Sunday, February 26, 2006


‘“Such is the end of Empire,” I sighed.’
So Prince Charles whined in his journal about his party being billeted in Club Class while a motley crew of political leaders travelled First Class on a flight to Hong Kong when the territory was handed back to China in 1997.
Presumably the idea was to give the prince’s group privacy but Charles didn’t see it that way.
What this telling quote from the journal — the subject of a High Court action in which he claims breach of copyright and confidentiality over its publication in the Mail on Sunday — reveals is a man who is a Victorian or, at latest, an Edwardian at heart like his grandmother, the late Queen Mother, and not only fails to understand but is ill at ease with the way things are in the 21st century.
The subtext is a longing a long lost world where people knew their place and stayed in it. And the outdated baggage and resentment he brings when he tries to act means his actions often unravel.
The case itself has already backfired and is doing him more harm than good.
No one else in the UK lives like he does. The aristocracy, who shared his lifestyle with retinues of servants, has been virtually swept away by death duties, which the royal family does not pay, and the partial dismantling of the House of Lords. So, alone and isolated, he is out of touch with the modern world and resists the attempts of aides who try to put him wise to it.
The case also reveals the frustration and personal tragedy of a man who has waited almost all his life for the job he was born to do.
As he has desperately struggled to find a relevant public role for himself, his one notable and worthwhile achievement has been the establishment of The Prince’s Trust, which has done a very great deal to help deprived young people make better lives.
But the rest, as the case reveals, is long series of sad, cack-handed yet ruthlessly determined attempts to influence the way the world is run.
Whatever people think about his public outbursts on architecture, GM crops, global warming and the state of the countryside, Charles, like anyone else, is entitled to keep a private journal. Writing down his impressions and feelings is probably as good therapy for a prince as it is for any anyone else.
Except Charles never intended his journal to be private. Along with bombarding them with letters, he circulated it to government ministers and opinion formers in an attempt to influence their decisions and lobby for his interests from his privileged position.
But even this, coupled with his briefings of carefully chosen journalists to spread his message, was not enough for him.
This self-styled political ‘dissident’ wanted the world to know his opinions on global politics.
It didn’t matter to him that it may have taken government ministers and diplomats months and years to arrange the State visit of the then Chinese leader, President Jiang Zemin, to the UK in 1999 for the sake of UK trade and good relations with this emerging world power.
So Charles not only stayed away from a palace banquet for people he deemed ‘waxworks’ but, as devious as any political hack up to his neck in media manipulation, connived to let it be known that his action was deliberate because he disapproved of China’s human rights policies.
Through it all he has either forgotten or failed to grasp that the British monarchy has survived because it has kept out of all politics, not just Party ones.

His private life has often damaged the monarchy and raised questions about its future. And his marriage to his long time mistress, the former Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, raises constitutional issues which hang in the air.

The fact that he can’t keep his opinions to himself and feels so passionately that his voice should be heard and influence public policy raises further questions about his suitability for what is a ceremonial role as Head of State.
If, like her mother, the Queen lives to be a hundred, Charles will be nearly eighty should he become king.
Perhaps the finest service he can give the country is to step aside and let his elder son, Prince William, a very modern young man in touch with the times, become king when the role becomes vacant.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2006. All Rights Reserved