MOUTHS aghast, fear is etched on the faces of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as their limousine is attacked by a rampaging mob as student protests exploded into violence last night.

The heir to the throne and his wife were on their way to the London Palladium for the Royal Variety Performance when rioters spotted their entourage as it made its way through central London.

As the Rolls-Royce drove down Argyll Street, a number of people connected with the protest against the rise in student tuition fees lunged at the vehicle, smashing a window next to the Royal couple and daubing it with paint.

Almost immediately, close protection officers swung into action and gave the driver the order to speed away.

Within a couple of minutes the car arrived at its destination and Prince Charles and Camilla got out, looking shaken, but otherwise unharmed. Clarence House confirmed they had not been injured.

The incident was the most high profile act of violence on an evening which saw key political landmarks attacked and widespread disorder on the streets of the capital.

The protests by up to 30,000 students had been largely good-natured, but after the coalition Government won the vote in Parliament to raise fees to up to £9,000 a year the mood turned ugly.

Protesters attacked a number of Government buildings near the House of Commons, smashing windows at the Treasury and the Supreme Court and vandalising statues in Parliament Square, including that of Winston Churchill.

The chaos spilled out on to Oxford Street as a number of demonstrators continued their protest.

Police condemned the behaviour, with Superintendent Julia Pendry describing the demonstrators actions as outrageous She added: "This is not peaceful protests at all - this is acts of wanton vandalism, wanton violence and a complete disrespect for central London.

"Not only have we had attacks on Parliament, the attacks on our officers, weve now had the Supreme Court that has come under the attack of vandalism and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have also come under attack in Argyll Street.

"We have now got a number of protesters rampaging their way through London, committing acts of violence, acts of terror, not only to Christmas shoppers and to tourists, but to innocent people in London going about their business tonight.

"It is appalling, disrespectful behaviour to everybody else in London."

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman also said he condemned the unacceptable violence.

Some 38 protesters and ten officers were injured. Six officers required hospital treatment and four suffered minor injuries.

Dozens of people were arrested for offences including violent disorder, arson, assault on police, criminal damage, being drunk and disorderly and burglary.