Camilla heads for New York, haunted by Diana

The week-long tour will take the royal couple to New York, California and Washington, where they will have lunch and dinner with President George Bush and the First Lady. Not on the royal schedule is Houston, Texas, the latest city to host a touring exhibition from Althorp of the wardrobe of the late Princess Diana, including her wedding gown.

Prince Charles himself has not made an official visit to the US since 1994. But as the royal household knows, Americans remain deeply enamoured of Diana, who was in New York in 1997, two months before her death. Crafting a new romance between the US and Camilla will be a steep challenge.

Preparing for the visit, Prince Charles granted an interview to the 60 Minutes programme on CBS television, to be broadcast tonight. In it he will say that his greatest difficulty is trying to appear relevant at home. "It isn't easy, as you can imagine," he says, "because if you say anything, people will say, 'It's all right for you to say that.'

"It's very easy to just dismiss anything I say ... It's difficult." And in an aside delivered with a chuckle but also a tone almost of resignation, he says he tries to make a difference in Britain, pointing to his model village at Poundbury, which emphasises community and ecological priorities. "I only hope that when I'm dead and gone, they might appreciate it a little bit more," he says.

No one in America expects Camilla to create the same social buzz that Diana did, especially when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985.

About 100 guests are expected at the White House dinner on Wednesday. Other social events for the royal couple include a reception with artists and cultural figures at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan on Tuesday. Next week they will see the long-running fringe musical Beach Blanket Babylon, about Snow White seeking her Prince Charming in San Francisco.

Otherwise it will be a week of events short on glamour, including a visit to Ground Zero in New York on Tuesday and a meeting with Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, as well as speeches by Prince Charles on architecture in Washington and on environmental issues in San Francisco. While on the West Coast, the couple will also tour a farmer's market.