| Charles with Parker Bowles in Queen Elizabeth’s estate in Norfolk. (AP)
Salzburg, July 28: There is the Prince of Wales’s definition of “official visit” — then there is the Austrian definition.
Camilla Parker Bowles’ surprise appearance with the prince at the Salzburg Festival at the weekend tested both.
While the prince’s office insisted that her presence was “private”, the Austrian press and television described it as her debut on the world stage as the prince’s consort.
Nonsense, declared St James’s Palace. “This was not an official visit,” a spokesperson said. “It was a private visit.”
However, the prince and Parker Bowles were “officially welcomed” by the Austrian President, Thomas Klestil. Both were guests of honour at the “official reception” for the annual festival. Both were guests of honour at a performance of Berlioz’s Requiem in the Festival Hall and the prince’s entourage included his assistant private secretary, James Kidner. “You could not get more official than that,” said an Austrian media commentator.
There are implications in describing such a visit as “official” and the prince’s senior aides are all too aware of that.
First, had this been an “official visit”, it would have marked a significant rise in Parker Bowles’ unofficial status. Although she is seen regularly with the prince in Britain, her visits with him abroad are strictly private and are seen as holidays.
Second, in the prince’s parlance, an “official visit” is one organised by the foreign office and paid for by the taxpayer, who may be unwilling to foot the bill for Parker Bowles’ jaunts.
In this case, the couple were guests of the American multi-millionaire publisher Donald Khan, one of the festival’s main sponsors.