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British princesses take Mini for spin around Berlin landmark, breaking road rules

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BERLIN - Two British royals on a Mini adventure drove through a red light Thursday on a promotional spin near the German capital's Brandenburg Gate.

With photographers and police in tow, Princess Eugenie, 22, steered a Union Jack-emblazoned model of the iconic car on a 500-meter (550-yard) journey to her country's nearby embassy, seemingly oblivious to road rules.

But Buckingham Palace insisted the blue-blooded driver was simply obeying orders.

"They were following the instructions of the German police," said Hannah Howard, a spokeswoman for the royals.

Ignoring a red light can bring a fine of €200 ($267) and a month's driving ban in Germany.

Eugenie was visiting Berlin with her 24-year-old sister Princess Beatrice — their first trip abroad representing Britain. The trip was paid for by their father Prince Andrew because they are not among the small group of 'working royals' who are paid by the government to represent Britain.

The princesses' trip marks part of a sustained effort by the royal family to shift the spotlight to the next generation, which is spearheaded by Prince William and Prince Harry, who have both been on active military duty in recent years and also have represented their grandmother, the queen, abroad.

Still, few of the tourists visiting the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic symbol of the German capital once sealed off from the West by the Berlin Wall, recognized the princesses.

Tourists seemed bemused when British officials thrust Union Jack flags in their hands to make the welcome appear warmer for a waiting gaggle of photographers.

From Berlin, the royals travel on to Hannover. They are direct descendants of George Ludwig of Hannover, who became King George I of Britain and Ireland in 1714.

The princesses will hope to avoid the controversy that dogged their father during his extended stint as a "special representative" promoting UK trade abroad. Andrew's official role as a business booster was downgraded after he was criticized in the British press for questionable judgment — including his friendship with a financier sentenced for soliciting a minor for prostitution — and for the high costs of his official trips.

The Mini stunt was part of a wider campaign to promote Britain in Germany. The car, first produced in Britain in 1959, is now part of German auto giant BMW's portfolio and was being touted as the perfect example of British-German collaboration.

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