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Prince Charles letters released watch

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    The Prince Charles "black spider" letters have been released today, following a ten-year legal battle in which the Guardian newspaper litigated the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, and won.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...r-legal-battle

    Thoughts? Is it appropriate, in a constitutional monarchy, for the sovereign or the heir to be actively engaged in lobbying in controversial policy areas? Would this bring the heir into the arena of politics and public controversy in a manner that is improper, or inconsistent with the widely understood limitations on the monarch/heir's role?
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    The letters appear to be pretty inoffensive, at least in my opinion. It's precisely the kind of work I'd expect the Heir to the Throne to be doing - inquiring, commenting, drawing attention to issues and reports. Nothing undemocratic going on here.
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    (Original post by gladders)
    It's precisely the kind of work I'd expect the Heir to the Throne to be doing - inquiring, commenting, drawing attention to issues and reports.
    Is it? I kind-of thought the heir should be doing what the Queen does, and following her example (turning up at garden parties, cutting ribbons, if having audiences with ministers then listening, perhaps making an observation here or there but meticulously avoiding controversy or party political positions, etc)

    Do you believe there are any limits on what the heir should be allowed to do? If so, what are they?
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    (Original post by MatthewParis)
    Is it? I kind-of thought the heir should be doing what the Queen does, and following her example (turning up at garden parties, cutting ribbons, if having audiences with ministers then listening, perhaps making an observation here or there but meticulously avoiding controversy or party political positions, etc)
    That's pretty much what he's doing here, from what I can see. He's fully entitled to his opinion, in private. Some seem to assume 'impartial' means 'mute'.

    Do you believe there are any limits on what the heir should be allowed to do? If so, what are they?
    Sure, he isn't permitted to take his differences with the Government into the public arena, and he cannot make specific demands or insist on a course of action. It's clear the Prince is aware of that and is quite delicate about raising issues.
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    (Original post by gladders)
    Sure, he isn't permitted to take his differences with the Government into the public arena, and he cannot make specific demands or insist on a course of action. It's clear the Prince is aware of that and is quite delicate about raising issues.
    Are you aware of his actions in relation to Edzard Ernst and the Chelsea Barracks redevelopment?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10282415
    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/m...rity-complaint
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ned-royal.html

    He has a history of being an activist prince, and his views in certain areas are quite well-known. It's pretty well-known that he conceives his role as future king quite differently from how the Queen has conceived hers.

    His comments about the National Gallery redevelopment about 30 years ago are a fairly good example of what I'm talking about; now, I personally agree with his assessment of the proposed changes, but that is really beside the point.

    http://www.theguardian.com/artanddes...e.regeneration
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    (Original post by MatthewParis)
    Are you aware of his actions in relation to Edzard Ernst and the Chelsea Barracks redevelopment?

    He has a history of being an activist prince, and his views in certain areas are quite well-known. It's pretty well-known that he conceives his role as future king quite differently from how the Queen has conceived hers.

    His comments about the National Gallery redevelopment about 30 years ago are a fairly good example of what I'm talking about; now, I personally agree with his assessment of the proposed changes, but that is really beside the point.

    http://www.theguardian.com/artanddes...e.regeneration
    I'm aware of it, but:

    a) he's the Prince, not the Sovereign; this 'notion' of the Prince being bound to the exact same conventions as the Sovereign as so new that they aren't fully-developed or even widely accept yet;

    b) that was not a matter of government policy or business, so there are even fewer conventions in force;

    Moreover the decision eventually taken was what the majority of local residents favoured. If it had happened that the Prince was just another rich man, nobody would have given two hoots, but as it was the Prince, the Grauniad, it seems to me, decided to manufacture controversy.
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    Princes of Wales back in the day had absolutely zero conventions governing their behaviour. Edward VII when Prince sat on parliamentary committees, and William IV when heir stood and debated in the House of Lords. I vaguely remember another (separate) prince proposing to stand to become an MP!
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    (Original post by gladders)
    It's clear the Prince is aware of that and is quite delicate about raising issues.
    I just wanted to loop back to your claim that he is quite delicate about raising issues; are you sure about that? Delicacy and tact are probably the last qualities I would associate with Prince Charles' interventions, both public and behind the scenes
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    (Original post by gladders)
    Princes of Wales back in the day had absolutely zero conventions governing their behaviour. Edward VII when Prince sat on parliamentary committees, and William IV when heir stood and debated in the House of Lords. I vaguely remember another (separate) prince proposing to stand to become an MP!
    Would you like to return to that?
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    (Original post by MatthewParis)
    I just wanted to loop back to your claim that he is quite delicate about raising issues; are you sure about that? Delicacy and tact are probably the last qualities I would associate with Prince Charles' interventions, both public and behind the scenes
    I've read the bulk of the letters and they all seem to be pretty harmless - he apologises for 'being a bore', makes some general observations, and sometimes is clearly rankled at something. Nothing unacceptable. I'd consider it rough behaviour if he started saying 'Prime Minister, that utter fool the Secretary for Education really should do as I say!'

