Heir feigns apparent bout of madness

Royal revelations: Duty calls the Prince and Princess of Wales to joint visit to Argentina
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The Independent Online
STEVE BOGGAN

London

PHIL DAVISON

Buenos Aires

It can't be easy being heir to the throne when your wife has admitted adultery, when you can't remember where you are, or what day it is, and when your subjects have begun to jeer you in the street.

That, coupled with a case of self-confessed "advanced decrepitude" and a hairstyle growing more like Bobby Charlton's each day, would be enough to induce in most people - the kind of madness associated with a more senior royal called George.

But yesterday, while the world continued to talk about that interview, the Prince of Wales got on with what he does best: jollying businessmen into batting for Britain while cleaning up the environment.

The ink had no sooner dried on the New York Daily News's headline: "Yes, I Cheated on Chuck", than Chuck himself was arriving at the Royal Society of Arts in London to make the fifth Norsk Hydro Awards for innovations in the water industry.

He wore a sharp blue double-breasted suit and looked tanned, if a little tired, beneath frescoes by James Barry entitled The Progress of Human Knowledge. His own knowledge was, he said, a bit dodgy on a day-to-day basis because of his age - or was it because of the pressure?

"My only problem as I get older," he told his audience, "is that I think I must be suffering from a certain amount of advanced decrepitude and, combined with the fact that I receive a certain number of invitations, I have less time to remember what I am doing today and what event I am at and whether I have the right speech notes.

"As you may have gathered, I am not entirely convinced I have the right speech notes." To roars of laughter, he added, possibly as a dig at the assembled media: "This is a shame, because I'm constantly intrigued by what I have to say myself."

As it transpired, the Prince did have the right notes and he sped through the engagement with practised ease emerging 90 minutes later to be greeted by a warm crowd. On Tuesday night, he was jeered by a small section of the crowd outside the premiere of the new James Bond film, GoldenEye.

The Princess of Wales, meantime, departed for Argentina last night in the sort of "ambassadorial" role that she told the BBC's Martin Bashir she sees for herself in the future.

During the four-day visit, she will attend a number of charitable fund- raising events and will meet President Carlos Menem, a man who, it will not have escaped Buckingham Palace's notice, is famous for admitting to being a serial seducer of beautiful women.

Female journalists warned the Princess to "watch out for the old hand on the knee" from a man with a lifelong reputation as a mujeriego (womaniser).

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