WASHINGTON — Although their visit is still more than a month away, Prince Charles and Princess Diana already are creating a royal ruckus in Washington.
It seems that everybody wants to be invited to one of the few, exclusive parties the royal couple will attend during their stay here Nov. 9 through 11.
What brings them to Washington is the National Gallery of Art's "Treasure Houses of Britain" exhibit, which features more than 700 art objects and furnishings from more than 260 country homes of the British landed aristocracy.
"Never in my 25 years here have I seen such advance interest in something to be shown," said the gallery's museum director, J. Carter Brown.
"We are deluged with phone calls and mail about it, and embedded in all this is the hint to get invited to something the prince and princess will be attending.
"People can be fairly forthright about it."
Another gallery official said that requests for invitations to the gallery's Monday night dinner for Prince Charles, Princess Diana and 90 others have come from people "ranging from Redskin players to baseball stars to film and opera stars. It's quite different from anything I've been involved in."
Other party planners have said that the "heavy push" for invitations to the half-dozen events the royals will attend began as early as last August. The pushers included, among others, "congressional wives," according to one planner, and, according to Brown, "people who cut a fairly broad social swath around town."
"Our invitations haven't gone out yet," Brown said, referring to the gallery's dinner for 90, to be followed by a much larger reception. "Unfortunately we have to be quite restricted. Trustees and key donors are the people we would think of first."
The prince and princess themselves apparently have some thoughts on who should be invited, as well.
"We did get a hint they thought it shouldn't be all older people," Brown said. "They'd like to meet people who would be in important positions by the time Charles becomes king. So we had to do some crystal ball work."
The White House is mum about its guest list for a dinner in the couple's honor Nov. 9, but it is rumored that the couple's favorite entertainment stars, who include Clint Eastwood and Diana Ross, may be invited.
The prince and princess arrive at Andrews Air Force Base the evening of Nov. 8 aboard an Australian air force jet. They will stay at the British Embassy and be squired around town in a Rolls-Royce.
Some of Nov. 9's schedule is still up in the air, but the White House dinner that Saturday night should be a highlight of the visit.
Sunday begins with a service at the Washington Cathedral and then a tour of the gallery's "Treasure Houses" exhibit. From there they go to a very exclusive, small luncheon at the home of Paul Mellon in Upperville, Va., and on to a dinner party at the British Embassy.
Monday morning, the couple will start their day with a tour of the J. C. Penney store in Springfield, Va. Penney's is currently doing a salute to Britain and bringing in clothes, shoes and other goods from British designers and firms such as Sheridan Barnett, Laird-Portch, Miss Selfridge, Michelsons, Hayden-Green, Dewhirst and Mansfield.
"I guess they decided they wanted to support their British manufacturers," said Havery McCormick, manager of public relations for the J. C. Penney chain. "We're very flattered."
Asked if the visit would bolster Penney's image, McCormick replied, "I certainly would hope so," but disagreed that J. C. Penney is not a place where one usually finds the rich and elegant.
"I think the super-rich and elegant know when they get good value," McCormick said. "I'm sure many of the super-rich and elegant do shop our stores for a variety of things."
From Penney, the couple goes to a luncheon reception at the British Embassy, and then to Arlington Cemetery before the dinner and reception at the National Gallery.
Tuesday morning they leave for Palm Beach, Fla., where the prince will play polo at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. They will attend a $10,000-a-couple fund-raising dinner for the United World College Movement. The dinner at the Breakers Hotel is in honor of Los Angeles oilman Armand Hammer, one of the key benefactors of the movement.
The next day they return to London.