LONDON — Furious student protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, vandalized buildings and battled riot police Thursday as a controversial hike in university fees triggered Britain's worst political violence in years.
In a major security breach, demonstrators set upon the heir to the throne's Rolls Royce as it drove through the busy West End on its way to a theater. Up to 20 people struck it with fists, sticks and bottles, breaking a window and splattering the car with paint.
In the frenzy, some chanted, "Off with their heads!"
Adnan Nazir, a 23-year-old podiatrist who was following the protesters, said Charles, 62, kept his calm and pushed his 63-year-old wife toward the floor to get her out of the line of fire.
"Charles was still waving and giving the thumb's up," Nazir said. "It was just a surreal thing," he said. "It was completely manic."
Charles' office, Clarence House, said the couple was unharmed. Police said it was unclear whether the royals had been targeted or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Metropolitan police Chief Paul Stephenson said the force would investigate Thursday's violence.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the violence was "shocking and regrettable."
Protesters erupted in anger after the House of Commons approved a plan to triple university fees to $14,000 a year.
The violence overshadowed the tuition vote, a crucial test for the governing coalition, and for the government's austerity plans.