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Royals charm Californians with casualness, grace

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to Britain Monday after charming Californians ranging from Hollywood household names to inner-city school children with their mix of youthful casualness and graceful glamour.

The nonstop weekend, which included playing a few chukkers of polo, mingling with Hollywood stars, and chatting with children and jobless veterans, capped the couple's first official overseas tour since their storybook wedding in April.

Before stopping in Southern California, Prince William and his bride, Catherine, visited Canada for nine days, where they received an enthusiastic reception.

In California, excitement was considerably more muted, though small crowds of well-wishers waving British and American flags lined up for an in-person view of the newlyweds outside their scheduled events.

The duke said he and Catherine appreciated the friendly reception.

"I would just say, on behalf of us both, how grateful we are to have been welcomed so warmly in the Golden State and the City of Angels," he told the crowd at the couple's last event Sunday, a military veterans' job fair. "Thank you so much."

The trip was a tightly scripted, formal affair, but a few moments revealed glimpses of personality.

Much to fans' delight, the couple took a few impromptu minutes early Sunday morning to shake hands and exchange pleasantries outside the British consul's residence in Los Angeles where they stayed.

The couple even indulged in a chaste, but rare display of royal affection: William kissed his wife on each cheek when she presented him with the trophy.

The trip was designed around promoting Prince William's causes.

The prince played in a charity polo match on Saturday in Santa Barbara, where a ticket in the stands fetched $400 and a champagne reception with the royals $4,000. The event benefited the prince and his brother's foundation, which supports a variety of causes.

That evening, the couple starred among Hollywood's version of royalty at a black-tie gala to promote British film industry talent to the likes of Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman and Barbra Streisand.

On Sunday, they saw another side of Los Angeles when they visited an arts academy for disadvantaged children in Skid Row, downtown's gritty homeless core.

Like many who interacted with the couple, administrators and students were struck by the couple's down-to-earth style.

Jessica Cornejo, one of 16 teen dancers who performed for the duke and duchess, said she was thrilled when William gave a double thumbs-up and lauded them with "brilliant" at the end of their performance.

Others said the couple's easy manner made any nerves go out the window.

"They were like your oldest friends and family," said Bob Bates, co-founder of Inner-City Arts. "The kids really took them to heart."

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