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The Times October 06, 2005

Royal couple plan charm offensive on first official tour of US

THE Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will travel to the United States for their first joint official royal tour to win over the hearts and minds of the American public.

The trip, early next month, is seen as an attempt to restore the popularity of the Royal Family in the US, which plummeted after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. It will take in New York, Washington and San Francisco and will be the latest part of a huge PR campaign to get more American tourists to visit London.

This week, breakfast television viewers across America will see their news coming from Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. The Queen has allowed ABC to film at the three locations to help the British tourist industry still struggling to lure tourists back after 9/11 and the July bombings in London.

The Duke of York, now a British trade ambassador, has also agreed to give an interview on the importance of the American people to the tourism industry.

Charles and Camilla will attend a meeting with Kofi Annan at the United Nations and have lunch and dinner with President Bush and his wife at the White House. They will not be staying there. It has also been reported that they will visit Ground Zero, the site of the 2001 terror attacks.

It will be the first time the couple have conducted an official overseas tour together and the trip will be a huge test of their popularity. Diana, Princess of Wales, was hugely popular across the Atlantic and aides will be closely monitoring the response to Camilla.Charles has already been interviewed for America’s most-watched news programme, CBS’s 60 Minutes, which will will be screened during his visit.

The Prince briefly visited the United States in June 2004 for the funeral of former President Ronald Reagan, but his last official tour was in 1994.

Clarence House said that the royal couple’s trip was aimed at “highlighting some of the many links which bind the two countries together”. It added: “It will also focus on the vital importance of the economic relationship, and the exceptional range of cultural, environmental and community links between the two nations.

“Sustainability will be another important theme of the tour, in areas such as housing and education, and farming and food sourcing.”

Camilla made a four-day trip to New York in September 1999, which was regarded as part of the PR strategy to secure her public acceptance. It was dubbed her “first royal tour” by the tabloids. She was introduced to key figures in New York society and dined with Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.

When the late Princess of Wales visited the United States on an official tour with Charles in 1985, she famously danced with John Travolta, the actor, at a White House dinner hosted by President Reagan.

In June 1997, two months before she died, she travelled to the United States on a Red Cross mission as part of her campaign to ban landmines.

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