Janet Street-Porter: A childish display of rampant vanity

Prince Charles is a poorly educated, not very intelligent chap who has never done a full day's work in his life
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The Independent Online

We are told that Prince Charles sees himself as a "dissident", that his office is "chaotic" and that he write journals on his travels which are subsequently copied and circulated to more than 50 people - but he's gone to court to plead for his right to privacy. Clearly the man thinks he's some kind of guru, in the mould of the people he genuinely admires, like the Dalai Lama or Laurens van der Post.

Mark Bolland, the Prince's former deputy private secretary from 1996 to 2002, is a man well versed in dealing with the media. In his former job, he was the director of the Press Complaints Commission, and is credited with transforming the Duchess of Cornwall's relationship with the British public by stage-managing her appearances as Charles's consort. After a brief period working for the Prince as a PR consultant, Mr Bolland set up his own company, and handles such A-list clients as the millionairess and art collector Lily Safra.

After entering into a civil partnership with his spouse Guy Black the other month, Mr Bolland managed to keep that piece of news out of the press until after the event. But yesterday, he was splashed all over the front pages in a way Mrs Safra would baulk at. After all, she employs Mr Bolland to keep her name out of the news and has gone to some lengths to try to stop a novel being published by Lady Colin Campbell, which may or may not have some similarities to her life story.

But any concerns Mrs Safra may have about Lady Colin Campbell will be eclipsed by the riveting details emerging about the weird and wonderful ways that Prince Charles's mind works. Mr Bolland's 10-page statement about working with his former boss has been circulated by Associated Newspapers. They are embroiled in a court battle against the Prince, who seeks to prevent The Mail on Sunday from revealing further details from his private journals.

When they printed his remarks about the Chinese leadership, it must have caused considerable embarrassment at the Palace. These included quotes (written after the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997) like "appalling old wax works", revealing his deep loathing of the Chinese political system, even if they demonstrated a level of political sophistication so puerile it would earn him a place on the TV game show Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

And it gets worse - Mr Bolland's statement alleges that in 1999 the Prince decided to protest against the treatment of the Dalai Lama by not attending a banquet during the state visit to Britain by the then Chinese President Jiang Zemin. This public snub was widely reported, according to Mr Bolland, because the Prince made bloody sure that everyone knew about it. Apparently the Prince was "delighted" with the coverage.

Apart from writing journals, which were circulated to friends, politicians, people in the media and actors, we are told that the Prince wrote letters to those in government on a wide range of subjects, and circulated them to everyone in his office so that they could "spin" on his behalf. From architecture to GM foods, to nanotechnology, to the teaching of English and history in schools, the Prince has never stopped making speeches, public pronouncements, writing articles (ghosted by somebody else), whingeing, lobbying, and holding meetings and seminars. In fact, does a week ever pass in this country without us, his future subjects, getting a bucket load of opinion from HRH whether we have requested it or not? This week, he was sticking up for hoodies at the 30th anniversary of his charity, The Prince's Trust.

Last year, I conducted the first television interview with Mr Bolland when I made a television documentary about the future of the monarchy. Mr Bolland is not a disloyal employee, but a charming, tactful, highly intelligent operator. He told me more or less everything that was revealed yesterday in his statement - and one can only marvel how he managed to put up with the Potty Prince for so long.

The fact is that Prince Charles is a poorly educated, not very intelligent, chap with a feeble degree, and has never done a full day's work in his life. He has people running his farms, his grocery company, designing his biscuit wrappers, and tidying up his wardrobe. He is surrounded by professionals easing and enabling his passage through life, from pressing his underpants to fawning on his every word.

Why he should think a wider audience would want to have his daily musings as he moves around the world are a sign of rampant vanity. As a traveller, he's not even in first class. He's right up there in Privilege Class, on private jets, luxury liners, royal trains and in high-performance cars. Not for him the squash of a commuter train, the irritating jam on the motorway or the mind-numbing wait at an airport check-in.

And does he really imagine that foreign dignitaries would open up their innermost thoughts to him, in preference to our elected leaders? Get real. Can you imagine Madonna publishing a book about her "experiences" in the inner city - it's that ludicrous. If I want a dissident or a guru speaking on my behalf, or asking for my support, then I want one who has experienced what they are fighting for, not someone whose whole education, social circle and values are mired in the past.

The Prince of Wales is perfectly entitled to hold strong opinions and share them with his friends. The Prince's Trust does admirable work. But what the Prince finds so very hard to contemplate is that he is an irrelevance who has no political role to play. He is unelected and subsidised, a man whose accounting systems and tax-avoidance schemes have been lambasted by parliamentary committees and who runs his private office like a mini-fiefdom.

The real job of previous princes of Wales has been to patronise the arts and architecture, to promote the new and avant-garde, to build spectacular and wonderful follies and commission fabulous artworks and pieces of music, to tell the world Britain is unique, not moan about every new building that's erected. His remark to an American journalist last year that his subjects would only appreciate him "when I'm dead and gone" just shows the extent of his folie de grandeur.

To believe he is a dissident in the mould of Mandela, or the Dalai Lama, is embarrassing. Both men have demonstrated over and over again that, to achieve results, you don't turn your back on your opponent. You don't throw a sulky silence. You don't resort to scurrilous, gossipy notes you circulate among your mates. You don't rush into court and demand special treatment. In short, HRH could learn three simple lessons from these true heroes of our times - dignity, humility and generosity. Sadly, he's still acting like a toddler in a playpen.

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