The rain has eased to a deluge by the time the Royal Plane touched down in Portugal. Prince Charles and Princess Diana's first glimpse of Lisbon was a sea of inside-out ruined umbrellas in the bedraggled crowd of photographers trying to stand upright in a howling gale. Instead of the planned red carpet treatment for their first ever visit to Portugal, the royal couple stepped straight off the aircraft steps into an ordinary airport bus, just like any other passenger.
The original, carefully rehearsed plan for the start of this historic four-day tour was for Portuguese President Mario Soares to greet his royal visitors at the foot of their aircraft steps, and then to take them through the city streets in a VIP procession and on to the honors of a military parade. The February storm did not diminish the warmth of the Portuguese welcome and the royal couple, who spent most of their time under umbrellas, responded in relaxed and informal way.
The visit had been arranged to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Windsor in 1387 which had bound Britain and Portugal in "perpetual friendship". The Prince and Princess of Wales attended a banquet held in their honor by President Dr. Mario Soares at the Ajuda Palace. Princess Diana was in a flirty mood sitting next to the President at the dinner table where the menu included fish soup and partridge. All their conversation was being conducted through an interpreter, and because of the damp, cold weather, the centuries old Ajuda Palace was not the most comfortable place to eat such a meal.
"Are you cold?" asked President Soares looking at Diana's velvet off-the-shoulder evening gown. The Princess, still through the interpreter replied coquettishly "No, but if I were, would you take off your jacket to keep me warm?" The silver haired 62 year-old grandfather, obviously deeply smitten with the beautiful Princess said gallantly - "It would be my honor." The Princess spotted his white braces under his dinner jacket, she put out her hand, reached underneath and twanged them, saying "You are a Socialist aren't you? Shouldn't you be wearing red braces?" The next evening at a ballet performance, the cheeky Princess peeped under the President's jacket just to check whether he had bought some red braces. He hadn't, they were still the same white ones, so she gave him a flirty twang again.
On the first night when they arrived at Lisbon's historic Queluz Palace, their home for three nights, the Princess was shown to her bed, a romantic 400 year old four poster covered in peach silk drapes. She clapped her hands in delight until suddenly she realized that her husband had been shown to a separate room. It was a request made by Buckingham Palace to ease the early morning preparations for Charles's valet and Diana's dresser.
Later, Diana told one of her staff that the romantic ancient bed was not meant for anyone sleeping alone. There was a serious side to the visit. The royal presence was used to boost British exports to Portugal. In 1986, they were worth little more than the $707 million Portugal sent to Britain. Charles opened a trade fair and it is now hoped that Diana's rib-tickling, twanging tour of rainy Portugal will boost the sales of British fashion and other related goods.
Diana: An Extraordinary Life, By Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. Publication Date: 14 September 1998