The British monarchy should consider skipping a generation, to obviate the risk of its institutional survival being threatened by its political neutrality being compromised
Note: Full-length version of the article originally published in abbreviated form at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 26 February 2020
As the behaviour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex becomes ever more bizarre and unreasonable, the Prince of Wales is increasingly skating on thin ice. In continuing to support them financially, and by not explicitly criticising them, he appears, if not to condone their conduct, then at least to tolerate it. For the monarchy as an institution, this matters.
Since the Sussexes negotiated the terms of their withdrawal from public duties a month ago, both their intransigence and apparent selfishness as a couple, and for Prince Harry, his alienation from his family and former allegiances, have accelerated.
Their participation in a Goldman Sachs corporate event in Miami, allegedly negotiated up to a year in advance of their quitting the Royal Family – and at which Prince Harry delivered, for a fee of up to £750,000, what was by reliable accounts a rambling, semi-incoherent speech on his mental struggles in coming to terms with his mother’s death – attracted widespread criticism, not only of profiting from it, but also of eco-hypocrisy in travelling to and from Miami by private jet.
Nor was that the Duke’s only recent instance of rampant eco-hypocrisy. He’s just announced his plan to launch a new online scoring system to help tourists pick the most eco-friendly flights and hotels, ‘to bring more transparency around carbon [sic] emissions’ and promote ‘sustainability frameworks’. The launch event was in Edinburgh this week, and of course, he flew in for it. You might think this is all a bit rich, coming from someone who justified his own extensive use of private jets – 4 times in 11 days at one point during 2019 – as necessary for his family’s safety.
After initially seeming to accept the Queen’s wise decision to veto their use of their ‘SussexRoyal’ brand, owing to the tawdry nature of some of the activities with which they proposed to associate it, they rapidly switched to defiantly asserting their right to use it, with Meghan Markle even reportedly contemplating suing the Queen over it.
Matters have escalated from there. Although reluctantly agreeing to discontinue use of the ‘SussexRoyal’ brand – the plan to haul the Queen into Court presumably not having survived the first consultation with M’Learned Friends – it’s clear, reports Camilla Tominey in the Daily Telegraph, that the Sussexes don’t plan to go quietly. As is shown by the somewhat hostile and resentful tone of the statement issued via their website on 21 February, implying that the ban on their use of the ‘SussexRoyal’ brand is somehow ultra vires and unenforceable, but that they will graciously condescend to go along with it anyway.
Prince Harry’s abandonment of the former military commitments which earned him praise and respect continues apace. Managing to annoy the organisers of the Invictus Games, which he did so much to establish and publicise, by withdrawing from any future direct involvement, was disappointing enough.
But what really outraged even people who had hitherto been prepared to cut him some slack was in effect insulting the Royal Marines of which he was then Captain General, by skipping the 30-years memorial service for the 11 Marines killed by an IRA bomb in Deal in order to audibly pitch for voice-over work for his wife to Disney CEO Bob Iger at the London premiere of The Lion King.
If I’ve dwelt on these incidents in detail, it’s to highlight the reaction – or rather the lack of reaction – from his father, the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne. The Royal Family is famously tight-lipped, and one wouldn’t ordinarily expect a father publicly to condemn his son, out of ordinary filial affection. However, the Prince of Wales is no ordinary father, but one with constitutional, as well as parental, obligations. If his son’s actions could impinge on the monarchy and on his own constitutional position, his silence is perhaps no longer appropriate.
The last definite indication from the Prince of Wales on the subject appears to be in media reports of early to mid-January that he is prepared to keep on funding them, notwithstanding their intention to make as much money as possible out of their royal connections, and even, according to some online sources, to support them both financially and quasi-constitutionally, should they decide to return to Britain.
Nor does it end there: because they will deign to carry out a few public duties of their choosing, the taxpayer will still be responsible for estimated annual costs of up to £20 million for their security.
I believe that, in financing and indulging the Sussexes’ insufferable, narcissistic, über-woke posturing and petulance to the extent that he has, the Prince of Wales is risking his own tolerance by the British people. He seems guilty of failing to appreciate that, should public anger and exasperation with them keep on growing, his popularity will fall along with theirs. That will reduce his acceptability as King, but he appears either oblivious to it or unconcerned about it.
Nor is this the only cloud hanging over his acceptability. He has long been notorious for recurring partisan interventions on ‘climate-change’, one of the most politically divisive issues of our time.
In fairness, his interest does date from when even benign, aesthetic, non-political environmentalism was unfashionable and viewed as niche, if not slightly weird. But when genuinely altruistic environmentalism got hijacked by the intensely political, anti-capitalist, catastrophist and eco-totalitarian Climatism of the Green-Left and became its eco-marxist creed, Charles either didn’t detect it or chose to ignore it, and promptly swallowed the entire deep-Green ideological package whole.
