Prince Charles the rash

Despite his many good works, Prince Charles has shown a remarkable ability to end up with egg on his face

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Cracking a joke, or being one?
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Hal Gordon
On 22 August 2013 08:07

Because I’m sentimental about royalty, I’m inclined to feel sorry for Prince Charles. He’s been waiting to become king longer than any other heir apparent in British history—longer even than his great-great grandfather Edward VII had to wait to succeed his mother, Queen Victoria, who finally died in 1901 at the age of 82 after a record reign of 64 years.

Queen Elizabeth II seems likely to surpass Victoria, having reigned for 61 years already. Yes, she’s 87, but she is reportedly in “robust” health and her own mother lived to be 102.

So Charles has to wait. And wait. And wait.

I don’t blame the prince for being bored with ribbon-cuttings and garden parties and the endless round of mind-numbing ceremonial duties that royals are expected to perform. But his efforts to do something “meaningful” frequently backfire.

Among other pet causes, Charles has crusaded against modern architecture and genetically modified crops. His enthusiasm for homeopathic medicine has led him to recommend carrot juice and coffee bean enemas to treat cancer. Out of concern for global warming, he issued a call for people to give up their cars in favor of walking and public transportation in order to curb carbon emissions.

It was a perfectly sensible suggestion to be sure, but coming from a man who owns two Jaguars, two Audis, a Range Rover and an Aston Martin it fairly begged for ridicule.

Nor has Charles limited himself to making some rather flaky public pronouncements. He’s lobbied the government to fund homeopathic medicine, even though this meant diverting money from scientifically-proven treatments to what Britain’s medical establishment regards as quackery. And he intervened to block the erection of a modernist building project in London’s Chelsea district.

The project’s design had many detractors, and there were some who viewed the prince as a hero for preventing it from being built. But the fact that he scuppered the project by appealing personally to the Qatari royal family, whose company owns the building site, sparked angry charges that he was behaving in an “almost feudal way.”

Now it has come to light that members of Charles’ staff have been secretly working in key government offices related to the prince’s interests. Sources close to Charles say that that staffers detailed to government are merely part of an effort to keep the monarch in waiting fully briefed on current issues. But the fact that these placements were made secretly has given rise to speculation that the prince’s staffers are “moles” assigned to help Charles shape official policy.

This is anathema to most Britons, whether they tilt left or right. Law and custom dictate that the crown remain above politics. When the queen opens Parliament, for example, her speech is written by whichever party happens to be in power, and the monarch is even supposed to refrain from placing any undue emphasis on particular words or phrases.

Queen Elizabeth does not have members of her staff working in government offices. Prince Charles’ action is unprecedented, and the secrecy with which it was done only made it appear more sinister when it was revealed. Grim warnings are now being voiced that when Parliament returns from its summer recess, “there will be questions.”

Twenty years ago, there was a popular British TV series, “House of Cards,” (precursor to the current series of the same name on Netflix) that may prove eerily prophetic. In one season, an idealistic but politically naïve king — a character obviously based on Charles — tries to thwart the policies of a sinister right-wing prime minister named Francis Urquhart.

The king bravely but unwisely oversteps his role as a constitutional sovereign. He goes public with his opposition to Urquhart during a general election. Despite the king’s efforts, Urquhart is re-elected and, in a chilling scene, he arrives at Buckingham Palace to demand the king’s abdication.

When the king threatens to continue his fight against Urquhart by running for office as a commoner, Urquhart is unimpressed. “I wouldn’t bet on it, Sir,” he cautions. “I’m afraid you won’t be of much interest as a commoner. I doubt if anyone will be particularly interested in what you have to say. You have no constituency, you see, no power base. You represent nothing but one talentless and discredited family, and very soon you will not represent even that. You will represent nothing. You will mean nothing. You will be nothing.”

Could such a fate conceivably befall King Charles III? Surely he’s more astute than the feckless sovereign depicted in “House of Cards.” He has also done some very good work as Prince of Wales. His Prince’s Trust is widely respected for helping young people get started in trades and businesses.

But his forays into controversial issues, and his clumsy efforts to meddle in public affairs, suggest that he is politically tone-deaf to a disturbing degree.

This article first appeared on Pundit Wire. Hal Gordon, who wrote speeches for the Reagan White House and Gen. Colin Powell, is currently a freelance speechwriter in Houston

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