Omid Scobie’s Yahoo UK column is about Prince Charles this week. Scobie actually seems to have some affection for Charles, and I agree with Scobie’s reasoning. Charles actually is a skilled diplomat, Charles is unafraid of addressing controversial and “political” subjects like Islamophobia and colonialism, Charles doesn’t barge into countries like a bull in a china shop. Charles is thoughtful and nuanced, unlike the rest of his family. But Scobie points out that the drip-drip of scandals surrounding Charles’s “fundraising” for charity have irreparably damaged Charles’s reputation and future reign as king. Over the weekend, the Sunday Times reported on the literal bags of cash handed to Charles by various shady billionaires. That’s just one of dozens of damaging scandals for Charles.
Charles has been better than his relatives: In a year that saw other royals disastrously bulldoze their way past opportunities to prove their ability to modernise and take accountability for past actions, it has only been Prince Charles who has successfully demonstrated the art of diplomacy and compassion to less able family members. His appearance at the CHOGM was a stark contrast to the failed Caribbean visits by Princes William and Edward, who both caused offence by handling those same conversations with such little tact.
Charles’s willingness to have difficult conversations: The steps may be small compared to the speed at which society has evolved in recent decades, but Charles’ efforts seem authentic. And while there is an argument that the prince needs to tone down his political views as a future king, I have always found it admirable that, despite the constrictions of his role, he has been unafraid to address issues that others consider too political—from the environment and Islamophobia to youth unemployment. To him [the Rwanda scheme] was not about politics, it was about human rights. So it’s a great shame that the attributes that could potentially make him a great king are being undermined by a series of terribly poor decisions made by himself and the people he chooses to keep around him.
Accepting bags full of cash from Qatar’s former Prime Minister and billionaire Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani: Though legal – and all the money went to Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund – the incidents demonstrate a total lack of awareness of the way in which such deals were done. How can a senior royal believe accepting a suitcase of cash is a sensible way to fund a charity? Particularly one who already receives an income of £21 million a year from the Duchy of Cornwall to help fund his philanthropic endeavours. Isn’t that enough?
The cash-for-honours schemes: The news also comes in the shadow of an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation into the fundraising practices of his foundation, after it was revealed last year that Charles’ right-hand man, Michael Fawcett, had offered to help a Saudi billionaire obtain a knighthood and give support for his British citizenship application in exchange for generous donations. Charles was not aware of the offer, according to Clarence House, yet it shows more poor judgement in relation to those he chooses as his closest aides.
Charles’s weakness is that he’s surrounded by incompetent staff? While turning down donations from political figures can cause issues of their own, Charles and his close aides may not find themselves in these situations if they were simply a little more careful about the controversial characters being granted access to the prince in the first place. There’s a reason why we haven’t heard stories about the Queen in these situations—the senior aides and courtiers around her don’t allow them to happen.
Charles has blown it: The Prince of Wales’ popularity as a future king has always been mixed. His past infidelities, appalling treatment of Princess Diana, and questionable professional judgement has lost him support both in and outside of the palace. The Platinum Jubilee year was a final chance for the Prince of Wales to turn some of that negativity around. But with rumours of more embarrassing revelations on the horizon (yes, the sources behind the most recent leaks claim to have more), Charles appears to have well and truly blown it.
I will disagree with Scobie on one point – from what we’ve seen of the Queen’s staffers, I have no doubt that those incompetent, racist old men are just as bad as Charles’s staffers. It isn’t that “the Queen would never accept bags full of cash,” it’s that the Queen’s reputation has always been a bigger priority than Charles’s reputation. The Queen has absolutely accepted jewels, cash, horses, and other big-ticket gifts from shady billionaires and assorted despots. She doesn’t take the hit because she’s the Queen, so her staff do a better job of protecting her, in concert with the British media. The British right-wing media is currently mad at Charles, which is why we’re getting these stories about his fundraising schemes, cash-for-access, cash-for-honours and bags full of cash.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Instar.