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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  

Once a year, the Royal Family is required to make some financial information available to the public. The 2018 reports revealed that Prince Charles’s travel habits do not come cheap, especially given that taxpayers foot the bill for expenses on official royal visits through the Sovereign Grant.

Perhaps, having lost any hope for the real thing, he contents himself with being what he is frequently murmured as: the King of the Spenders.

A detailed breakdown of the Royal Family’s 6.1 million pounds (AU$9.2 million) official travel bill reveals charter flights for the tour cost 460,387 pounds (AU$692,720) after officials determined it was not possible to fly scheduled.

Charles has a particular taste for luxury travel.

When chinless Prince Charles and his chisel-chinned wife Camilla interrupted their Balmoral holidays to visit victims of 2011 summer’s London riots, they sent the Queen’s hard-up subjects a bill for nearly 20,000 pounds (AU$30,000) for their flights: to visit Tottenham, Lambeth Hackney and Croydon by private jet.

And weeks after their riots visit, they cost the public purse 16,047 pounds (AU$24,233) for another flight from London to Aberdeen, this time after a memorial service to mark the 10th anniversary of September 11.

In October-November 2011 Prince Charles made a nine-day tour of the Middle East – friendly countries such a Kuwait and Qatar – and then on to Tanzania and South Africa with the Duchess of Cornwall which cost taxpayers almost half a million pounds.

In the same year Prince Charles and Camilla charged the taxpayer 30,000 pounds for a return flight from Clarence House to Balmoral for a private four day break on which no public engagements were undertaken.

It also emerged from the figures made available that before his trip to the Middle East, early in 2015 Charles flew by charter to Saudi Arabia to pay his condolences on behalf of the United Kingdom following the death of the Crown Prince – at a cost of 67,215 pounds (AU$101,134).

Charles may further claim over 2 million pounds from the taxpayers to pay for foreign travel, public relations and administrative support.

And so, just about every year since.

Prince Charles’ trip to India, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore in the fall of 2017 with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was the most expensive of any royal tour last year, costing £362,149, or roughly US$475,000.

This is partly down to his air fare. The Prince might need expensive, non-scheduled flights on Royal Air Force planes for security reasons, but costs could be kept down if he had a smaller entourage.

The second most expensive royal trip of the year, Princess Anne’s visit to Ghana and Sierra Leone, cost a fraction of that, £68,815 or US$90,000.

In November 2015, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Australia to be feted again by crowds while sampling the fine local wines, cheeses and seafood at South Australia’s Barossa Valley, before attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canberra. It was Charles’ fifteenth visit – a ‘Royal visit’ for many Australians.

Who would pay?

Prince Charles’s lavish lifestyle is funded directly from, or at the expense of ‘home’ public purse. His travel costs, part of his press office and the costs of maintaining Clarence House, his official residence, are paid for by taxpayers through the Sovereign Support Grant, while his round the clock security – likely to cost tens of millions each year – comes out of the Metropolitan Police’s budget.

Everything was going so well, but a new poll released by the Australian Republican Movement carries a blunt message from Australian voters: 51 per cent would prefer an Australian head of state to ‘King Charles’ when the time comes for him to replace his mother, Queen Elizabeth.

The poll of 1008 voters, commissioned by the A.R.M. and conducted by Essential Research from 5 to 8 November, asked “When Prince Charles becomes King of Australia, will you support or oppose replacing the British monarch with an Australian citizen as Australia’s head of state?”

Apart for the poverty of the suggestion – most likely the result of ‘animation’ rather than education – in fact the succession to the throne will be governed by the Bill of Rights of 1688, the Act of Settlement of 1701 and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 which were part of U. K. law well before the invasion of Australia in 1788, along with other rules of the common law which are said to have been extended to Australia at that time. Any doubt about their application was dispelled by the enactment of the Australian Courts Act of 1828. From then on, those foreign acts applied as part of the law of the Australian colonies, first, and of Australia, now.

Any other view would suffer from fawning adulation, dismissive contempt, every-day sycophancy or plain, downright ockerism.

There remains in the end – but solidly – the power of celebrity gossip, on which undoubtedly Charles and his Camilla rely, and of course the more solid connection of undeclared interests.

As Charles and Camilla arrived in Canberra on 11 November, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, once a prominent republican, brushed aside questions about whether he still believed – as he has previously argued – that Australians would struggle to accept Prince Charles as king of Australia one day.

He made a safe and legalistic point – but one too ‘academic’ to be understood by the populace – when he said: “If the Queen’s reign comes to an end and the constitution is in the form it is today, Prince Charles will become our head of state … so if Charles become the King of the United Kingdom as I have no doubt he will be, unless our constitution has been changed, he will become the King of Australia.”

And the prospect of such constitutional change? Just zilch.

Australians should be left with a constitution, which is an act of the Imperial Parliament, and is racist, out-dated, reflective of surviving colonial domination and the foundation – if that is the word – of a pantomime parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy is not representative democracy; of course, it suits the profound interests of a surviving money-based empire.

On his part, on 24 July 2015 Mr. Bill Shorten, Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition, speaking at the opening of the 47th Australian Labor Party National Conference, had called for an Australian republic within 10 years – by 2025. He said: “Let us make this the first decade where our head of state is one of us. We can be an Australian republic, with an Australian head of state.” Perplexing words at least those are, because the Governor General is often referred to as ‘the head of state’, both by confusing monarchists and loose, temporary republicans.

