And so it is over: the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have safety returned to the UK after wrapping up a nine-day tour of Romania, Italy and Austria deemed a “charm” offensive by the press following the latest in the Brexit saga. Yesterday marked the couple’s second day in Vienna after spending Wednesday at Cafe Demel and a state banquet at Hofburg Palace.
They began the day at the city’s Jewish Museum where they met with British and Austrian Holocaust survivors and learned of their experiences firsthand before and after World War II. One woman in attendance told reporters:
“It is wonderful that The Prince and Duchess came here. The Prince told us how proud he was of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who hid a Jewish family from the Nazis.”
Princess Alice was, of course, the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, who had a long and storied life, as well as interesting relationship with her British relations. A great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she spent the post-war years founding a nursing order of Greek Orthodox nuns in Athens and Tinos and even attended the Queen’s coronation in a wimple. She spent the last two years of her life residing in Buckingham Palace at the invitation of her son and daughter-in-law, at which point, despite being largely away at school at the time, Charles would have known her well. She died in December 1969 and is buried in Jerusalem.
Next up the couple visited Musikverein where they enjoyed a live performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic. They were also shown the building’s archives, which includes original compositions from Beethoven and Mozart. Given Charles’s famous and ongoing appreciation for classical music, this may very well have been one of the tour’s highlights for him.
Next up was the Weinbau Buscheschank Obermann vineyard, which may very well have been Camilla’s favorite stop, according to remarks made by Charles today. He noted he’s no match for his wife’s knowledge of wine. In response to Camilla commenting one of the reds had a slight “peppery” taste, he laughed and responded, “I always find it so difficult, the words you experts use to describe – all these adjectives.”
The vineyard in question is family-owned and makes of point of not using any chemicals in their wine production (ding ding, Charles).
For their final engagements they split up; Camilla visiting the Spanish Riding School, which has been around for 450 years, and Charles going to the Austrian Integration Fund where he met with refugee families and took part in a roundtable discussion about human trafficking and slavery.
And that, my friends, is that. Tomorrow, Lord Snowdon’s memorial service is expected to be held in London and attended by the Queen and Philip and other members of the Royal Family. It’s unclear whether Charles and Camilla will be among the attendees, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they miss it given their rather intense schedule over the last several days. (Also given the fact that their names aren’t being bandied about as showing up is a pretty good indication they won’t be there).
We’ll next see Charles on Sunday in France with his sons, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, for the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ride. Quite the international spring for the RF so far…
Now, as I mentioned during the rundown of the Vatican visit earlier this week, there’s a new biography out on Charles that’s causing quite the stir (as, I suppose, they always do), particularly since they always dredge up old history about his first marriage to the late Princess of Wales. Quite a bit has been re-hashed by the publications serializing it about Diana and his formative years at boarding school, none of which is particularly new. However, I have purchased the book and started reading it and, so far, I think it’s very well done.
The author, Sally Beddell Smith, who has already written biographies of Diana and the Queen, began researching the book in 2013 and has subsequently been examining her subject during these critical post-Jubilee years as Charles’s role has expanded while the Queen has cut down on some of her public duties. It’s particularly done a nice job of framing the book as the juxtaposition of Charles’s reputation – the fallout from the Diana years and the intensive rebuilding he has undergone in the last 20 years.
As I’ve said before, I think the monarchy is at a critical point today and having now covered this tour for the purposes of writing it about it here, I think I will try to share thoughts as I work my way through it, the first batch of which I will try to get up this weekend.
And in the meantime, you can catch up on the first day of the Austrian visit here.