Comparing Putin to Hitler? The real problem for Prince Charles is that we all expect him to stay as silent as his mother

His male ancestry long favoured bellicose rantings

Share

Back in December 2013, the Queen gave out some sound, if forgettable, advice during her annual broadcast to the nation.  “Many have found the process of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding,” she said, before encouraging the nation to use the Christmas period as a moment to pause, take stock, meditate, reflect.  As a statement, it was characteristically Elizabeth II-ish: anodyne and inoffensive, in effect exhorting viewers to use the time given to them at Christmas to do, well, nothing instead of something – to think rather than to act.

As he has proved time and time again, Elizabeth’s son Charles is both a thinker and an actor. He showed his commitment to thinking in 2013 when, on a tour of India, he asked a Buddhist monk for tips on the mechanics of meditation.  In the same year, however, the future King showed he was also a capable man-of-action. Myriad newspaper reports claimed he had met privately with cabinet members a number of times since 2010 –even, allegedly, to lobby the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in favour of homeopathy.

And now the Prince has inadvertently made public his thoughts on recent events in southern and eastern Ukraine. Speaking to a Polish war refugee in Nova Scotia, Charles likened Hitler’s actions in the 30s and 40s to Putin’s invasive presence in Eastern Europe today.

It’s hardly a novel thought – Hillary Clinton made the comparison back in March – but one that has been greeted with grave disapproval. Shut up or abdicate was the message this morning from Labour MP Mike Gapes, while Russian newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets (MK) said the comment “risks triggering… international scandals and complicating the already not unclouded relationship between Britain and Russia”.

Strong stuff, but shouldn’t Royals be allowed to conduct private conversations that touch on topical issues? Of course, says Nick Clegg, interviewed by the BBC this morning – monarchs have opinions like anyone else and shouldn’t feel ashamed to express themselves off the record.

The real problem for Charles, however, is that such a supine and placid monarch precedes him. Doubtless, the opinions of the Royals were put under less scrutiny 100 years ago (Edward VII’s reign in the early 20th Century saw the King heavily involved in discussions of foreign policy and reform of the army and navy). But nowadays, however, the Queen has made it a gold standard of English monarchs to be seen and not heard.

That is because Elizabeth II is the last of the silent celebrities. Whether embossed on the face of a coin, waving gently from a balcony, or badly represented in a Rolf Harris portrait (now conveniently missing), we understand the Queen in mute, abstracted terms. Like her Christmas speeches, the woman herself has become a cypher, a blank – a concept of neutrality rather than a figure of agency. Will Self, reviewing a collection of Elizabeth II portraits in 2012, described Her Majesty as “sublimely inscrutable”; while finding the pictures in the exhibition devoid of meaning because none were able to get a sense of their elusive subject.

Now, as we enter into an Age of Kings – Charles, William, George – the Prince of Wales faces a decision. As he begins taking on more of 88-year-old Elizabeth’s duties, will Charles begin watching his mouth as carefully as his mother has done? Or will he go the way of his male ancestry and start speaking up on behalf of naval reform, defence spending and foreign intervention?

Ready the armour and sound the battle horn. I predict war, homeopathy and hubris ahead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
So far Ebola has caused 2,600 fatalities and infected more than 5,300 people  

To stop Ebola killing thousands more, we need doctors who are willing to put their lives on the line

Peter Popham
Palestinian students are seen through a damaged sitting in a classroom at a goverment school in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City on September 14, 2014  

After the horrors of Operation Protective Edge, Palestine's children are finally returning to school

Yara Hawari
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week