Britain’s royal couple takes on the Golden State

Posted July 07, 2011, at 9:11 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — They’re arguably the world’s most famous couple. They were just married in April in a fairy tale wedding, and now Britain’s Prince William and the former Kate Middleton are coming to California for a long weekend to keep their honeymoon going — and hype British trade and film interests.

The couple is sure to create quite a stir as they travel along the scenic Pacific coast from Los Angeles to the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. For the price of a $4,000 ticket, the unwashed but well-heeled populace can schmooze briefly with the prince and princess on Saturday and watch Prince William lead his fellow polo players into competition and then see Kate present the trophy to the winning team.

Still, much of the whirlwind weekend will be devoted to work, or something close to it. Along with promoting British trade ties, the itinerary will call attention to causes backed by the couple and others in the royal family, including environmentalism, welfare for families of disadvantaged children, and support for military personnel.

There won’t be many opportunities for average folks to meet the royal couple, although the prince and princess do hope to exchange pleasantries with a few people between stops on their tour. Anglophiles, if they’re disappointed, aren’t showing it. Hundreds plan to gather at Ye Olde King’s Head, a popular British restaurant and pub in Santa Monica, to celebrate.

“So we’re hoping they might swing by and have a pint with us,” joked manager Lisa Powers. “You never know, they might. They won’t be that far away.”

The couple’s friend David Beckham does drop in from time to time at the pub, where a traditional royal tea is planned Saturday afternoon.

The royals will be welcomed to California on Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown and other dignitaries, then meet with venture capitalists, industry leaders and philanthropists.

There will be no trips to Disneyland or Universal Studios to watch King Kong wreak havoc. No romantic moonlight strolls along the beaches of Malibu or Santa Monica, and definitely no climbing aboard one of those British doubledecker-lookalike buses to check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The charity fundraising match may provide the couple’s best opportunity for sightseeing and celebrity stargazing, depending on how much of it William can do from the back of a galloping horse.

Nick Booth, who runs the charitable Foundation of Prince William and Harry, said William and Kate, formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, haven’t invited any celebrity guests to the club, located along a stunning stretch of coastline and mountains, but they won’t object if any show up.

Plenty, including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Kirk Douglas and Rob Lowe, have homes in the area

“I do think a number of corporate sponsors are bringing some celebrities as guests,” Booth said. “I know a number of people said do we mind, and we said, no, we don’t mind in the slightest.”

He added that the 29-year-old prince, who has been swinging a polo mallet since his teens, is looking forward to mixing it up with some of the world’s best players in a round-robin competition between three teams. Afterward, the duchess will present the winning riders with the Foundation Polo Challenge Cup, which was made by Tiffany for the event.

For those who can’t afford $4,000 to chow down with the royal couple, a $400 ticket will buy admission to the grandstand, a box lunch and a souvenir program. Sponsors expect both tickets to sell out, raising millions for charity.

Later Saturday, the duke and duchess will walk the red carpet at the historic Belasco Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, where they will be guests of honor at a British Academy of Film and Television Arts dinner honoring 42 young filmmakers.

Although the list of “42 Brits to Watch” reads more like a “Who’s That?” than a “Who’s Who” to Americans, several Hollywood movers and shakers are also expected to attend.

Hollywood royalty, however, has been limited to one big shot per table, says Nigel Lythgoe, chairman of academy’s Los Angeles chapter. He wouldn’t say who had been invited, although he indicated many hopefuls were left disappointed.

“I’ve had a lot of personal people call and be my best friend,” Lythgoe said. “I’ve had to explain how it works, there’s no tickets.”

On Sunday, the royal couple will attend an event supporting the U.S. branch of Tusk Trust, an international group promoting conservation of African wildlife. They’ll also visit an inner-city arts program for impoverished children and a job fair for American military personnel transitioning to civilian life.

The trip that began in Canada is the first official overseas jaunt for the couple.

“The Duke of Cambridge has been to America before but not to California. And the duchess has not been to America, so they’re both very excited about the whole tour,” Booth said, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if they’re back soon.

William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, visited the United States just last year and the brothers’ father, Prince Charles, has been a frequent visitor, most recently in May when he met President Barack Obama.

Charles and his wife, Camilla, also paid a popular visit to Northern California in 2005. William’s late mother, Princess Diana, who would have turned 50 this month, charmed Americans when she visited in the 1980s.

She’s here, at least in spirit, again this month. Photos of her radiant face adorn the covers of recent issues of numerous American magazines, including Newsweek.

No matter who the royals are, wherever they go, whatever they do, their visits never seem to get old.

“We’ve all grown up with it, yet it’s still a little bit mysterious to us,” Powers said of British royalty. “You wonder what they do that is so different from us.”

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