His Royal Highness the Prince Charles Arthur Philip George, Prince of Wales and nob of much else, has written a Ladybird book on climate change. Naturally, as with other tasks such as brushing one’s teeth and providing one's urine sample, this is not a feat the dauphin has pulled off solo. He’s roped in Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Emily Shuckburgh of the British Antarctic Survey for a spot of authorial toothpaste-squirting and flask-holding. Penguin, which owns Ladybird, apparently tapped seven specialists to wrestle with the 5000-word spider-written MS in order, as Roland White of Penguin put it, to 'amend some of the more assertive language to ensure it was bulletproof'.
For the first time in longer than I can remember I agreed with Gerry Adams. It was political of course – calculated as well as choreographed – but that much photographed and much commented-on handshake with Prince Charles was a human, even – to unload the word – disarming moment.
‘Queen Victoria stuck to the throne like shit to a blanket,’ my grandmother would occasionally remark during one of her Benson & Hedges-fuelled historical disquisitions. Annette Crosbie had then lately been on telly in Edward the Seventh, as the Prince of Wales’s dismayingly adhesive materfamilias. Bertie, as he was known to his intimates, spent a lot of his long wait for the throne on grouse moors and in Parisian knocking-shops. It could be argued that he was spending his time more fruitfully than the present Prince of Wales, whose ten-year-old letters to government ministers have just been published after a long campaign by the Guardian.
The UK Supreme Court yesterday ruled that 27 'black spider' memos sent to the government by Prince Charles in 2004-5 may be published. Judges overruled a bid by Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, to gag publication. Thoughts that Charles has previously shared only with his mother's ministers and sympathetic root vegetables may now see the light of day. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the prime minister shared his 'disappointment' with a grieving nation, while the prince's office said that 'Clarence House is disappointed that the principle of privacy has not been upheld.’
People sometimes ask me why I moan on so much about the royal family. Aren’t there more important things to worry about, like war, political repression, man-made climate change or Arsenal’s exit from the Champions League? To give the short answer, yes. But in a funny way, no. As constitutional monarchists never tire of saying, the sovereign is a ﬁgurehead. A ﬁgurehead symbolises or stands for something else. In the UK, the queen bears the same relation to the state as the Michelin man does to the tyre company, or the golden arches do to McDonald’s Corporation. Brand protection is big bucks; symbols matter.
Although, during his speech congratulating his mother on having been queen for a long time, he mentioned that many people were suffering financial hardship, it's clear that the Prince of Wales isn't struggling to get by. Aside from his own personal fortune, he is in receipt this year of £18.3 million (a rise of 3 per cent) from the annual takings of the Duchy of Cornwall. This landed estate is given to the monarch in waiting. Since 1337, 'the duchy's main purpose has been to provide an income for the heir to the throne'. I don't know who gives it, or how the money received from it can be described, as it is, as the prince's 'private income', if the estate is owned by the Crown rather than the Windsors.
When you complain that the Prince of Wales is living above our means, you need to bear in mind that as the owner of the Duchy of Cornwall he is not entitled to spend any of the Duchy's capital, merely its annual income, which in 2007 was a niggardly £16.3 million. And here is evidence that the Duchy is well aware of the hardship and struggle ordinary people are suffering during the present financial cutbacks and wishes to do its bit to help:
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has had its funding withdrawn in the quango cuts through which the Coalition is saving the country from bankruptcy and shame. But does this mean that no one's going to bother about what we see? Just a week after the quango's abolition, the Foundation for the Built Environment has very kindly made an offer to take over the job and give design advice on projected plans. HRH the Prince of Wales is the president of the foundation,