Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 13:37 UK

Charles and Camilla meet the Pope

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Prince Charles and Camilla meeting Pope Benedict XVI

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

Prince Charles and his second wife, Camilla, who flew to Rome on Sunday night, were granted a private audience with the pontiff.

It was Charles's first audience at the Vatican since his divorce from the late Princess Diana.

Prior to the Vatican meeting the prince made a speech on climate change to Italian MPs and business leaders.

The royal couple will spend two days in Italy as part of an official tour before travelling to Germany.

As they arrived at the Chamber of Deputies for the climate change speech on Monday, the couple waved to several hundred onlookers.

'Carbon footprint'

For their audience with the Pope they were greeted at the Vatican by an honour guard of the Swiss Guards and a Vatican nobleman.

The royal couple finished their tour by exchanging gifts. The Prince said he was "touched" after the Pope presented them with an honorary medal and drawing of the St Peter's Basilica.

In return, the royal couple gave the Pope a set of plates, with paintings of plants from the Prince's Highgrove Estate.

Prince Charles has attracted some criticism for hiring a private jet for the duration of the tour, during which he will mainly focus on climate change issues.

As well as making a speech at the Chamber of Deputies, he will attend a meeting of Italian business leaders and a reception to promote the "slow food" movement of local sourcing and organic production.

Prince Charles and Diana in a private audience with Pope John Paul II, 1985
Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, met Pope John Paul II in 1985

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker MP said the prince's travel arrangements would emit so much carbon it would "weaken his case" for tackling climate change.

He said the couple should have travelled by rail, or at least by scheduled flights.

He said for longer - non-European - destinations it was "perfectly proper" people travel by air, but added: "Each us has a duty to minimise our carbon footprint".

A Clarence House spokesperson confirmed the couple had hired a private jet.

She said they had originally intended to fly by RAF plane, but on Friday it had become unserviceable outside the UK, leaving them with "no other viable option" at short notice.

Charles met Pope John Paul II in 1985 when he visited Rome with Diana, Princess of Wales.

Vatican protocol dictates that the prince had to meet the pontiff alone before being joined by the duchess and then other members of the Royal Household.

Camilla was required to wear black and a matching veil.

Although the meeting involved an exchange of gifts, the Vatican has denied Prince Charles will receive a memento of Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

It followed reports the pontiff was to give Charles a copy of the 1530 appeal by English peers for the annulment of Henry's marriage.



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