It’s time to cut this purposeless prince
While the UK tightens its collective belt, why must we put up with Charles, a useless, unelected feudal throwback?
In many ways, Prince Charles is like that other famous royal, King Knut, except instead of doing anything so useful as retiring to the seaside to order the tide to turn back, the Prince of Wales sits, enthroned at his desk, red in face and big of ear, emitting his own, personal vowel ‘aiiiiieeeeyyy’ as he searches for a felicitous phrase, writing letters, and striving, hard as he might, to reinstitute the feudal system. Last year, he wrote 2662 personal letters – an average of 51 a week.
‘Plough my way through a backlog of letters’, reads Prince Charles’s diary (as told to Craig Brown in Private Eye this week). ‘The first is to the Chairman of “Tesco”, suggesting that to replace his “fleet” of “lorries”, etc, for the good old-fashioned horse-and-cart would represent a tremendous saving on fossil fuel, as well as being infinitely better for the environment and perhaps he would care to drop round to Clarence House to discuss it? It’s so often the “personal touch” that swings these people round to a more enlightened point of view.’
This is only a jot more absurd than Charles’s actual scrawlings – apparently known as ‘black spider memos’ in Whitehall because of his handwriting. He revels in his reputation for being a ‘stirrer’ and a ‘dissident’ and in February used an annual conference at St James’s Palace to declare: ‘I was accused once of being the enemy of the Enlightenment, I felt rather proud. I thought hang on a moment, the Enlightenment started over 200 years ago. It might be time to think again and review it and question whether it is really effective in today’s conditions.’
Shaky ground for the dimwitted scion of Windsor to be getting onto – for if the ideals of the Enlightenment seem out-of-date to Charles on the basis that they are over 200 years old, how on earth must he view himself, whose entire position on society depends on the retention of a thousand-year-old system of hereditary monarchy.
Why does the nation continue to have to listen to his gubbins? Last week, it was revealed that he is still on an income many times that of the much-maligned former head of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin – and yet when Charles turned up for a walkabout at Glastonbury, at no point did anyone smash his car up or threaten to make him dead, like they did with the Shred before he went into hiding. Charles’ entertainment bill makes an MPs’ expense claims look like petty cash, but rather than the tabloids roaring, they all seemed to acquiesce to a Clarence House press mantra that the Prince of Wails was now a ‘cut price Prince’.
‘Thrifty Charles slashes his costs’, ran the splash on the front cover of the London Evening Standard. ‘Prince gets half as much from the state… and pays more tax’. In his latest statement of accounts, the Prince received a mere £1.664million from the taxpayer – down from £3.033million the year before. His spending on official duties was cut from £12.5million to £10.7million. Considering that a ‘greedy, overpaid’ footballer who just ‘lost us the World Cup’, such as Wayne Rooney, or the ex-England star David Beckham will cause far more excitement in Japan than balding, charmless Charles will, where was the interrogation of the idea that he needs any of this money at all – especially when the Duchy of Cornwall, creamed him in £17.2million? The list of Charles’s ‘savings’ should make anyone in their right mind blench.
Whilst MPs have become national hate figures after it was revealed that some had claimed for duck houses, wisteria removal and moat cleaning on expenses, why is no-one spitting about the fact that Charles spent £6.3million on staff costs alone last year, so the Prince could continue to getting his newspaper ironed by a valet? Staring at a list of his domestic help alone makes Sarah ‘Fergie’ Ferguson start to look like a slightly more useful human being.
Asked whether Charles couldn’t fund a few more of his overseas trips without the public purse, his private secretary, Sir Michael Peat sniffed, ‘There’s not a lot of slack in the income. We are already diverting 90 per cent. I suppose we could get the prince and duchess to eat one fewer meal a day.’ What an excellent idea. Now MPs are sleeping in the House of Commons after their second home allowance was scrapped, this seems pretty reasonable. Perhaps the Prince could learn how to boil an egg himself or open a tin of biscuits.
The continuing existence of the hereditary system is an insult – and not just because Charles is heir to the throne. Along with the House of Lords, it is a ludicrous anachronism. Last week, former defence minister John Gilbert told the House of Lords that if there were an elected second chamber, rather than a house full of former Blairites, hereditaries and wonks ‘you would get the sort of oik — and for Hansard’s benefit, oik is spelt OIK —that could not get into the Commons, Europe, the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly and probably not into a half-decent county council. That is the sort of oik you would have here. That is barmy.’ He then added that he had ‘no intention of standing for a seat in your Lordships’ House for the simple reason that I know perfectly well I would not get elected’.
Would Charles be elected if the position of Head of State went before the people on the death of the Queen? I think not. Charles has all the charm of a wooden post. With all the talk about sacrifices that have to be made during the recession, perhaps cutting the cut-price Prince might be amongst the most painless.
Emily Hill is a reporter on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard and is also spiked’s columnist on celebrity culture. Visit her personal website here.
Previously on spiked
Tim Black called for the abolition of the monarchy, not a tinkering with the constitution. He also argued that New Labour’s justification for the Royal prerogative showed a distrust of the people. Brendan O’Neill looked at the barriers to a Republic of Britain, and explained why he was sick of Royale with sleaze stories. He also saw the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal as a great day for democracy. Neil Davenport warned of the return of the aristocrats. And Vicky Richardson explained why she heckled the Prince of Wales. Or read more at spiked issue British politics.
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