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Prince Charles’s ‘Black Spider Memos’ Will Do Him No Harm

Reuters/Gary Cameron

Go on, admit it: you were all hoping that Prince Charles’s “black spider memos” were going to show him in the worst light possible: the spoilt, petulant prince with his biofuel-powered Aston Martin, his toothpaste valet and his chunky-knit coterie of Wormtongue-like eco advisers whispering into his big ears what to think about sustainability, biodiversity and future generations.

Well I know I was, anyway, horrid, cynical person that I am.

But having now read the memos (which aren’t written in spidery handwriting at all, by the way, because they’re all typed) I find myself warming to the Prince.

And – at least on the evidence so far – I’m rather puzzled as to why the Prince felt the need to fight so long and hard to keep the Guardian from publishing them.

Take the one to then-environment minister Elliot Morley expressing concern about the plight of the Patagonian toothfish. Apparently, it’s being fished illegally and what’s more, when it’s caught on a line dragged along the surface, albatrosses dive to feed on it, get trapped on the hook and drown. Well I very much doubt that Morley ever did anything about this – even had it been within his competence to do so – but I do now share the Prince’s concerns about Patagonian toothfish and albatrosses and I wish both creatures well.

I’m with the Prince too when he writes to Tony Blair that “The EU directive on Herbal Medicines is….using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.” There’s only one thing worse than the loons and snake oil salesmen of the alternative health industry – and that’s the vicious, self-righteous, self-appointed Witchfinders General hell bent on destroying them.

A thing I’ve noticed (though the Prince is an exception to this) is that there is a very strong correlation between fervent belief in man-made global warming and anti-alternative-medicine zealotry. Simon Singh; Ben Goldacre; Dara O’Briaiaiaan; anyone who in Britain who self-consciously spells themself as a “skeptic” in the American way; these greenie media lefties and their Sparrows-like acolytes are so buoyed up with their scientific certainty they feel it gives them the right to be the nation’s Health Nazis, dictating what medicines people should and shouldn’t be allowed to take. Well I’m sorry but I think people should be free to go to hell in the manner of their choosing. Some prefer to die of iatrogenic incompetence in an MRSA infested hospital ward; others prefer to take their chances at home with echinacea. Who are we to judge.

And look, here’s another thing we all surely agree with the Prince on: the grisliness of “child-centred education”, as beloved by the progressives, where instead of teaching kids facts and figures you instead sort of hope they imbibe learning by osmosis. He writes: “My summer schools are challenging the fashionable view that teachers should not impart bodies of knowledge.” Well good on you, Chazza, with your summer schools. Well done too for telling a lefty Education Secretary – Charles Clarke it was, at the time – like it is.

As for the one urging action to preserve Captain Scott’s and Ernest Shackleton’s huts in Antartica, bloody right it’s our job. These men are British heroes; more than that they are part of our national myth, feeding into our sense of who we are as a people and the values for which we stand. Campaigning to save Scott’s and Shackleton’s huts is EXACTLY the kind of thing our future monarch should be doing: it’s apolitical, it’s important and it’s right.

He’s dead right on the badger cull too, though I’d argue that that particular missive was probably less well-advised. Too contentious. One of the jobs of a future consitutional monarch is to act as a unifying force for his subjects. You could argue – I would – that losing the loyalty of Brian May and a few more unwashed animal rights loons is no great disaster. But then I think how I would feel were the boot on the other foot and, say, a future letter were to reveal that the Prince had been instrumental in helping to promote the Climate Change Act or if he’d been behind the push for offshore wind. I wouldn’t be impressed. I’d feel that the Prince had overstepped the mark.

So stick to heritage, old school values and obscure birds, I should, your Highness.


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