Something happened to Prince Charles' Rolls-Royce yesterday amid the unrest in London, as the prince and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, rode to an evening variety show. The car encountered a crowd in the street, and it came away with a cracked window and splashes of white paint on it.
And that's is about the only set of facts the newspapers and their various eyewitnesses can agree on. The New York Times describes a
Prince Charles and the duchess remained in their vehicle throughout and ultimately relaxed after a moment when the duchess, looking terrified, slid into the footwell beside the door. "He remained absolutely calm, he was beaming, as Camilla was," the witness said. "People were just trying to have a chat with them."
By the time the car had reached its destination, the Times reported, "photographs showed the royal couple smiling broadly."
The Guardian, meanwhile, wrote that the couple "looked visibly shaken when they arrived at the London Palladium."
As well they should have been, since the Guardian's lead witness reported a
"There were 400 to 500 protesters there. It was fairly obvious who was in the car. It was very well lit up. Charles and Camilla looked quite relaxed at first but when they saw how many people there were they began to get worried. A few seconds later the area was packed with police. It was complete chaos."
Complete chaos? More like an
, according to The Sun:
Crowds of Christmas shoppers watched in horror as thugs punched and kicked the royals' chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
The yobs - who had joined the student tuition fees demo - smashed one of the rear windows and hurled paint over the luxury motor during their frenzied assault.
Camilla clutched her husband's hand and gasped in shock as royal protection officers battled to fend off the mob.
Yet almost none of this dramatic imagery took a form that could be captured by a camera. There are pictures of the car with a broken window and a handprint of paint on it, and there are about two and a half shots in circulation of the royals looking more or less startled, blurrily, through the glass. But nobody got a clear picture of the chaotic mob of hundreds laying its hands on the car. ("Our footage below shows the royal car in central London, seconds before it was attacked," The Sun offers, feebly.)
Even so, according to the Daily Mail, it was
than those other papers had it:
Royal protection officers were seconds from drawing their weapons after the Duchess of Cornwall was physically attacked by rioters, it emerged today.
Camilla was prodded in the ribs with a stick through the open window of their Rolls Royce as she and Charles were driven to the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium.
One of the vintage car's windows was left open by mistake before the vehicle was surrounded by a snarling mob of rioting students and activists.
The car was kicked, rocked and hit with paint bombs as up to 20 demonstrators attacked it and chanted 'Off with their heads!' and 'Tory scum', leaving the couple visibly shaken.
One thug managed to lean into the car through the window nearest to Camilla, who was left terrified by the biggest Royal security lapse in a generation.
At least the accounts of the end of the night agreed. As Parker-Bowles left the Palladium show, she told the press, "First time for everything." Everything—and, apparently, anything.