Atwitter Over a Royal Visit

On the surface, Washington's social scene looks discreetly subdued.

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The exact date of the Charles and Camilla dinner will be confirmed today; the first week in November is all party planners are saying so far. But what no one wants to discuss is who will be serving up names of the potential guests. There are expected to be about 100 at the dinner.

Tops on the list of usual suspects are Washington's past and present political honchos, including the President's parents; Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne; new Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts; Ambassador to the Court of St. James' Robert Tuttle; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and perhaps Colin Powell. Not to mention the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna, who might spend the state dinner angling for a date in London with the royal princes William and Harry. And nd maybe the First Lady's favorite designer, Oscar de la Renta, also might make the list.

So expect White House social secretary Lea Berman to enjoy a new wave of sudden popularity as she lines up the seating plan.

Then there are the 120 or so donors to the Prince of Wales Foundation, run by Washington veteran Robert Higdon. E-mails have been flying back and forth offering up the first sign of social smoke. "I just received several e-mails from members of the foundation asking if we've been invited,'' confides one foundation member. "So far none of us has heard a thing. It's going to be a very coveted invitation. But, face it, they can't invite everyone.''

Word from Prince Charles' camp is that he's been advised to leave all the inviting up to the White House and concentrate on his mid-October plans for welcoming foundation members for the first time to his mummy's Balmoral Castle, where the dress code for men is kilts and women are advised to dress warmly. (It is northern Scotland in autumn.)

Perhaps that is why even some of the royal couple's friends haven't received their invitations to the dinner yet. But the chatter about it has already begun — even by Camilla herself. Mercedes Bass, in Washington to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National Symphony a few weeks ago, confided she has discussed the matter with the duchess. "We're friends and, yes, we've talked about it. But I haven't been invited. Unfortunately, we're going to be out of town at a meeting," Bass said, sporting an elegant de la Renta strapless gown.
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