Passengers on the 10.25 Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris might not have noticed the elegant blonde making her way to her business class seat on Monday morning; in her usual understated fashion, Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall thus embarked on her first solo engagement abroad.
As she arrived to catch her train, Prince Charles' wife confessed to some nerves ahead of her two-day visit. "Yes, it's my first solo and could be my last," she told members of the press with a smile. "I'm dreading making my speech in French, I haven't spoken it since I was 16."
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Camilla is using her visit to Paris — the city where she spent six months studying French and French literature at the Institut Britannique as a teenager in 1963 — to learn more about the charity Emmaus, which was founded shortly after WW2 when homelessness and poverty was a big problem.
It was at the Emmaus charity workshop and community in Bougavil that she made her speech. "I hope you will forgive my rather rusty French," she began, before impressing attendees with her delivery.
"She did it very well. She didn't make any mistakes," said Julia Batters, head of the senior school at the British School of Paris. "Her pronunciation was very English, but that's to be expected."
Camilla was clearly relieved when her moment in the spotlight was over. "I was so terrified. That really has taken years off my life," she said afterwards. "I'm just so thankful it's over."
Aides have said that Camilla, who was accompanied by three representatives from the charity's UK arm, has been keen to learn even more about Emmaus for some time, as it was one of the first patronages she took on after her marriage to Prince Charles in 2005. Her husband has privately funded her two-day visit to Paris.
After her speech, Camilla toured the Emmaus community, where she took a shine to a faux Cartier watch. After admiring the timepiece, which had a rectangular gold face and a thin black strap, she was given the watch as a gift by British Ambassador Sir Peter Ricketts, who purchased it for a bargain 10 Euros.
"I don't think it's the real thing," Camilla joked. "It's just a really nice watch."
The Duchess spent several minute studying the watches, which had all been cleaned and repaired by members of the Emmaus community.
"They are really nice watches aren't they?" she added. "It's a fantastic place to come. You could pick up a little bargain here. If I had all the time in the world, and nobody wanted me, I'd spend a fortune in here."
On Monday evening, Camilla attended a reception at official residence of the British ambassador and his wife, Lady Suzanne. Guests were Britons who have 'made their mark in Paris', and included Chocolat author Joanne Harris and chef Rachel Koo.
Bathed in the warm Parisian sun, the group sipped champagne and Pimms, and ate canapés, including miniature fish and chips, in the gardens.
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