On the same day, the ALP Conference passed a resolution that a future Labor government appoint a minister or parliamentary secretary with responsibility for promoting a republic. (‘Bill Shorten calls for Australian republic by 2025 at Labor national conference’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2015).

The Australian Republican Movement chairman, Mr. Peter FitzSimons said that while the movement welcomed Charles and Camilla to Australia, “We look forward to the day when members of the royal family make the trip as our equals and not Australia’s current and future rulers.”

Commenting on the public view, he said: “This polling makes it abundantly clear, the question of an Australian republic is not a left/right issue: support exists across the Australian community, and the Republican Movement hasn’t even really started campaigning yet.”

“As our future King and his wife touch down for their five-day tour, the Australian people are getting behind the idea of an Australian head of state in a big way. And that support is only going to increase, especially if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull makes it a priority as we hope and expect he will.”

This, of course, is at best: aria fritta = hot air.

For too long the Prince of Wales has shown himself too vain to accept the limits of constitutional monarchy, perhaps because he is closer in his frame of mind to his eleventh predecessor, George I, who did not even speak English.

As one Nick Cohen put it in a blog on 4 February 2015, “When republicans meet, we console ourselves with the thought that our apparently doomed cause will revive. The hereditary principle guarantees that eventually a dangerous fool will accede to a position he could never have attained by merit, we chortle. With Charles III, we have just the fool we need.”

One wonders whether Mr. Cohen is familiar with Thomas Paine – a former Englishman, by the way – observations on monarchy and hereditary succession in his Common sense, the pamphlet Paine wrote in 1775–76 which inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. Here is what he wrote: “To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho’ himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in Kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION.” [Capitals in original]

Now 70-year-old, Charles is portrayed as a ‘passionate’ prince with an array of deeply-held views on issues from farming to architecture. And he speaks with aristocratic de haut en bas interventions on just about any subject. To some – mainly a troop of adulators, courtiers, sycophants, lackeys of all kind – he is a trailblazer. They would say so. They claim the Prince to be championing issues of sustainable development before they caught national attention. Others see him as an all-around-ignorant, a nuisance pushing eccentric causes. His outspokenness has prompted debate in the U.K. about how the monarchy would change if he becomes King Charles III. He held 36 meetings with government ministers between 2010 and 2013 since the Conservative-led coalition took power in 2010. This was up 13 from the same period of the last Labour Government. Critics said that it showed how much he enjoyed undue political influence.

Not long before Prince Charles trip to Australia in 2015, the Supreme Court was called upon to consider whether 27 letters between Charles and government ministers should be published following a ten-year freedom of information battle between The Guardian and Whitehall. The government and ‘The Palace’ argued that correspondence and meetings with ministers were a necessary part of Charles’ preparation for kingship and in 2012 the then Attorney General Dominic Grieve said that they had to be kept confidential to protect Charles’s position of political neutrality. The letters were finally released to the public on 13 May 2015. Nicknamed the “black spider memos”, for the Prince’s unusually spiky handwriting, the letters were sent to a wide variety of government departments. The Prince had written to just about every government department, proffering his unsolicited advice: to the Environment Minister to curb illegal fishing and the Education Secretary to criticise modern teaching methods in 2004, to  Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004 to encourage consumers to demand British produce, in 2005 about the armed forces in Iraq and later about badgers and tuberculosis in cattle, to the Department of Health in 2005 regarding the redevelopment of a hospital, to Dame Tessa Jowell, who was a Labour Member of Parliament from 1992 to 2015, asking about the conservation of Antarctic huts built for the first polar expeditions, in the case the Prince also offered to help find wealthy individuals to help the conservation project if the government could not find the funding.

The move to publish the letters followed a Freedom of Information Act request by The Guardian and a ten-year legal battle. In March 2015 the Supreme Court approved their release, after it had previously been blocked by former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve. The letters were finally released on 13 May 2015.

Speaking for the Prince, Clarence House had earlier said it was “disappointed the principle of privacy had not been upheld.”

Charles has been particularly vocal in lobbying against the Human Rights Act, writing “rubbish” on a response he received in 2001 from Lord Irvine who, while Lord Chancellor, defended the Act to Charles.

In March 2015 Prime Minister David Cameron said he was disappointed at the court’s decision, saying: “This is about the principle that senior members of the Royal Family are able to express their views to government confidentially. I think most people would agree this is fair enough.” This is likely to be the only glimpse the U.K. public gets of Charles’ correspondence with ministers. Since the original request by The Guardian to see the letters the government has tightened up the Freedom of Information Act to provide an “absolute exemption” on all requests relating to the Queen and the heir to the throne, making future release very unlikely.

Few supporters of the monarchy understand that Prince Charles’ views are almost medieval in their obscurity. His published writings show that in the dispute between Galileo and the papacy, the future English sovereign is on the side of the papacy and against the scientific method, and remains on the papacy’s side four centuries after the event and long after the church has conceded defeat.

Charles is an old man who lacks a well-rounded adult’s ability to learn his own limitations as well as the limitations of monarchical power. As the reign of Charles III approaches, it is the duty of monarchists to tackle him. The hereditary principle is their system. Prince Charles is their problem. It should not become Australia’s problem. At the very least, the English monarchists should insist on their Parliament defining where a royal can intervene in politics and public life. If they had any sense – and one doubts that grovellers and hangers-on do –  they would insist on the crown skipping a generation. They must surely have seen enough by now. They must surely know that a King Charles III will be nothing but trouble.

Let it be English, or the Ukrainian empire’s trouble.

But there is another side of Prince Charles: commission salesman is perhaps the right call.

Continued Saturday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 5)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 3)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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