The third day of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall’s trip to Italy may be the most significant yet as this evening Charles was awarded the prestigious prize, “Renaissance Man of the Year” and gave a speech underscoring Britain’s continued presence on the European stage.
But first, everything else. The day began at Mercato Sant’ Ambrogio, a market in the center of Florence where the couple were mobbed by the crowds while they sampled cappuccino, produce and other locally-sourced, handmade food. Next up was an event held by Carlo Petrini, Founder of the Slow Food Movement and a friend of the Prince.
Charles, through his duchy of Cornwall, has decades of experience and interest in farming and agricultural trends, so he was well within his element. Recently his commitment to anti-GMO food development was caught up in headlines when his sister, the Princess Royal, stated publicly that she believed genetically modified served a purpose. The slow food movement, in particular, is meant to preserve local food customs and counter-balance the rise of fast food.
For their next stop they moved to the Palazzo Pitt, a palace that once belonged to the Medici family in the 16th century, for an event highlighting the Italian wool industry and the Prince of Wales’s Campaign for Wool, launched in 2010 to promote the environmental benefits of wool use. The couple posed for photos on the palace’s terrace and took in the view over the city, prompting Charles to joke to photographer that, “I hope we’ve got nothing growing out of our heads,” in reference the towers in the landscape behind them.
He went on to visit Caritas, a pastoral organization that provides shelter for the the elderly and young families, where he viewed the facilities and played a hand of cards with residents. And finally, the couple visited the Opificio della Pietre Dure Institute, which is focused on historical artifact restoration, and they watched staff work on a Roman mosaic.
If there is one thing that has been abundantly clear over the last few days when Charles and Camilla have undertaken joint engagements it’s that the Duchess is a remarkably good sport. The spotlight is very much on Charles, a dynamic that I hadn’t particularly been keeping an eye out for, but was very much on display, today especially. It’s worth mentioning, if for no other reason than so much has been made about Charles feeling overshadowed during his first marriage to the late Princess of Wales.
Camilla very much acts in a supporting role, by which I mean, literally, her behavior is that of a wife supporting her husband in his job. She carries out her solo engagements with good humor and genuine interest, and she clearly has particular issues – particularly those affecting women – about which she is passionate, but it’s not the “Camilla” show. The feeling one gets from the photos and the reporting is simply that Charles is the future king and Camilla is his wife. What you don’t get, by default I suppose, is the sense that she undertakes these engagements or this role with any feeling of being Charles’s equal. They are a couple, and a couple very much in love, but they aren’t a power duo, both wheeling and dealing on equal footing.
I’m equivocating in my language a bit because I want to be clear I don’t view any of that negatively or to mean Camilla is submissive. Nor do I say that as any sort of dig at Diana. Neither take is right or wrong and, in this particular case, how each relationship played out makes a great deal of sense given a whole host of variables. But I do want to say I think Kate is trying to take a similar approach as Camilla. It’s a bit trickier for her because she’s married to Diana’s son and the comparisons to Diana are inevitable, if a bit useless. But the “role” of Diana in the public eye has yet to be filled – Camilla isn’t the right fit for it and Kate doesn’t seem to have interest. She, too, carries out her duties with seriousness, responsibility and efficiency, but I believe she views herself first and foremost as William’s wife and his support system in his role as a future king. From that stems some of the criticism of being “work shy” or reluctant, but I think it comes more from a hesitancy to overstep the mark or to own any of the trapping of the Royal Family as truly hers.
A thought to expand on, perhaps, another day. For now, let’s finish up with the main event: this evening’s award and Charles’s speech. The honor was handed out during a dinner hosted by the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, and the Palazzo Strozzi foundation, and given to someone who has “demonstrated the values of Renaissance humanism and had an impact in areas like entrepreneurship and social causes.”
Addressing guests, Charles said:
“Although our relationship is deeply rooted in our shared history, today, I am delighted to say, it is more firmly embedded than ever before. In almost any field that one can think of, in culture, business, education, defense and security co-operation, innovation and research, even sport, the partnership between the United Kingdom and Italy brings tremendous benefits to our economies and to our societies.
“[The UK-Italy relationship] is also a force for good in the world. The United Kingdom and Italy are Europe’s two biggest contributors to global peacekeeping.”
And finally, a short clip from Sky News on the significance of the Royal Family in extolling soft power:
Catch up on your yesterday here.