Hereditas Historiae

Website hosted by Irène Diependaal to foster some historical knowledge necessary to understand our present times

 

The Times/leading article - 14 November 2018



Charles at 70

The heir to the throne would be wise to stay clear of controversy

The heir to the throne turns 70 today. Next summer it will be 50 years since he was invested in Caernarvon with the title Prince of Wales. On that day the awkward weight of his robes and regalia testified to the fact that Charles Windsor was a conscript, not a volunteer. Neither he nor the public had a choice. Despite what Williamite advocates of skipping a generation advocate, that is how the system works.

The citizens of Britain (officially the monarch’s subjects) might have done much worse. Prince Charles has never been a stupid man or an insincere one and his faults seem no more or less than that of an average well-educated person. In the ranks of his predecessors have marched numerous fools, wastrels and lechers. Indeed it is usually held against the prince that he cares too much about serious questions. On some of the issues that he has taken up he has been right, and on others misguided.

What has worried a number of people has been his personal and confidential interference in matters of state, the so-called black spider memos. Such interventions, he has promised, will be a thing of the past when he becomes king. Indeed he has even invoked the evolution of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal into Henry V to illustrate the point.

The Prince of Wales is being too hard on himself. His past meddling hardly amounts to a riotous inner Falstaff. Yet his clear commitment to follow his mother in a stance of strict political neutrality is the right stance for him to adopt. The monarchy may be an anachronism, and as such it would be vulnerable if the monarch were to behave with reckless partiality. But it is our anachronism and Prince Charles seems to understand, not instinctively but from long experience, what is necessary for the institution to endure.

The heir to the throne turns 70 today. Next summer it will be 50 years since he was invested in Caernarvon with the title Prince of Wales. On that day the awkward weight of his robes and regalia testified to the fact that Charles Windsor was a conscript, not a volunteer. Neither he nor the public had a choice. Despite what Williamite advocates of skipping a generation advocate, that is how the system works.

The citizens of Britain (officially the monarch’s subjects) might have done much worse. Prince Charles has never been a stupid man or an insincere one and his faults seem no more or less than that of an average well-educated person. In the ranks of his predecessors have marched numerous fools, wastrels and lechers. Indeed it is usually held against the prince that he cares too much about serious questions. On some of the issues that he has taken up he has been right, and on others misguided.

What has worried a number of people has been his personal and confidential interference in matters of state, the so-called black spider memos. Such interventions, he has promised, will be a thing of the past when he becomes king. Indeed he has even invoked the evolution of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal into Henry V to illustrate the point.

The Prince of Wales is being too hard on himself. His past meddling hardly amounts to a riotous inner Falstaff. Yet his clear commitment to follow his mother in a stance of strict political neutrality is the right stance for him to adopt. The monarchy may be an anachronism, and as such it would be vulnerable if the monarch were to behave with reckless partiality. But it is our anachronism and Prince Charles seems to understand, not instinctively but from long experience, what is necessary for the institution to endure.