Charles, Camilla surprise US students on Washington visit

18th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla surprised young American students Wednesday as they visited the Lincoln and Martin Luther King memorials on the first full day of the US tour.

Bright sunlight but chilly temperatures greeted the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwell when they arrived at the colonnaded monument on the National Mall that honors Civil War president Abraham Lincoln.

Two historians described the imposing memorial and how American schoolchildren memorize Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, inscribed in its stone walls.

After a photo session, with the couple looking out over the Reflecting Pool to the Capitol, Charles and Camilla responded warmly to shouts from teenagers and teachers who were also visiting the landmark.

"I was excited. He looks very important," Jasper Tahnk, 14, from Boston, told AFP, adding that the prince asked him if he was on a school break.

Others were less impressed. "What's he the prince of?" asked Pierce Riddick, a 14-year-old from North Carolina.

The royal couple then moved on to the Martin Luther King memorial, where they were greeted by civil rights veterans Jesse Jackson and Georgia congressman John Lewis.

For a souvenir, they were presented a piece of the granite, imported from China, used to create the monument, the work of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin.

Once again, they mixed it up with common folk, with Charles taking time to shake hands with a school group from Virginia.

"We didn't know this was going to happen," said Delaney Peterson, 16.

History teacher Joan Darby, who brought her class out to the memorial, said her pupils were also thrilled to meet Jackson and Lewis.

- Stroke of luck -

"To come here and have such a joyful event was just really incredible luck on our part," said Darby after shaking hands with Charles.

Later, Charles and Camilla proceeded to George Washington's palatial Virginia residence, Mount Vernon, which commands a majestic view of the lower Potomac River.

One young visitor from West Virgina was so excited to relay the news to her Twitter pals that she confused Camilla, 67, for mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 89 next month.

Other events on the royals' busy schedule will see Charles and Camilla inspect a copy of the Magna Carta at the National Archives, and the prince delivering a speech on plastic waste on the high seas.

On Thursday, the couple will meet President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, the White House has announced.

It is the 20th official visit to the United States for Charles, who at 66 is assuming more and more of the duties that normally would fall on his elderly mother, as he waits his turn to accede to the throne.

The British embassy says the visit is intended to promote US-British partnership in such areas as climate change, opportunity for youth and responsibility in world affairs.

© 2015 AFP

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