Protesters attack Prince Charles' car in anti-fees demo
Prince Charles' car was attacked Thursday by demonstrators during a violent protest over the British government's decision to hike university tuition fees, his Clarence House residence said.
Charles, the 62-year-old heir to the throne, and his 63-year-old wife, Camilla, were unharmed after demonstrators kicked their car and threw missiles at it as the couple travelled to a theatre in central London.
The rear passenger side window, where Charles was seated, was smashed and the car was splattered with white paint.
But after leaving the theatre later -- where the couple attended a star-studded annual evening of entertainment -- Camilla said she was "fine" and joked there was a "first time for everything."
During the attack, protesters surrounded the burgundy 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI on a major thoroughfare after it was cut off from police vehicles escorting it, according to witnesses.
Charles and Camilla looked shocked as the demonstrators -- who had spilled over from a violent protest outside parliament -- hurled glass bottles, litter bins and paint at their car.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attack as "shocking and regrettable," in a statement from his office.
A student protest against a hike in university tuition fees, which had descended into rioting around parliament, spread to other parts of central London after a vote on the proposals passed in parliament.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government narrowly won a vote on the proposals, but with a greatly reduced parliamentary majority.
Senior royals are always accompanied by a security detail, but one witness described how a crowd of protesters cut Charles and Camilla off from most of their protection.
"The police cars at the front of the convoy drove straight into crowds at the top of Regent Street," said Matthew Maclachlan, cited in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
"They got trapped in that mob and it meant that Charles and Camilla were on their own further down the road except for a Jaguar travelling behind them."
The huge number of protesters meant Charles' car was only able to inch forward, said Maclachlan, who was not involved in the protest.
"We couldn't believe it. The car had really big windows so Charles was very much on display," he said.
"People were trying to talk to him about tuition fees at first but when more people realised what was happening, the crowds swelled and people were throwing glass bottles and picking up litter bins and throwing them at the car.
"You could hear all this smashing."
A spokeswoman for Clarence House said: "We can confirm that Their Royal Highnesses' car was attacked by the protesters on the way to their engagement at the London Palladium.
"Both Their Royal Highnesses were unharmed."
Charles and Camilla were heading to the London Palladium to watch the annual Royal Variety Performance, a gala evening attended by senior royals.
They were set to enjoy an evening of music, dance and comedy at the theatre, which is just off Oxford Street, London's main shopping thoroughfare.
Inside Charles smiled as he was was introduced to celebrities including Australian singer Kylie Minogue and British band Take That.
Among the other performers at the Palladium were tenor Russell Watson and singer Cheryl Cole.
Physical attacks on the royals are extremely rare.
A student fired two blank shots from a starter pistol at Charles during a visit to Australia in 1994, but he was unruffled by the incident as the man was bundled to the ground.
His sister Princess Anne escaped a kidnapping attempt in London in 1974, in which several people were shot.
Six blanks were fired at their mother Queen Elizabeth II from close range during a 1981 parade but she managed to remain in control of her horse during the attack.
© 2010 AFP