Palace conducts Charles survey

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BUCKINGHAM PALACE is polling Britain's Lord Lieutenants in an attempt to gauge nationwide perception of the Prince of Wales following his separation from Princess Diana and his admission of adultery.

Sir Robin Fellowes, the Queen's private secretary, has written to the Queen's representatives in the counties inviting them to give their views about the monarchy in the light of revelations about the Prince's private life. An appendix to the letter outlined the reasons why Prince Charles collaborated with Jonathan Dimbleby on a biography and documentary programme in which the prince admitted having an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles.

James Hill MP, chairman of the Conservative back-bench Constitutional Affairs Committee, cautiously welcomed the Lord Lieutenants' survey, but feared they might not know very much about how ordinary people were thinking about the royals. "It does show that Buckingham Palace, or officials, are very concerned about the latest opinion poll. I have been involved all week with the `first divorce' [of Camilla Parker-Bowles], as I call it. I think that was the first step to clearing up the mess that has been created over many years.

"I think the opinion polls are going to get better. But he [Prince Charles] is not well advised to be seen kissing nannies and skiing.

"I would like to see him doing more work for charitable organisations. He has his own charity, and I would like to see him give people the idea that it is a 52 weeks a year job. They want to see more of him."

Sir Nicholas Bonsor MP, deputy chairman of the Constitutional Committee, concurred that a poll of Lord Lieutenants might not be the best way to gauge public opinion.

But he insisted that Prince Charles "would make a very good king", adding, "There are difficulties at the moment for the Royal Family, but if we are looking ten years down the track I hope they will be well behind us.

"Prince Charles is deeply concerned in the issues of the day, and he is perfectly in touch with the feelings of his people. I would not want an 18-year-old king if there is a perfectly good one who is fully grown up."