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Yawn ... it's Charles and Camilla

November 05, 2005|John Hiscock | JOHN HISCOCK is an L.A.-based British journalist who writes for the London Daily Telegraph.

NO MATTER WHAT he does, Prince Charles just cannot get it right.

He and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are in California today on the last leg of their U.S. visit, having failed to set Americans aflutter and leaving little but indifference and disinterest in their wake.

The official reason for the trip was to promote British tourism, but unofficially, Charles was known to be eager to introduce his new bride to an America still entranced by Princess Diana. And he wanted to promote his image as an environmental crusader, alerting the colonies to the dangers of pollution and global warming.

Unfortunately, he has failed dismally on all counts.

The trip got off to a decidedly lukewarm start with an eve-of-visit poll indicating that eight out of 10 Americans simply did not care about the visit, and that one-in-three Americans would rather meet Prince William or Prince Harry than Charles and Camilla.

Then a Washington, D.C., student was quoted in the British newspaper the Guardian cruelly summing up the tourism aspect of the visit: "How is an old guy with jug ears and his horsefaced wife supposed to get us flocking to England?"

Camilla, meanwhile, is no Diana.

The late Princess of Wales entranced the nation on her visit 20 years ago when she danced with John Travolta. Camilla, by contrast, is causing not even the faintest ripple of curiosity. It quickly became clear the question was not "Will America accept this woman?" but rather "Who cares?"

But it is on environmental issues that the heir to the British throne really comes a cropper.

True, he recently took delivery of a Toyota Prius, which is partly powered by electricity. But it is apparently garaged at one of his three homes, along with his eight other cars, including two Aston Martins and an armor-plated Bentley.

For his current trip, he chartered a private aircraft at a cost of some $370,000 to ferry himself, Camilla and their entourage of 16 assistants around. In England, he is regularly criticized by members of Parliament for the cost of his official travel, which doubled last year to $2 million.

Yet he still doesn't get it.

Partly because of his own inability to come down from his royal high horse and partly because of his well-documented petulance and self-indulgence, Charles will always be judged for what he is rather than, as he would prefer, what he does.

And what he is is an immensely privileged, somewhat eccentric and very spoiled man (with a penchant for talking to flowers and, according to the former editor of the Daily Telegraph, for carrying his own towels and lavatory paper to every house in which he stays, as well as specifying in writing the texture and dimensions of the sandwiches he expects).

What he does is the best he can. But, sadly, it will never be enough to earn him either the esteem he craves from his fellow countrymen or the respect and recognition he would love to find in America.

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