| Diana, Camilla: Past and present
Nov. 1: Having tried out the royal tiara from the 1911 Delhi Durbar, the former Camilla Parker-Bowles set off today for her first trip to the US as the Duchess of Cornwall equipped with 50 new frocks and a special batch of Philip Treacy hats.
Camilla is accompanying her husband, Prince Charles, on an eight-day goodwill visit for which the couple are being accompanied by a 16-strong entourage.
Camilla, who is 58, has generally made a good impression on the public since she married Prince Charles but as she knows she will inevitably be compared with the late Princess Diana, who took America by storm 20 years ago, the Duchess is leaving nothing to chance.
One dresser is being taken to ensure there are no creases in her clothes.
Since the engagements will include a high profile visit to the “Ground Zero” site of the Twin Towers tragedy and a black tie banquet for 1,000 hosted by President George W. Bush at the White House, Camilla quite naturally wants to look her best.
In 1985, Diana put Charles in the shade by dancing with John Travolta at a gala White House dinner. President Reagan, forgetful as ever, welcomed her warmly as “Princess David” as America took Diana to its heart.
Since Diana was Britain’s leading clothes icon, the country’s designers were more than eager to see she promoted their creations. She patronised Arabella Pollen, Bruce Oldfield, Amanda Wakeley and Catherine Walker (especially on the 1992 tour of India), and later as she matured she felt confident enough to wear international designers, among them Versace, Christian Lacroix, Ungaro and Chanel.
Camilla’s entourage includes her hairdresser and colourist, Hugh Green, from Hugh and Stephen hairdressers in Belgravia in west London, and her trusted make-up artist, Julia Biddlecombe. The former charges '500 a day.
Her favourite designers, Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine (known as Robert Valentine), who made her wedding dress, are said to have come up with 50 new outfits for her. There will be matching handbags, gloves, shoes, jewellery and even umbrellas.
“All costs for the wardrobe are being met by the Prince of Wales’s private income ' this includes hair and make-up,” a spokeswoman said. “All other staff are being paid for by the Prince as well.”
Even so, the Foreign Office, which sees this as a working trip, is paying '250,000 for travel and accommodation for the entourage.
Charles’s PR man Paddy Harveson, who is travelling with his boss, defended the expense: “The prince and duchess are travelling at the request of the Foreign Office to support British interests in America and to recognise the close relations between the two nations.”
Prince Charles, who has always been sympathetic to the Islamic world, is expected to have a friendly chat with the President about the need to be more tolerant towards Muslims. He is also expected to raise the issue of global warming.
Charles is an infrequent visitor to the US even though Americans adore the royals. One aide remarked: “It is no secret that neither the prince nor the duchess is particularly keen on American culture.”
If the tour is deemed a success by the British public, there could be less resistance to the idea of a Queen Camilla. A senior courtier said: “Going to America is all about launching her as a figurehead. The stakes are very high. It is perhaps as close to a make or break tour as we will ever get.”