Charles and Camilla hobnob with young Americans in Washington

18th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla mingled with gobsmacked young Americans on Wednesday as they hit some of Washington's top attractions on the first full day of a US tour.

Bright sunlight but chilly temperatures prevailed as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall inspected the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King monument.

Later they ventured out to Mount Vernon to look around George Washington's patrician home, which commands a grand view over the lower Potomac.

Prince Charles also took time to inspect the National Archives' copy of the Magna Carta, signed eight centuries ago this year by his predecessor, England's King John.

They will drop in on President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Thursday, the White House has announced.

At the Lincoln Memorial, two historians explained how American schoolchildren memorize the Gettysburg Address, inscribed in its Grecian stone walls.

Abraham Lincoln, who as Civil War president declared the emancipation of American slaves, was assassinated 150 years ago. The anniversary falls on April 15.

Perhaps not surprisingly in a republic besotted by royalty, cheers rang out when school groups spotted Charles and Camilla coming down the stairs.

Prompted by a yell from an eighth-grade math teacher from North Carolina, they spent about five minutes chatting with youthful members of the crowd.

"I was excited. He looks very important," Jasper Tahnk, 14, from Boston, told AFP after he was asked by the prince if he was on some kind of school break.

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

A similar scene played out at the Martin Luther King memorial, where civil rights veterans Jesse Jackson and Georgia congressman John Lewis greeted the royals.

- Heir to the throne -

"We didn't know this was going to happen," said Delaney Peterson, 16, part of a visiting school group from across the Potomac river in Virgina.

History teacher Joan Darby, overseeing a class trip to the memorial, said her pupils were just as thrilled to meet Jackson and Lewis.

"To come here and have such a joyful event was just really incredible luck on our part," said Darby after shaking hands with the 66-year-old heir to the British throne.

From there it was on to rural Mount Vernon, which Charles last visited in 1970 when he traveled to the United States with his sister Princess Anne.

Charles and Camilla laid a wreath at the tomb of America's revolutionary war hero and first president and signed their names in a guest book -- something Mount Vernon staff promptly shared via social media.

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

At the National Archives, Charles looked delighted when he got not one, but two gifts that spoke directly to him personally.

One was a patent issued in 1931 to his beloved great uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, for a new and improved polo stick.

The other was a 1957 official cable from London to the US State Department, enquiring about "engine specifications" for a "midget car" that had been gifted to the prince, then eight years old.

The royal couple flew into the US capital on Tuesday for a four-day visit that will also take then to Kentucky on Friday.

It is the 20th official visit to the United States for Charles, who is assuming more and more of the duties once undertaken by his elderly mother.

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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