NEW YORK – Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, paid tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks (search) Tuesday as they began a weeklong tour of the United States — a trip the British press predicted would cause little excitement among Americans.
After arriving in New York City on a private chartered jet, the couple traveled by limousine to Ground Zero (search) for a tour of the site. The couple then went to nearby Hanover Square to unveil a memorial park to the 67 Britons who died when the hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center.
They walked around to greet some of the several hundred well-wishers and onlookers who gathered behind barricades at the square.
Camilla seemed relaxed, smiling broadly as she accepted a bouquet of flowers from a small girl. The Duchess of Cornwall (search), who has been trying to project a more glamorous image, wore a dark rose Italian wool crepe jacket and dress with velvet chiffon trim.
Speaking at reception for relatives of the British Sept. 11 victims and supporters of the memorial garden project, Prince Charles (search) said he and his wife had been "profoundly moved" by their trip to Ground Zero, "not just the scale of the outrage but the deeply distressing individual stories of heroism and of loss."
"Our hearts go out to you today as they did on that dreadful today," said Charles, who met privately with families before the unveiling ceremony.
Referring to the July 7 bombings of London's transit system that killed 52 people along with the four suicide attackers, he said "both our nations have been united by grief and strengthened by the support we have given each other."
The tour, which is designed to celebrate ties between Britain and America and promote Charles' environmentalist causes, is the first official overseas trip for the 56-year-old heir to the throne and his wife since they married in April.
British media, however, predicted the couple would fail to capture the attention of Americans in the same way as Charles' 1985 official visit when a radiant Princess Diana (search) danced with John Travolta at a White House dinner.
Papers in London took note of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, which found 59 percent of Americans surveyed saying they were "not at all interested" in the visit, 22 percent were "not too interested," 13 percent were "somewhat interested" and 6 percent were "very interested."
Nineteen percent said they would like to meet Charles and Camilla in person, compared to 31 percent who, in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in 1985, said they would like to meet Charles and Diana.
Gallup interviewed 1,008 people 18 and older in the United States by telephone on Oct. 21-23. Gallup said the survey had a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
"The trip has been dismissed as a 'royal bore' by Americans," The Daily Mail newspaper said Tuesday, quoting a headline in USA Today.
At Hanover Square (search) — named for King George I of Hanover — a cadre of law enforcement officers stood near a line of police barricades and hundreds of people gathered, many holding banners and cameras, eager to take snapshots or perhaps shake hands with the royal couple.
"I've been following this man since I was in grade school in Minnesota. I wrote papers about him," Thomas Rex Campbell, a writer who grew up in White Bear Lake, Minn., said of Prince Charles. "I very much admire him for his breadth of vision on the world. He's interested in everything from farming to classical architecture. He's the best-educated Prince of Wales ever."
The memorial garden, which is due to be completed next summer, is designed as a green corner of Britain in Manhattan, with topiary trees, boxwood hedges and a sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor.
Later Tuesday, Charles and Camilla were to attend a reception at the Museum of Modern Art that Charles' office said was a chance for the couple "to meet a good cross-section of interesting and influential New Yorkers." Guests invited to enjoy champagne and organic canapes with the couple included Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg, Sting, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (search) and actress Kim Cattral.
The prince and duchess also were to meet with hurricane victims in New Orleans, homeless people in San Francisco and President Bush at the White House.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that Bush was open to discussing any topic with Charles, stressing it was primarily a social visit.
Bush "looks forward to the visit. He's glad to talk about whatever issues Prince Charles may want to bring up," McClellan said.
It is also part of a careful palace plan to win acceptance for the duchess, long reviled in the British press — and among Diana-philes — as the woman who broke up the royal romance. "There were three of us in that marriage," Diana told a television reporter in 1995.
Charles and Diana divorced in 1996; Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris the following year.