Inside Arch Street Presbyterian Church yesterday, it wasn't Sunday services as usual.
First, you needed a ticket to get in.
Then, there was the reading in Welsh, and the pews packed with worshipers, many decked out in kilts and tartans, fur coats and fancy hats. Ushers sported medals and neckties identifying them as members of British societies; one man wore a Sherlock Holmes cap, another a bowler.
And although picture-taking was prohibited, some couldn't resist, raising cameras and cell phones when the Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, walked up the center aisle. It was the royal couple's last stop on a two-day visit to Philadelphia.
As the hour-long worship service ended with a soaring rendition of "God Bless the Prince of Wales" by Philadelphia's Orpheus Club men's choir, everyone strained for a last look as Charles and Camilla walked slowly across the front of the church and out a side door.
"Philadelphia looked proud today," said Phyllis Neaves of Wallingford.
She was there with her husband, Angus, 76, a picture of Scottish splendor in kilt and St. Andrew's University tie. Despite security, he got in with a traditional sgian dhu - a dagger - tucked in his knee sock.
"Just in case," he quipped.
Just after noon, the royals headed to New York on a vintage train. They were accompanied by a group of Philadelphians who were offered hors d'oeuvres and apple nectar before meeting with the prince to discuss affordable housing and other city issues.
Later in New York, Charles received an environmental award, and was to fly home today, wrapping up a visit intended to bolster U.S.-British relations and give the prince a look at how other places deal with urban revitalization and youth development.
Before the Sunday church service, applause broke out when the royals were spotted walking from the Four Seasons, Camilla wearing a brown coat with beaded lapels and an animal-print hat with a dramatic plume of feathers. They waved and smiled at a thin crowd of onlookers.
Worship occurred inside a historic masterpiece with domed ceiling and massive columns. It was standing-room only, and even then not all ticket-holders got in.
Nicholas and Lisa Lutwyche received an e-mail on Wednesday inviting them to attend the service, by virtue of their membership in the Society of Sons of St. George, an association of Philadelphia-area residents with British roots. The Landenberg, Chester County, couple were among 1,000 invitees.
"The e-mail came out of the blue, and it was very cloak and dagger. It said we would get tickets in the mail on Friday disclosing the location of the services," Lisa Lutwyche said. The souvenir-quality ticket had a watermark to protect against counterfeiting, and the accompanying letter instructed the couple to bring photo identification.
But after waiting an hour in line at 18th and Arch Streets, the Lutwyches were disappointed when they and about 100 other invitees were turned away just after the royal couple arrived.
"I suspect the security checks took quite a while and that's what happened," Nicholas Lutwyche said. Once the royals were inside, the church doors were closed and no one else was admitted.
Lewis Wendell, who serves on the University City District board, had the same experience. He didn't even get a glimpse of Charles and Camilla. "We didn't think it would be right to leave the line and rush over to see them," he said. "It's the wrong protocol."
The pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian, the Rev. George Clayton Ames III, did not mention the VIPs by name, but in his sermon touched on issues of importance to the prince.
Ames urged the gathering to show love "not just for those who look like us, but for those who don't . . . especially for the marginalized whose gardens are not full of flowers."
"We pride ourselves on being a city of neighborhoods," he said. "We need to be concerned about all those neighborhoods."
In honor of the prince, the Epistle was read in Welsh - "the language of Heaven," Ames called it - by Jean Roberts, dean of British-affiliated Societies of Philadelphia.
Charles was duly impressed.
"When he was leaving the church, he looked at me and said, 'Perfect,' " said Oliver St. Clair Franklin, honorary British consul in Philadelphia.
Worshipers were required to stay inside until the motorcade left. The choir continued, ending with "Ride the Chariot," a spiritual in which soloist David Conver of Flourtown sang his heart out.
"Hopefully, His Majesty heard it over at 30th Street Station," he joked later.
Paul Levy, president and chief executive officer of the Center City District, rode to New York with the prince.
"What he continually talked about was his personal sense of horror at the squalor people live in," Levy said. "He led off talking about the things he cared about, and we took our cues from there."
One of the topics was the prince's ideas about creating socially and economically integrated communities.
Kenny Gamble, songwriter, producer and housing developer, was on the train, too.
"Kenny talked a lot about music, and I joked that he should sing for the prince," Levy said.
Others onboard were C. Kent McGuire, dean of Temple University's College of Education, and Patricia L. Smith, who led the city's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and now is with the Reinvestment Fund.
Sister Mary Scullion, a homeless advocate and cofounder of Project HOME, was invited, too, and described the prince as intense, passionate and thoughtful.
"He really was particularly interested in hearing about how to look at city revitalization as a way to impact opportunities for people of low income," she said. "He was interested not just in what people were doing, but how."
Some excerpts of coverage of Charles and Camilla's visit by the British press:
'Camilla Dazzles in U.S.'
The Duchess of Cornwall dazzled fellow guests at a gala anniversary night at Philadelphia's Academy of Music with an elaborate ruby and diamond necklace.
The Duchess's expensive jewels - 36 rubies interlaced with diamonds - were all her own, according to Royal aides. It is believed to be the first time she has worn them in public.
- Sunday Telegraph
'Camilla Stuns Rod
With Her Rock Collection'
The Duchess of Cornwall dazzled Philadelphia's high society and rocker Rod Stewart early today as she stepped out in an elaborate ruby and diamond necklace.
Camilla joined the Prince of Wales at a glitzy white-tie gala at the U.S. city's Academy of Music for its 150th anniversary, where Stewart was the star act. . . .
Stewart said of the necklace after meeting the royals backstage: "It was gorgeous. She always looks glamorous to me. I can see what he sees in her quite honestly, between you, me and the lamp post. . . ."
There was speculation that Camilla's necklace was a present from Charles, but Clarence House [Charles and Camilla's official residence] would not confirm this. . . . Governor of Pennsylvania Edward Rendell, who had earlier met the couple on their visit to the U.S. east coast city's historic district, remarked on seeing the Duchess: "Doesn't she look awesome?"
Camilla matched the colour of the rubies with a deep red velvet Robinson Valentine floor length evening gown.
- Sunday Mail
'Camilla Wows America'
The last time she was here she was dubbed a "frumpy fashion disaster" and accused of trying too hard by wearing high-heeled shoes.
But after a style overhaul and two years of marriage to Prince Charles, it looks like the Americans have finally warmed to Camilla.
The royal couple were well received in Philadelphia yesterday for the start of a whistle-stop weekend visit to America.
Hundreds turned out to greet Charles and Camilla. . . .
When Charles, 58, and Camilla, 59, last travelled to America, in November 2005, seven months after their wedding, the reception from the U.S. press, still loyal to Diana, was frosty, with jibes at her dress sense and even her dentistry.
But it seems Camilla's growing acceptance by the British appears to have caught on over the Atlantic.
No one could have accused Camilla of being frumpy in a pale blue cashmere dress and matching cashmere coat with fake chinchilla trim, just one of 12 gowns the Duchess brought with her.
- Sunday Express
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