Royal couple visits White House

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are visiting with U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, at the White House on Wednesday.

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited with U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, at the White House on Wednesday.

The royal couple is on the second day of an eight-day trip to the United States, their first official overseas visit together since they married in April.

They flew Wednesday morning to Washington from New York – where they had visited Ground Zero.

There was no pomp or ceremony when they arrived by motorcade at the White House. Instead, the Bushes were waiting on the lawn to greet them and pose for a few photographs before the quartet went inside for a quiet lunch together.

In the evening, Charles and Camilla attend a formal black-tie dinner at the White House – a rare event under the presidency of Bush, who has held only five formal White House dinners since 2001.

About 130 people were expected to attend the dinner, but the guest list and menu were being tightly guarded.

Some analysts predicted the atmosphere could be strained between Charles – a passionate environmentalist – and Bush, who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and has allowed a number of government environmental protections to be eroded under his watch.

But White House spokesperson Scott McClellan told reporters that Bush wouldn't regard any topic as being off-limits during the visit. "He's glad to talk about whatever issues Prince Charles may want to bring up."

The royal couple will spend three days in Washington before travelling to New Orleans, where they will meet with aid workers and people who survived hurricane Katrina in August.

Charles will wind up the visit in San Francisco, where he will make a speech on the environment.

The prince's office has said the trip would focus on "the importance of the relationship between the two countries and their common bonds and shared traditions."

Royal watchers have speculated that it's also part of the Royal Family's public-relations campaign to win acceptance for Camilla in a country that embraced the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The White House was the scene of one of the most memorable Diana events – her 1985 twirl around the dance floor with actor John Travolta during a dinner hosted by President Ronald Reagan.

Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Charles and Camilla, whom the late princess once described as the "third member" of her marriage, made their first public appearance two years later.

The pair were discouraged from visiting Canada during their North American jaunt because of the precarious position of the Liberal minority government.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said officials were concerned the visit could coincide with a possible fall election call, sparked by the Gomery report into the federal sponsorship scandal.