His interventions on the specifics are too numerous to list in detail, but his more recent ones on the generality illustrate the argument. His original ‘tipping point’ to ‘save the planet’ has varied from –
- 96-months in 2009; but https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/just-96-months-to-save-world-says-prince-charles-1738049.html
- had extended to ‘just 35 years’ by 2015; then https://www.climatedepot.com/2015/07/28/prince-charles-gives-world-reprieve-on-global-warming-extends-100-month-tipping-point-to-35-more-years/,
- was reduced to a mere ‘18 months’ by 2019; but https://www.climatedepot.com/2019/07/16/prince-charles-at-it-again-issues-yet-another-climate-tipping-point-deadline-after-previous-100-month-deadline-expires/
- was back to ‘just 10 years’ by a week ago https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8017939/Weve-got-10-years-save-planet-warns-Prince-Charles.html.
Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that in some of these he appears to have bought in entirely to the anti-capitalism, anti-consumerism message of the Green ideology.
Except of course for himself. Because despite hectoring us on ‘climate change’, the Prince of Wales appears to manifest the same eco-hypocrisy and tin-earedness as his younger son. There’s 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, but this is comparatively minor.
It emerged in January this year that he’d flown 16,000 miles in 11 days, using three private jets, before posing proudly with the exploited, manipulated ‘climate’-puppet Greta Thunberg at WEF Davos, where the globalist, crony-corporatist, transnational, post-democratic oligarchy discussed earnestly the need for a worldwide ‘carbon’ [sic] tax to discourage the hoi-polloi from flying, before catching their own private jets home.
If the Queen can drive a relatively hard bargain with the Sussexes, she really ought to have no qualms at all about giving Prince Charles an unequivocal warning that, notwithstanding his intense personal interest, to protect the monarchy’s neutrality he must end his interventions on such a divisive subject.
Moreover, with this Government’s apparent capitulation to the Green agenda – banning both our preferred means of transport and our most economical method of heating our homes – and with evidence mounting that, to the extent that it has calculated them at all, it has drastically underestimated the astronomical costs to both the overall economy and individual households of its Net-Zero policy in return for practically negligible effect, it is only going to become even more divisive.
Unless as King he desists from partisan interventions in this most highly disputed of political issues, the present Prince of Wales will be a disaster for the monarchy; but sadly, his stubbornness and petulance will probably make him ignore it.
As is indicated by his previous record of political meddling. Many will probably recall what became known as the Black Spider Memos affair, when, after a protracted legal dispute, centred around the Freedom of Information Act, to prevent their disclosure, the Cabinet Office eventually released the portfolio of Prince Charles’ letters to ministers of the then elected government, persistently advocating for policy changes on a wide range of subjects.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Prince of Wales’ political views, on climate change or any other issue, is immaterial. In his position, we should not even be aware of what they are, as with the present Queen. He should stay totally out of the political arena, so as not to jeopardise the status of the monarchy within the Constitution.
Almost certainly, however, he will refuse to do so. The fictional analogy of To Play the King, the second novel in Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards trilogy, in which a newly-crowned monarch with strong political views opposes the elected Prime Minister, but whose abdication is eventually engineered by the PM, could become a reality.
The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Mountbatten-Windsor lineage enjoys above-average longevity. The present Queen’s mother lived to 101, and she herself, though inevitably frailer physically at 93, still appears in full possession of her faculties, including a degree of both subtlety and ruthlessness in the way she has dismissed the Sussexes’ more selfish demands.
So we face the prospect of Prince Charles, already 71 and the longest-serving heir to the throne, not succeeding her until possibly well into his late 70s. Should he, in turn, live as long as his mother and grandmother, Prince William, now 37 and along with his wife hugely popular, could easily have to wait until his early 60s before even becoming King. The precedent that likely to be set by his father does not inspire confidence that a long period as heir to the throne is a guarantor of good Kingship.
Skipping a generation, aside from all its other advantages, could alleviate that. In contrast to the abdication-now, Prince-Charles-must-take-the reins solution advanced by 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 whom his grandmother should hand the reins.
Despite all its recent scandals and troubles, support for the monarchy, both as an institution and as part of the Constitution, remains strong.
As I’ve stated previously, it seems Brits not only understand the distinction between the monarchy as an institution and the personality flaws of some of its current members. They also recognise that, for all its faults, it’s still preferable to having some tainted, divisive, political has-been, or some washed-up grubby ex-“celebrity”, as an ‘elected’ Head of State.
But the present Prince of Wales may well prove an awkward, controversial, unsatisfactory monarch, and opinion may change as a result. It’s significant, in my view, that the Republican Left is presently silent. With the widespread disapproval of the Sussexes’ actions and the financial implications, you might expect it to be more vocal in calling for the monarchy itself to be abolished on the death of the present Queen.
Given by the enormous popularity – and, at present, considerable sympathy at her cavalier treatment at the hands of her grandson – enjoyed by the Queen, could it be waiting for the more promising opportunity to bring about abolition which would arise with a controversial and unpopular King Charles on the throne? Or could it be calculating that radical Green-Left policies stand a better chance of being enacted with the imprimatur of the occupant of the throne?
The monarchy skipping a generation would obviously be a massive constitutional issue, with formidable legal and technical obstacles to be overcome procedurally. It would almost certainly be made even more so by the stubborn resistance of the current heir, who is doggedly determined to claim his constitutional inheritance and re-shape the monarchy, but in ways that aren’t necessarily conducive to it enduring beyond his reign. But happen it must.
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