Britain's royals not amused by attack on Charles' Rolls (Feature)
By Anna Tomforde Dec 10, 2010, 13:51 GMT
London - For Prince Charles and Camilla it will be a night to remember: The heir to the throne and his wife travelled to the theatre in London in their Rolls-Royce, were ambushed by angry student protestors, and returned home in the back of a police van.
Pictures showed the couple visibly shaken, their mouths wide open, and pressing their hands together for mutual comfort, as some 20 protestors surrounded the black Rolls-Royce, smashed windows, kicked in the sides and shouted: 'Off with their heads.'
'The mob was really going for them,' one observer told the Sun newspaper Friday. As boxes and bags of rubbish were thrown at the windscreen, attackers pressed their faces against the car windows and covered the back of the Rolls in white paint.
Charles kept calm, gently pushing his wife towards the floor to get her out of the line of fire, one eyewitness reported. 'Charles got her (Camilla) on the floor and put his hands on her,' reported Adnan Nazir, a 23-year-old doctor who witnessed the scene.
'I'm surprised they got away when they did,' said another witness.
As was to be expected, the couple later attempted to play down the incident, displaying the proverbial British stiff upper lip. 'I'm fine ... There is a first time for everything,' offered Camilla with a smile when she emerged from the theatre.
Charles muttered something about 'battling through' the crowds before both got into the back of a marked police van to take them back home to St James' Palace.
The attack came after a day of violent student protests against the decision of the Conservative-Liberal government to raise tuition fees for British universities from the current annual level of 3,290 pounds (5,200 dollars) to a maximum 9,000 pounds from 2012.
Some 20,000 students had gathered in London to protest outside parliament as the vote took place. After the measures were passed, their fury spilled out into the streets as hardcore anarchist elements peeled off to attack government buildings, smash landmark red telephone booths and target flagship stores on Oxford Street.
The question of why the royal limousine, escorted by police outriders and flying the royal pennant, took a route that would lead it directly into the trouble near Oxford Circus, weighed heavily on the minds of police and royal security staff Friday.
'I don't think Prince Charles and Camilla should ever have found themselves in that situation. They should have had motorcycle outriders well in advance of the car who should have seen what was round the corner and diverted them to another route,' said Brian Paddick, a former deputy commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police (Met).
But Met chief Paul Stephenson, defending his force, said the route was 'thoroughly recced in advance, including several minutes beforehand when it was still clear.'
But, he conceded, London's police force had been 'very, very stretched' on the day of a 'very unpredictable demonstration, a very difficult night.'
Stephenson would have some 'very serious questions to answer,' said David Davis, a former Tory security spokesman. Stephenson has promised a 'serious and detailed' investigation, while also stressing the difficulty of policing.
Britain's royal family had a 'very welcome history' of wanting to be close to the public, he said.
'Short of locking everything down then frankly we have to do our best to try and achieve that balance that facilitates closeness with the public while still providing security,' said the police chief.
There is no doubt that royal security will be subjected to a thorough review after what has universally been described as a 'shocking' event, commentators said Friday.
Coming just months before next April's royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the unprecedented attack on a royal public figure was bound to have shaken the court.
After Thursday night's events, the general assumption of a relaxed and trusting relationship between the royals and the British public would have to be re-examined, commentators suggested.
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