WASHINGTON - With smiles and handshakes, President Bush and his wife, Laura, quietly welcomed Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to the White House Wednesday.
The royal couple made a low-key entrance to the nation's capital.
"I'm still here. I'm alive," Charles replied dryly when a British reporter asked how the trip was going so far.
There were no military bands, no pomp and ceremony. Just the president and first lady waiting in the White House driveway when a limousine pulled up at the South Portico carrying the prince and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Plenty of pageantry awaited the pair at dinner, however.
Charles was first out of the car with a handshake for Bush. Camilla exited the other side of the limousine and came around the back with a handshake for Mrs. Bush. There were no air kisses or hugs. Bush and the prince patted each other on the back. Camilla was overheard to say "fabulous" about something.
After posing for pictures, the quartet went into the White House for a lunch featuring watercress soup, lemon sole, asparagus and tomatoes, salad and apple sorbet. The table was set with Truman China.
There was a small guest list for lunch: the president's mother, Barbara, his sister, Doro, and her husband, Robert Koch, and the president's brother, Marvin, and his wife Margaret. Also, Sir David Manning, the British ambassador to the United States, and his wife, Lady Catherine, and Robert Tuttle, the American ambassador to Britain, and his wife, Maria.
Bush and his wife were giving their guests gifts of custom-made leather saddles. The horn of Charles' saddle features the crest for the Prince of Wales and Camilla's has the crest for the Duchess of Cornwall.
The day's main event was the White House dinner - a black-tie affair attended by Washington's political, academic and business elite. The president, who is known to prefer early nights, has hosted only five formal White House dinners for world leaders since taking office in 2001.
About 130 people were expected for dinner in the State Dining Room on the White House's grand main floor. The menu and guest list were both being kept under wraps by the White House - as was any potential embarrassment over the prince's passionate environmentalism.
Neither the White House nor Charles' office would say whether the prince planned to raise the issue of global warming, which he recently called "terrifying." Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto climate-change accord has angered many environmentalists.
Asked if the president wanted to discuss climate change, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said before the visit that Bush "looks forward to the visit. He's glad to talk about whatever issues Prince Charles may want to bring up."
The royal couple began their weeklong trip Tuesday in New York, visiting ground zero and the United Nations and mingling with celebrities at a glitzy Museum of Modern Art reception.
The trip - the couple's first joint overseas tour since marrying in April - is designed both to promote trans-Atlantic ties and to glamorize the resolutely middle-aged royals.
At the MOMA reception, Charles told guests, including Sting and Donald Trump, he was pleased "to celebrate the long-standing and very special links between our two countries."
To the delight of guests, the 56-year-old prince referred to Camilla as "my darling wife."
The reception did not exactly reach the frenzy that welcomed Charles 20 years ago on a U.S. tour that saw his radiant wife, the late Princess Diana, dancing with John Travolta at a White House dinner.
Earlier Tuesday, Charles attended a round-table with Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations.
Small but enthusiastic crowds greeted the couple as they began their trip by paying tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks at ground zero before unveiling the cornerstone to a memorial garden nearby for the 67 Britons killed that day.
At a reception for supporters of the garden project, the prince said he and his wife were "profoundly moved by what we saw - not just the scale of the outrage but the deeply distressing individual stories of heroism and of loss."
The U.S. tour is part of a careful palace plan to win acceptance for the duchess, long reviled in the British press - and among Diana-philes - as the woman who broke up the royal romance.
"There were three of us in that marriage," Diana told a television reporter in 1995.
Charles and Diana divorced in 1996; Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris the following year.