Less than half of the British public believes the Prince of Wales should ascend to the throne, an opinion poll for i reveals today.
The lukewarm support for the Prince to succeed his mother emerged as ministers privately expressed their fears that Prince Charles will be too eager to interfere in the business of Government if he becomes King.
The heir to the throne has become notorious in Whitehall for his habit of sending long, hand-written letters on his pet subjects like urban planning, farming, the environment, GM foods and human rights. One minister said: "He has not caught up with the modern constitutional settlement. We are regarded as the Queen's ministers.
"He gets upset if you turn up two minutes late for a meeting." A senior civil servant said: "People talk about Prince Charles firing off a letter about planning or farming or whatever. When it arrives, you have to jump to it and take care how you respond. But people also have a bit of a laugh about it and joke: 'You'll never guess what Charles has written about this time'."
One minister said he hoped that Buckingham Palace officials would politely rein in the incoming monarch. He said: "It will have to be different when he is King. I don't think the Palace will allow it."
The ComRes poll conducted ahead of this weekend's Diamond Jubilee celebration, found the country was evenly split over whether the monarchy should eventually skip a generation.
Asked whether the Prince should step aside in favour of his eldest son, the Duke of Cambridge, 42 per cent agreed and 44 per cent disagreed.