AS THE behaviour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex becomes ever more unreasonable, the Prince of Wales must be finding himself in an increasingly difficult position. Continuing to support the couple financially yet unable or unwilling to criticise them publicly, he risks appearing, if not to condone their conduct, at least to tolerate it. For the monarchy as an institution, this matters. Something needs to be done.
Since the Sussexes negotiated the terms of their withdrawal from public duties, heir intransigence and selfishness, then petulance, and in the case of Prince Harry, his alienation from his family and former allegiances, have accelerated.
The Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey is surely right to predict that they’re not planning to quit the firm quietly.
The idea that Harry thinks he can cash in on the royal brand while stepping back from his royal duties has not gone down well with former Army colleagues.
Nor has his casual attitude to those commitments which earned him such praise and respect. As if insulting the Royal Marines, of which he was then Captain General, by skipping the memorial service for the 11 men killed by an IRA bomb in Deal 30 years ago to pitch for Disney voiceover work for his wife wasn’t bad enough, he has now upset the organisers of the Invictus Games, which he did so much to establish and publicise, by withdrawing his future direct involvement.
In all this, where is his father, the heir to the throne? Charles surely cannot expect it just to wash away. Of course the royal family is famously and correctly tight-lipped; nor would any father wish publicly to criticise his son, out of ordinary filial affection. Yet the Prince of Wales is no ordinary father, but one with constitutional obligations. He must see that his apparent support for his son’s wayward and spoilt behaviour could impinge on the monarchy and on his own constitutional position. Is it possible for him to be seen to be non-judgmental?
Media reports in early to mid-January indicated that Charles was sufficiently forgiving to keep funding Harry and Meghan, notwithstanding their intention to monetise their royal connections. According to some online sources, he is even ready to support them, both financially and quasi-constitutionally, should they decide to return to Britain. He must be aware that should they then deign to carry out a few public duties of their choosing, the taxpayer will still be responsible for estimated annual costs for their security of between £7million and £10million. Not much tough love there.
The Prince of Wales is sometimes said to be locked in his own bubble, despite his extraordinary initiative in building the only new town in Britain since Milton Keynes and his work with the Prince’s Trust. Does he fully appreciate that, should public anger and exasperation with the Sussexes keep growing, his own popularity will fall along with theirs? Does he not realise that the popularity of Prince William, who is reported to be hurt and upset by his brother’s behaviour, will grow concomitantly? Does it not occur to him that he might not only reduce his acceptability as king, but under a future Labour government threaten the monarchy’s very existence?
Either he is oblivious and unconcerned or, more likely, terrified of losing his younger son altogether; perhaps fearful too of appearing prejudiced towards his defensive daughter-in-law.
What the Queen has proved par excellence throughout her reign is that duty trumps family – and any other interest for that matter. On that score, even more of a question mark hangs over the Prince of Wales, not least with respect to his recurring partisan interventions on ‘climate change’, one of the most divisive issues of our time. Though his own interest dates from when benign environmentalism was unfashionable and ‘niche’, since this altruistic philosophy was hijacked by the intensely political, anti-capitalist, catastrophist and eco-totalitarian green-Left, it seems Charles did not detect it, appearing to swallow the green package whole.
His interventions are too numerous to list in detail, but his more recent ones make the point. His original eight-year ‘tipping point’ to ‘save the planet’ of 2009 had extended to ‘just 35 years’ by 2015.
Meanwhile the anti-capitalism, anti-consumerism message of the green ideology he appears to have bought into applies to everyone except himself. If he could only see it, Charles manifests the same eco-hypocrisy and tin-earedness as his younger son. Apart from the small matter of flying 125 miles to give a speech on reducing aviation-generated carbon [sic] emissions, plus the £20,000-a-time cost of using the royal train, it emerged in January that he’d flown 16,000 miles in 11 days on private jets before posing proudly with the exploited, manipulated climate-puppet Greta Thunberg at Davos.
The public won’t swallow it for long. Not when their fuel costs mount.
If the Queen, at 93, can drive a hard bargain with the Sussexes, she should have no qualms about giving Charles an unequivocal warning that, to protect the monarchy’s neutrality, and notwithstanding his intense personal interest, he must cease his interventions on such a divisive subject.
With this government’s drastic underestimation of the astronomical costs to the overall economy and individual households of its Net Zero policy, described as ‘mind-boggling’ on TWC yesterday and creating an austerity which no one living has seen in return for negligible effect, the debate is going to become only more divisive.
Charles has form when it comes to advocating policy changes. The reluctant release of a portfolio of his letters to ministers – called the ‘black spider’ memos because of the prince’s scrawled handwriting – has not inhibited him from continuing to make his views known. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him is immaterial. We should not even be aware of his views, as with the Queen.
The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Mountbatten-Windsor lineage enjoys above-average longevity. The Queen’s mother lived to 101, and at 93 she herself appears in full possession of her faculties, evidenced by the subtlety and ruthlessness in the way she has dismissed the Sussexes’ more selfish demands. We need her to exercise this skill once more.
With the possibility of Prince Charles, already 71 and the longest-serving heir to the throne, not succeeding until his late 70s and living as long as his mother, Prince William, now 37 and with his wife hugely popular, could have to wait until his early 60s before becoming king. The precedent set by his father does not inspire confidence that a long period as heir to the throne is necessarily a good thing.
Skipping a generation could alleviate that. In contrast to the ‘abdication-now, Prince-Charles-must-take-the reins’ solution advanced by the Times’s Matthew Parris, who presumably sees as a Good Thing the accession to the throne of a fellow ‘liberal’ inclined to political meddling on behalf of fashionable but democratically unpopular causes, it is to Prince William that his grandmother should hand the reins. There may be formidable constitutional, legal and technical obstacles to be overcome. But if Prince Charles won’t step aside, the Queen must take the initiative if she wants to secure the British monarchy for more than one more generation.