unveiling the cornerstone to a memorial garden nearby for the 67 Britons killed that day.
At a reception for supporters of the garden project, the prince said he and his wife were "profoundly moved by what we saw _ not just the scale of the outrage but the deeply distressing individual stories of heroism and of loss."
Charles said the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and in London on July 7 helped strengthen the bond between the two nations. Alexandra Clarke, a Briton whose daughter Suria died on Sept. 11, said the prince was "quietly and personally very kind" to families of the victims.
The U.S. tour is part of a careful palace plan to win acceptance for the duchess, long reviled in the British press _ and among Diana-philes _ as the woman who broke up the royal romance. "There were three of us in that marriage," Diana told a television reporter in 1995. Charles and Diana divorced in 1996; Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris the following year.
The duchess seemed at ease Tuesday, smiling broadly as she accepted a bouquet of flowers from a 5-year-old girl at the garden. Camilla, who has been trying to project a more glamorous image, wore a dark rose Italian wool crepe jacket and dress with velvet chiffon trim by designer Roy Allen.
Later, at the museum reception, the 58-year-old duchess had the chance to showcase another of the 40 outfits she brought for the trip, which will also include meetings with hurricane victims in New Orleans, homeless people in San Francisco and organic farmers in Marin County, California.
Camilla wore a navy blue velvet cocktail dress with a cream chiffon collar by British designer Anthony Price for the reception, attended by about 300 guests including Yoko Ono, Sting, Trump, actors Matthew Modine and Joan Collins, and former tennis star John McEnroe. The duchess also carried a cheeky, sequined Union Jack handbag by designer Lulu Guinness, AP reports.