The Two Faces of a Royal Dissident

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Two Faces of a Royal Dissident


DRIVING through Dorset over half-term, we found ourselves passing Poundbury, the so-called "ideal" village that Prince Charles has built. Out of curiosity, I diverted and we spent five minutes puttering along its perfect crescents of pseudo-Georgian townhouses, and through its mews of equally bogus retro-coach houses.

Actually, I discovered I didn't mind Poundbury that much - despite the fulminations of the architectural modernists. I don't suppose the Prince's development would have attracted the slightest criticism if it had been built by Barratt.

And that's the whole point about Prince Charles, as the current legal action unfolding in the High Court so amply demonstrates. Taken on his merits - and he has quite a few - Charles seems an amiable enough, posh, country buffer.

Rather liberalleaning, with his environmentalism and his interest in other faiths besides his own.

He manufactures a mean choccy biscuit, and smokes a tasty rasher of bacon.

He even takes a paternal interest in the young and disadvantaged - which is more than can be said for most of his class.

Were it not for this bizarre accident of birth, I'm sure none of us would have the slightest interest in, or knowledge of Charlie Windsor. I'm equally certain that a man of his modest abilities - and emotional weaknesses - wouldn't have succeeded in getting either his views heard, or his biscuits retailed.

Without a substantial state sinecure and vast tracts of prime English countryside at his disposal, Charlie would be pottering around an allotment - if he was lucky enough to get one - and sounding off in the lounge bar of the Three Feathers.

And there they are, the two madly contradictory faces of the heir to the throne: he wants it both ways, all the way. No other public figure with his lofty profile would be foolish enough to mount a legal action claiming that a newspaper didn't have the right to publish political opinions which had already been widely circulated.

There can be only one possible explanation for such a divided mind: half of the Prince is indeed a dissident - of the republican variety - and he's working hard to debar himself from the succession.

Old Vic fails the screen test

TO THE Old Vic, where Kevin Spacey's lamentable tenure as artistic director drags on. This month's wheeze is Arthur Miller's last play, Resurrection Blues, directed by Robert Altman. Looks good on paper - which is where it should've stayed. The play is pretty wooden - and so is the direction. …

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