White House Hosts Prince Charles and Camilla

Twenty years after Princess Diana (search) wowed Americans by dancing with John Travolta (search) at the White House, Prince Charles' (search) new bride Camilla is taking her turn to charm the Yanks.

On her first visit to Washington since her marriage to Charles in April, the Duchess of Cornwall (search) was resplendent in a black cashmere jacket trimmed with sparkly trim and a floor-length, pleated skirt of silk taffeta.

Dangling earrings and a diamond necklace completed her look at Wednesday night's social dinner.

She and Charles spent much of Wednesday with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, highlighted by a private lunch at the White House, a visit to a local school with Mrs. Bush, and a lavish dinner with music and dancing for 130 luminaries from politics, business, sports and the arts.

Mrs. Bush showed off an Oscar de la Renta-designed off-shoulder gown in deep amber silk with taffeta leaves and flowers embroidered with sparkly beading.

The royals were turning to issues of more consequence Thursday with appearances at the National Institutes of Health, the National Building Museum and a seminar on religious faith at Georgetown University.

British Ambassador Sir David Manning planned an evening reception in their honor.

The duchess sat next to a tuxedo-clad President Bush at Wednesday night's dinner, smiling warmly as the president and the prince exchanged toasts to the U.S-British relationship.

Bush noted how both countries faced fascism and communism in the 20th century and are fighting today against an "ideology of hatred and intolerance" in the war on terrorism.

"The people of the United States draw great strength from having the United Kingdom as an ally," he said, before touching on the London subway bombings. "Your courage and fortitude are an inspiration to people throughout the world."

In return, Charles paid tribute to Bush in remarks that cited Winston Churchill (search) and recalled World War II, the 2001 terrorist attacks, the London bombings and the recent death of civil rights icon Rosa Parks (search).

"I need hardly say that so many people throughout the world look to the United States of America for a lead on the most crucial issues that face our planet and, indeed, the lives of our grandchildren," Charles said. "Truly, the burdens of the world rest on your shoulders."

The entertainment that followed dinner was off-limits to the media, unlike in 1985 when reporters watched as Diana danced up a storm in a black, off-shoulder gown with Travolta, star of the dance-crazed movie, "Saturday Night Fever."

At the NIH, one of the world's top medical research centers, the royal couple was to attend a seminar on osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that afflicted the duchess' mother and grandmother.

At the museum, the heir to the British throne was to accept an award for his contribution to architectural understanding, and possibly share his views on the importance of classical architecture, while the university seminar could give him a platform to gently chide the U.S. government over its poor relations with the Islamic world.

Charles and Camilla arrived Wednesday to a no-pomp White House welcome from the Bushes. A seemingly unenthusiastic Charles dryly pronounced himself "still here" and "alive" when a British reporter asked how the trip was going. But the all-smiles Camilla was heard to declare "fabulous" to something Laura Bush said.

As the foursome headed inside for an intimate lunch in the Bushes' private quarters, Camilla lingered just a bit, straying from the red carpet to flash a shy grin and a little wave at the jostling media horde.

The royal tour began Tuesday in New York with the couple on a mission to underscore trans-Atlantic ties and win public acceptance for Charles' marriage to Camilla, his longtime love. He and Diana divorced in 1996, and Diana was killed the following year in a Paris car crash.

But she and Charles weren't the only ones with something to gain. Bush benefited, too. A day with the royal couple provided a welcome change of subject from several matters buffeting his presidency: the indictment of a top aide, the Iraq war and the brewing battle over a Supreme Court vacancy.

The four-course menu — the debut of new White House chef Cristeta Comerford — featured celery-and-shrimp soup, buffalo medallions and salad, with petits fours and chartreuse ice cream for dessert. Afterward, there was music by cellist Yo-Yo Ma (search) and dancing.

Among the better-known dinner guests were former first lady Nancy Reagan (search), accompanied by television producer Merv Griffin (search); former NFL star Lynn Swann (search); newly installed Chief Justice John Roberts (search), and Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore (search), the military coordinator in the Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina (search).