- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

After all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the funeral of President Reagan, the social A list couldn’t

help being impressed by the informality that characterized the subsequent visits to Washington of King Abdullah II and Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

No anthems or heralds sounded, no uniformed equerries or liveried attendants stood at a discreet distance as the Jordanian monarch and the British queen’s second son quietly slipped into the capital earlier this week to support causes dear to their royal hearts.

King Abdullah’s presence came as a surprise to most of the guests who had contributed more than $700,000 to the Hope Gala benefiting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and its Jordanian partner, the King Hussein Cancer Center, at the Mellon Auditorium Monday night.

“I hope those of you who were expecting my talented wife are not too disappointed. I’m happy to acknowledge that she is the star of the family,” the King said of his beautiful consort, Queen Rania, who had had to cancel the previous week because of “exhaustion” after recent travels.

King Abdullah was already in the United States to attend the G8 Summit and Mr. Reagan’s funeral and didn’t seem to mind filling in, especially because it afforded face time with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and World Bank President James Wolfensohn#, among other political and financial luminaries.

The fete had unusually stylish flair, with glamorously gowned members of the Jordanian royal family, including Princesses Firyal, Dina Mired and Ghida Talal, and event chairwomen Luma Kawar and Samia Farouki greeting guests at a reception for VIP donors along with British TV presenter Tania Bryer and supermodel Amber Valetta. The latter was wearing vintage black Halston with a parure of gold Bulgari pieces that was later sold to the highest bidder by celebrity auctioneer Jamie Niven.

#(The persuasive Mr. Niven later coaxed $27,000 out of AmericaOnline co-founder Steve Case for a customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the king’s own collection.)

The festive mood grew somber when King Abdullah spoke movingly of the long battle his father, King Hussein, had waged with cancer and its effect on family members.

“I know that many of you have sat by the beds of loved ones, … or waited for that next medical report, or prayed that research would make a breakthrough in time. I can only tell you that Rania and I know the deep emotions of those moments,” he said.

King Abdullah also made it clear that his mind never strays far from problems affecting his country and its neighbors.

“Sooner or later, we are going to need a plan,” he told a reporter. “Call it a ‘Marshall Plan’ or whatever you want — but we need to reach people and win them over … to show the goodheartedness of the America I know. This can be expanded to everyone in the Mideast.”

“The answer to all these issues is economic,” agreed Huda Farouki, a businessman whose companies employ 20,000 workers in Iraq. “We need to pour in a lot of money to create jobs and empower people.”

New museumhonors Churchill

With Prince Andrew’s name on the invitation alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s, it wasn’t surprising that British Ambassador Sir David Manning#’s dinner to introduce London’s new Churchill Museum to would-be supporters was chockablock with blue-chip guests Tuesday night.

“There’s at least $15 billion walking around in the drawing room,” one guest whispered as computer services and real estate mogul H. Ross Perot, publishing heiress Leonore Annenberg, former Ambassador to Great Britain Charles Price and his wife, Carol (Madame is a Swanson of food products fame), banker Joe L. Allbritton, sports czar Abe Pollin, Roger Sant (power plants), Mandell and Mary Ourisman (car dealerships), Max and Heidi Berry (She is Giant Foods) and Sidney Harman (audiovisual systems) sipped champagne while chatting with the likes of Sir David Frost, Karl Rove, Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell, Mr. Abraham, Mr. Wolfensohn, Richard L. Thornburgh and Gen. Brent Scowcroft.

The evening was not a fund-raiser, although organizers certainly were hoping many of the guests would emulate Mrs. Annenberg’s recent “mid-six-figure” gift to the first major museum in the world dedicated to the life and works of the late, great British prime minister. The 10,000-square-foot space is in the Cabinet War Rooms, the top-secret underground bunker where Churchill and his government operated during the London Blitz.

Prince Andrew, looking tanned and fit, mixed easily with guests who no doubt refrained from asking him about his golf game in the wake of press criticism following his decision to attend a golfing enthusiasts’ awards dinner in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, rather than ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

If the former navy combat veteran was attempting to acquit himself with his prepared remarks about Britain’s heroic World War II leader, he may have succeeded. The after-dinner audience sat spellbound as the prince quoted from a private letter sent by George VI to Churchill after voters rejected his return to office in July 1945.

“My grandfather took the extraordinary step of writing him to say he was ‘shocked at the result,’ and that ‘the nation was most ungrateful after all your hard work for our people,’” the prince read.”… ‘It is useless to pretend that any of your successors will ever be able to take your place.’”

The prince’s contention that Churchill’s role as the liberator of Europe could be compared to Ronald Reagan’s ending of the Cold War seemed certain to open up a few checkbooks, as did Ambassador Manning’s reference to Churchill’s being an honorary citizen of the United States and “the only foreigner for whom an [American] capital ship is named.”

Such comments inspired Mr. Rove to reveal he was a “huge Churchill fan” and that “the President is, too.” The White House senior adviser delighted table mates by telling them his boss had requested the busts of three men to provide inspiration after he moved into the Oval Office: Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Churchill (the last on loan from British Prime Minister Tony Blair).

“It was only after the events of 9/11,” Mr. Rove recalled, “that the president realized all three were war leaders.”

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