Two hundred and thirty years ago, King George III's army was heading north to New York after George Washington's victories at Trenton and Princeton.

Friday, George's descendant and heir to the throne, Charles, the prince of Wales, and his wife, Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Philadelphia to a much friendlier reception - a welcome in the four-star Four Seasons Hotel - for the start of a packed weekend visit to Philadelphia and New York.

The British Airways commercial flight carrying the royal couple and their entourage of 18 touched down at Philadelphia International Airport about 15 minutes early, shortly after 2 p.m.

As at home, Charles - along with his more common fellow passengers on the flight - found himself confronted by the paparazzi, plus a dozen scandal-hungry British scribes hoping for a bon mot or a blooper.

Charles will be warmly welcomed on this, his first visit to the city. In fact, no prince of Wales had visited Philadelphia for nearly 150 years.

Jonathan Turner, 62, of Society Hill, was on hand to pick up his 94-year-old father, who arrived on the same flight.

"I think Prince Charles is a fantastic fellow. He represents wonderful views on the important issues," Turner said.

The whirlwind day-and-a-half visit of Charles, 58, and Camilla, 59, to Philadelphia will be one of only two stops for them in the United States. The other will be New York, for a Sunday-night banquet at which Charles will receive an award from the Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, recognizing his leadership in the area of urban redesign. The award will be presented by former Vice President Al Gore.

During their time in Philadelphia, Charles and Camilla will visit the Liberty Bell with a group of local students; tour the National Constitution Center, and visit a West Philadelphia church for a gospel choir serenade.

And, yes, they will visit Independence Hall, where they will be welcomed by Gov. Rendell, Mayor Street, and officials of the National Park Service.

After arriving at the airport, the royal couple went immediately to the Four Seasons, where rooms were booked solid.

In the hotel lobby, it could have been any other Friday afternoon. The harp player plucked soft melodies in the Swann Lounge. A handful of people clustered around the bar, and tourists and visitors were arriving by taxi and limousine at the porte cochere along 18th Street.

The only giveaway that a notable was on the premises was the presence of uniformed Philadelphia police officers in the lobby and out front.

A K-9 officer walked through the lobby and lounge areas, and dark-coated, husky men with clear, curly ear-phone cables running down their necks into their coats were also present.

The visit came on the same day that the Philadelphia law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll was holding its annual meeting at the Four Seasons.

Shellee Buchanan, manager of marketing infrastructure for the firm, said the royal visit did not cause any disruption.

"The only thing was that we all had to go outside when they arrived," Buchanan said, referring to the security measures.

"It was cold," she said, adding that they did not get a chance to see the royal couple. "I think they brought them through a different entrance."

Buchanan did not leave the hotel with her curiosity unsatisfied.

About 5 p.m., as she staffed the welcome desk outside her law firm's meeting, Buchanan heard a commotion across the hall and looked up.

"There were these security people milling around and there he was, walking into a conference room," Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the prince was not accompanied by his wife and did not stop and greet people along the way.

Philadelphians were to get their first official chance to view Charles and Camilla Saturday about 11:15 a.m. when they arrive in their motorcade in the 500 block of Walnut Street.

The red-carpet treatment comes courtesy of scores of Philadelphia traffic police, area art-school students (who created a banner to be hung at Independence Hall), honor-guard troops decked out in 19th-century regalia to provide a military escort, the city's Mural Arts Program for a reception at a site in Mantua, and a swank soiree at the Academy of Music for its 150th anniversary Academy Ball and Concert.

Although a shopping trip is not on the royal agenda, Oliver St. Clair Franklin, honorary British consul in Philadelphia, said a number of people had asked him to deliver gifts and souvenirs to the prince.

Among the offerings: a painting by local watercolorist Noel G. Miles, known for his images of Philadelphia landmarks, and a Donovan McNabb-autographed football and letter of appreciation from Eagles team owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Officials warned that motorists should expect sections of South Broad Street and other parts of the city to be closed or thick with traffic through noon Sunday, when Charles, the duchess and their entourage will depart for New York City from 30th Street Station, aboard a private train.

Accompanying them on the 90-minute trip to New York will be five Philadelphians chosen by the prince's staff for their work in urban design revitalization and youth empowerment: the songwriter/producer/developer Kenny Gamble; Project HOME cofounder Sister Mary Scullion; Temple University College of Education dean C. Kent McGuire; Center City District head Paul Levy, and Patricia L. Smith, who led the city's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and now works with the Reinvestment Fund.

The Philadelphia Royal Visit

The first official chance to catch a glimpse of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be about 11:15 a.m. Saturday when they arrive in their motorcade in the 500 block of Walnut Street.

From there they will walk to Independence Hall to be welcomed by Gov. Rendell, Mayor Street, and National Park Service officials.

The rest of the tour looks like this. The times are approximate:

Saturday

Independence Hall: 11:30 a.m.

The Liberty Bell: Visit with students. Noon.

National Constitution Center: Reception with community leaders and members of the local British community. 12:20 p.m.

Mural "Reading: A Journey," 40th and Pennsgrove Streets: Ceremony. 1:50 p.m.

Heavenly Hall Full Gospel Church, 4012 Poplar St.: Meeting with Mural Arts Program artists, students and organizers. 2 p.m.

International House, 3701 Chestnut St.: Discussion on urban regeneration, visit to student living quarters, reception. 3 p.m.

Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St.: 150th Anniversary Academy Ball and Concert.

Sunday

Arch Street Presbyterian Church, 1724 Arch St.: Worship service. 10:40 a.m.

30th Street Station: Departure for New York via private train.

In New York, Prince Charles will receive the Global Environmental Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment.

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Contact staff writer Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or mmatza@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer David O'Reilly contributed to this article.