    Would you like to return to that?
    Haha, no I was just demonstrating some of the history. Basically, as I said, the conventions surrounding the public conduct of the Prince of Wales have, in recent years, been changing. It's not that the Prince has been breaking them; it's that they are appearing in front of him as our expectations change.
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    (Original post by gladders)
    I've read the bulk of the letters and they all seem to be pretty harmless - he apologises for 'being a bore', makes some general observations, and sometimes is clearly rankled at something. Nothing unacceptable
    I agree that the letters are pretty benign (from what I've read). I do think he exceeds what I'd be comfortable with if I were PM, but I'm not and I think it's broadly compatible with expectations.

    That's why I raised the issue of Edzard Ernst and Chelsea Barracks. Is it really appropriate for the Prince of Wales to be making representations to Qatari princes to encourage them breach a contract they made with an English company, merely because Prince Charles doesn't appreciate, aesthetically speaking, what the developer is building?

    The reason I ask is that Prince Charles' sway with those kinds of people comes from the fact he is a Prince of the United Kingdom. It's not something he earned by merit, in some ways you could say that influence properly belongs to the British people and thus should be exercised only on advice from ministers. I don't think that those powers should ever be used in pursuit of his own personal opinions.

    I don't think Charles accepts that, though; I think he looks on that power, morally speaking, as being as of right, rather than something we the British people, through our parliament, have graciously conferred on his family for the purposes of constitutional stability. I think he exercises it and looks on it the way you or I would conceive of our right to dispose of our property how we wish.

    The case of Professor Edzard Ernst is also instructive; he was a very well regarded professor of medicine. Prince Charles believes in lots of woo-woo stuff, like homeopathy. Edzard Ernst unfortunately disagreed with the Prince's views on such quack medicines in the NHS, and the Prince's private secretary then complained about the professor to his university. Now that is stuff the Prince and his servants should not be getting involved in
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    (Original post by gladders)
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    The other incident I'd draw your attention to is Prince Charles' boycotting of a State Banquet for the visiting Chinese Head of State.

    The Queen attended, because she remains uncontroversial and whatever her private views, she knows that the Royal Family must act as a kind of quasi-diplomatic service (something they do very well, in fact).

    Prince Charles didn't just boycott the banquet, he had his press secretary brief the papers that this is what he was doing. I see that as dangerous territory for the Prince to enter. I disagree with his controversial stances and behaviour around medicine and the like, but this is in a whole different ballgame. Our diplomatic relationship with China is a matter of high policy, and an area of the utmost sensitivity and deeply critical to our national interest. That he would throw a tantrum so publicly in the diplomatic arena raises questions about his suitability to be king, in my opinion
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    Well, I think we'll have to agree to disagree, then. As I said, the conventions are changing and it appears the public - and from that, Parliament and the Government - will in future have a much more stringent set of expectations about the behaviour of the Heir to the Throne. So be it - that's what conventions are for. I don't agree with the Prince on many things, but he's a good, reasonable man, and I think he's aware of his reputation and can learn to be more discreet.

    I think he'll be a good King.
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    I like Prince Charles. He had the right to write to ministers on matters he cares about, just as any citizen could, but the precedent is correct now in letting it be known the the public. The Guardian pursued this to the death, and the government in return tried blocking it with all it could. The whole case is a bit pathetic by both sides, glad to see an end to it.

    Obviously to do even such 'lobbying' to Ministers as Monarch would be not be acceptable, but he isn't Monarch yet. He is a man of conviction with a clear morale centre, and I think he will make a good King.
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    (Original post by Swanbow)
    I like Prince Charles. He had the right to write to ministers on matters he cares about, just as any citizen could
    Isn't that the point, though? He's not just any citizen, and any ordinary citizen would not, (a) have his correspondence so conscientously and respectfully responded to, and (b) have his correspondence to ministers kept secret by virtue of his status as Prince of Wales

    The whole point is that he is not entitled to an opinion, like anyone else; I know the temptation must be immense to intervene when you are a Prince, but the Queen has set the example and it is for the prince to follow. The UK is a constitutional monarchy, and in accepting that role, the Windsor family accepts inherent limitations on their freedom to act (in exchange for material comfort beyond imagining, prestige as the first family of the nation, protection and deference, etc). That is, if you like, the deal.

    but the precedent is correct now in letting it be known the the public. The Guardian pursued this to the death, and the government in return tried blocking it with all it could. The whole case is a bit pathetic by both sides, glad to see an end to it.
    Actually, the legal precedent has been extinguished; these are the only letters of Charles' we will ever see, as shortly after the Guardian made that Freedom of Information request ten years ago, the government enacted a law that completely exempts the royal family from Freedom of Information, and this government plans to strengthen it by giving ministers and even stronger FOI veto.

