Richard Ingrams: Prince Charles must put his faith in posterity


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A newspaper article about Prince Charles suggests that his feelings of general resentment have been exacerbated by all the attention currently being given by the media to Prince William and his young bride.

Described as "increasingly edgy", Charles is looking for ways to win approval from the nation. "He wants to be respected for his views and for what he has done for the country," says an unnamed friend. "At the moment, he feels his contribution to the fabric of humanity is not properly recognised."

I know exactly how he feels. Every year I scan all the names on the honours list hoping to find some belated recognition for my contribution. And where is my lifetime achievement award from grateful colleagues? Why have I not been nominated for the Orwell Prize? Charles is not the only one to be passed over, despite having done his bit to preserve the delicate fabric of humanity as the forces of barbarism seek to tear it apart.

As someone who is considerably older than Charles, I would advise him that all of us in the preservation of the fabric of humanity business continually have to bear in mind how many great men there have been in the past whose genius was never appreciated by their contemporaries. Van Gogh sold precious few of his paintings in his lifetime; Mozart was buried in a paupers' grave, etc.

Charles should take comfort from the hope that in years to come, when he is long dead, humanity will look back with gratitude towards a man who did so much to preserve its tattered fabric.

Old enough to be reviled

Men shut their doors against a setting sun. That line from Shakespeare's Timon of Athens has been in my mind as I watch the long, drawn-out but riveting decline and fall of Rupert Murdoch. People blame the revelations about phone hacking for the way in which politicians have all of them now turned on Murdoch after years of grovelling to him.

They grovelled not only to Murdoch but to all his fellow press lords regardless of their unsavoury habits. Thatcher entertained Conrad Black, now in prison in America, in the cabinet room at Downing Street. When Robert Maxwell drowned, he was buried on the Mount of Olives to the accompaniment of glowing tributes from all political leaders. The great legal eminence Lord Goodman even proposed a memorial service in St Paul's Cathedral.

The only reason why Murdoch can now be reviled is that he is a very old man who may not be with us for much longer. He is also, by the look of him and by the evidence of this week's interview in the Wall Street Journal, beginning to lose his grip on reality.

Politicians who grovelled in the past can now feel free to put the boot in with impunity. And they can blame the supposedly shocking revelations about the News of the World, just like those shareholders who have been offloading their shares in his companies. But they have seen the signs of incipient senility and are hurrying to shut their doors against the setting sun.

How am I supposed to count butterflies?

One way and another it promises to be a busy weekend for me, so I am doubtful if I will be able to play my part in Sir David Attenborough's Big Butterfly Count. Sir David, 86, is concerned, as Prince Charles himself is, by our urban populations' divorce from nature. Most people, according to Attenborough, have little contact with wild creatures from one day to the next. The only wildlife they are likely to see are rats and pigeons – and they aren't even wild, he says.

We all have to do our bit, I can see. But has Sir David considered how difficult it is to count butterflies? I have tried looking in my garden and can report that currently there are quite a few cabbage whites flying about. But given the way they flit from flower to flower, how can I be sure that I haven't already counted the particular specimen that has caught my eye? And the more there are of us doing this, the more difficult it will be.

It will be much easier later on to count the number of caterpillars I will crush to death when they do their best to eat up my prize collection of nasturtiums.

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