I'm in Los Angeles this week, preparing to accompany Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- better known to many as Will and Kate -- on their visit here.
The Duke and Duchess won millions of American hearts with their wedding in April, watched by more than 20 million people across the United States. As I blogged at the time, the interest and enthusiasm for the young Royal couple was a strong reminder of the deep cultural ties shared by the US and the UK, and of their renewal for today's new generation.
Their Royal Highnesses' visit this week caps a period of unprecedented visibility and attention for our relationship, from the Prince of Wales's visit to Washington a week after his son's wedding, to President Obama's State Visit to the United Kingdom in late May. These occasions are important in themselves, with the signals they send about the relationships between countries at the very highest levels.
But they're about much more than ceremony. Just as during the other big occasions of the past months, Their Royal Highnesses' visit to LA this week will bring to the fore some of the most important practical aspects of a relationship which the president, six weeks ago, rightly described as "essential" as well as "special." The Duke and Duchess will attend a job fair that is intended to help US military personnel to reintegrate into civilian life. Supporting this is both personally important to the Royal couple -- the Duke is a serving helicopter pilot himself -- and fits with the increased focus on veterans and military families announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron during the President's State Visit.
Another link the visit will highlight is the unrivalled business connections between American and British companies -- a relationship which supports a million jobs on each side of the Atlantic. An event hosted by UK Trade and Investment will focus on developing relationships between US and UK technology companies, especially in the exciting new media hub in the Tech City region of East London; another hosted by the British Academy for Film and Television Arts will connect emerging British talent with Hollywood's movers and shakers.
The service and charity theme present throughout the Duke and Duchess's schedule is a testament to another fundamental aspect of the special relationship: our shared values. From an event supporting inner city arts, to another promoting environmental conservation, to the charity polo match in which the Duke is competing, each day of the visit will focus on ways to give back to the community.
While this week's visit crowns -- no pun intended -- a period of intense activity and visibility for the UK here, it is by no means the end of that. Later this month we'll mark one year to the London Olympics, and 2012 will also see the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. But for the moment, it is time to enjoy the enthusiasm and interest which this young couple have inspired across the United States, and to recognise the benefits to both our countries of cooperation on the issues that are the focus of their visit.