    There will be hundreds of other letters we will never see, including ones written this month

    Obviously to do even such 'lobbying' to Ministers as Monarch would be not be acceptable, but he isn't Monarch yet.
    To be honest I'm not sure that argument stands up; the whole basis on which the government and Clarence House argued his correspondence should be secret is that this is part of his "training" to be king. If this special access is being allowed on the basis of his position, and on the basis that it is preparing him to be monarch, then it makes no sense to say that he should be permitted to behave in a manner that we would not approve of from the Queen. If this is his kingly training, then I imagine one would expect him to behave as we would expect of a king?

    He is a man of conviction with a clear morale centre, and I think he will make a good King.
    I must say I disagree. He has made it quite clear to his friends that he views his role as more of an activist King, and that he doesn't intend to tone it down when he accedes to the throne.

    The reason the current monarch is so beloved and universally respected is that she never puts a foot wrong. She is literally the perfect constitutional monarch, she adopts a studied neutrality and has never allowed herself to be drawn into controversy of any sort. Over the current reign, the Queen's behaviour and approach to our constitutional monarchy has hardened into a constitutional convention, one which is broadly supported.

    I suspect once the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne and begins to act as he has said he will, then you will come to see the inherent complications in such behaviour. If he wants to have a say like any other citizen, he can disclaim the throne. But if he wants to be a constitutional monarch, then he must accept that his freedom to act and express himself in public or on public matters is profoundly circumscribed
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    They didn't try and block publication for nothing. In the end they're pretty tame but certainly presumptive and pompous.
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    (Original post by MatthewParis)
    Isn't that the point, though? He's not just any citizen, and any ordinary citizen would not, (a) have his correspondence so conscientously and respectfully responded to, and (b) have his correspondence to ministers kept secret by virtue of his status as Prince of Wales
    Isn't all correspondence with constituents and members of the public kept discreet unless a member of the public chooses to make it public? Not arguing an equivalence, but I thought that was the case.

    The whole point is that he is not entitled to an opinion, like anyone else; I know the temptation must be immense to intervene when you are a Prince, but the Queen has set the example and it is for the prince to follow. The UK is a constitutional monarchy, and in accepting that role, the Windsor family accepts inherent limitations on their freedom to act (in exchange for material comfort beyond imagining, prestige as the first family of the nation, protection and deference, etc). That is, if you like, the deal.
    I'm sorry but I flatly disagree. He is entitled to an opinion. It's madness to believe anyone can go through life without expressing one! As I said earlier, some believe impartiality means muteness, which it really doesn't.

    Public impartiality means not allowing your personal views to go beyond the walls of government. Chatham House rules, if you will. That has always been the case for both monarch, Prince, and any member of the civil service. This assumption that impartiality means not only public silence, but private as well, has no basis in our constitution's history, and is an unfounded assertion, an invention by constitutional illiterates.

    There are plenty of examples in the past of monarchs being pretty frank with ministers in private, and it's never been suggested by constitutional historians studying their papers once they're published that they were acting inappropriately. Certainly the ministers of the day didn't think they were.

    To be honest I'm not sure that argument stands up; the whole basis on which the government and Clarence House argued his correspondence should be secret is that this is part of his "training" to be king. If this special access is being allowed on the basis of his position, and on the basis that it is preparing him to be monarch, then it makes no sense to say that he should be permitted to behave in a manner that we would not approve of from the Queen. If this is his kingly training, then I imagine one would expect him to behave as we would expect of a king?
    I can't see anything in the letters that I wouldn't imagine the Queen saying, myself. If that's your definition of activist, then more of it, I say!

    I must say I disagree. He has made it quite clear to his friends that he views his role as more of an activist King, and that he doesn't intend to tone it down when he accedes to the throne.
    He'll be under far clearer and more stringent conventions as king, which he will have to comply with if he wants to retain his crown. My understanding is he is busy now with his semipublic projects because as king he will have to give them up.

