Stop Fretting about Never Being King, Charles -- Relish Your Freedom as an Outspoken Prince

Article excerpt

Byline: by A.N. Wilson

PRINCE Charles has once again revealed how impatient he is to become king.

Speaking at Dumfries House, the superb architectural masterpiece by Robert Adam which the Prince saved for the nation with money from the Duchy of Cornwall, he quipped: 'Impatient? Me? What a thing to suggest! Yes, of course I am.' He added: 'I'll run out of time soon. I shall have snuffed it if I'm not careful.' His position is a remarkable one. Nearly everyone else in the world who has just passed their 64th birthday is thinking of winding down from their life's work.

Yet Prince Charles, albeit half-jokingly, spoke as though he were still waiting for his working life to begin.

I know that I have written some disrespectful things about the Prince in the past, and he has sometimes been upset by this.

I have noted his innate tendency to self-pity and selfabsorption, and remarked that it detracts from his virtues. In a 'round-robin' letter to friends, for instance, he complained about being seated in club class on a plane travelling to China for the Hong Kong handover in 1997, saying tetchily that his seat was 'uncomfortable'.

Impatient As Jeremy Paxman noted about the Prince in his book on the monarchy, there is 'an Eeyoreish quality to him, this awful sense of being beleaguered, unloved and misunderstood. You want to tell him to snap out of it'.

But despite these criticisms, I'd be the first to say that, on the whole, the Prince of Wales is a force for good in modern Britain. And that is why he is so wrong to be impatient for the throne.

For nearly half a century, he has been a sort of one-man Opposition to many of the idiotic or ugly things going on in our country. He has stuck his neck out, and so it is not surprising that journalists such as me have been rude about him. That is what happens when you are brave enough to enter the public forum of debate.

He has been criticised for the number of letters he has written to government ministers in his infamous 'black spider' handwriting.

He is bursting with ideas and opinions on subjects as varied as agriculture and the environment, architecture, town planning, youth employment opportunities, fox-hunting, education, Shakespeare ... you name it, Prince Charles will have made a speech about it, or written a long letter to some government department about it.

The Prince's Trust has done superb work for young people, seemingly bringing more of them into employment than any Jobcentre. His drawing school, where one of my children happily goes each week to study life-drawing, is one of the finest art schools in Europe, committed -- as so few art schools are -- to the old disciplines of draughtsmanship. His school of architecture has not only revived the finest traditions of European architecture, in Poundbury, Dorset, he has put them into practice, with a whole 'new town' built out of traditional materials and in traditional styles.

Not everyone likes it -- but full marks for effort, and I'd rather live in Poundbury than in a Sixties tower block in some inner-city hell-hole.

While Islam is demonised, the Prince has held an intelligent discourse with it, encouraging all that is best in the Islam's culture and reminding us of how much we owe to Islamic traditions of mathematics, architecture and philosophy.

In his attacks on genetically modified crops, just as in his attacks on brutalist architecture, the Prince has made lots of enemies among self-appointed experts.

My point is not to say he is always right, but to defend his right to his point of view.

In many of the cases I have listed, he has seemed like a lone voice, while actually speaking up for a silent majority.

Could Prince Charles make these points so vociferously if he was King? Not in a modern monarchy. It is true that Queen Victoria interfered in the political process all the time, actually vetoing people from senior government jobs if she did not like them, and complaining about speeches in the House of Commons which did not take her fancy. …