    And saying he's an activist king is a bit of a vague thing to me - what do they expect him to say? 'Nah, as king I'll take it easy.'

    The reason the current monarch is so beloved and universally respected is that she never puts a foot wrong. She is literally the perfect constitutional monarch, she adopts a studied neutrality and has never allowed herself to be drawn into controversy of any sort. Over the current reign, the Queen's behaviour and approach to our constitutional monarchy has hardened into a constitutional convention, one which is broadly supported.

    I suspect once the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne and begins to act as he has said he will, then you will come to see the inherent complications in such behaviour. If he wants to have a say like any other citizen, he can disclaim the throne. But if he wants to be a constitutional monarch, then he must accept that his freedom to act and express himself in public or on public matters is profoundly circumscribed
    Except writing letters like these to ministers doesn't in any way violate the public impartiality of him or the Queen. If he attempted to reject a minister's formal advice or allowed a disagreement to be leaked to the press, then he'd be in violation of the constitution. This isn't a violation.
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    (Original post by MatthewParis)
    Isn't that the point, though? He's not just any citizen, and any ordinary citizen would not, (a) have his correspondence so conscientously and respectfully responded to, and (b) have his correspondence to ministers kept secret by virtue of his status as Prince of Wales

    The whole point is that he is not entitled to an opinion, like anyone else; I know the temptation must be immense to intervene when you are a Prince, but the Queen has set the example and it is for the prince to follow. The UK is a constitutional monarchy, and in accepting that role, the Windsor family accepts inherent limitations on their freedom to act (in exchange for material comfort beyond imagining, prestige as the first family of the nation, protection and deference, etc). That is, if you like, the deal.



    Actually, the legal precedent has been extinguished; these are the only letters of Charles' we will ever see, as shortly after the Guardian made that Freedom of Information request ten years ago, the government enacted a law that completely exempts the royal family from Freedom of Information, and this government plans to strengthen it by giving ministers and even stronger FOI veto.

    There will be hundreds of other letters we will never see, including ones written this month



    To be honest I'm not sure that argument stands up; the whole basis on which the government and Clarence House argued his correspondence should be secret is that this is part of his "training" to be king. If this special access is being allowed on the basis of his position, and on the basis that it is preparing him to be monarch, then it makes no sense to say that he should be permitted to behave in a manner that we would not approve of from the Queen. If this is his kingly training, then I imagine one would expect him to behave as we would expect of a king?



    I must say I disagree. He has made it quite clear to his friends that he views his role as more of an activist King, and that he doesn't intend to tone it down when he accedes to the throne.

    The reason the current monarch is so beloved and universally respected is that she never puts a foot wrong. She is literally the perfect constitutional monarch, she adopts a studied neutrality and has never allowed herself to be drawn into controversy of any sort. Over the current reign, the Queen's behaviour and approach to our constitutional monarchy has hardened into a constitutional convention, one which is broadly supported.

    I suspect once the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne and begins to act as he has said he will, then you will come to see the inherent complications in such behaviour. If he wants to have a say like any other citizen, he can disclaim the throne. But if he wants to be a constitutional monarch, then he must accept that his freedom to act and express himself in public or on public matters is profoundly circumscribed
    Shocked to hear of the FOI denial over future letters. Clearly wrong, and I wasn't aware of it.

    But I think you play the impartiality of the Queen too much. By all accounts she is politically active in her weekly meetings with the Prime Minister, it is just we the public never get to know what is said in those meetings. Of the few leaks known she 'purred' at hearing Scotland voted No and even asked if Abu Hamza had been deported yet :lol:

    Constitutional convention in this country can change. Edward VIII had to abdicate over marrying a divorcee, while Prince Charles did the exact same and no one raised an eyelid. I doubt that the heir of the throne writing dull letters to Ministers will be a real crisis, however it is imperative that they are made available to the public.
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    I've no issue. His role is to be above party politics and impartial in that sense, it is not per say to be apolitical.
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    (Original post by Rakas21)
    I've no issue. His role is to be above party politics and impartial in that sense, it is not per say to be apolitical.
    I disagree; the two are not mutually exclusive. if he isn't apolitical then how can ever be above party politics?

    We know that Charles supports homeopathy. Say he becomes King and the government of the day decide to pass strong legislation against homeopathic medicine, what do you think his reaction would be? It's quite possible that he'd actively fight against it.

    Having politically active royals calls into question our whole democracy as well as the monarchy itself. Normally I don't mind the Royals, but if they begin to think that they have the right to interfere or influence policy then it's clear that the system doesn't work and the monarchy should be abolished.
 
 
 

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