Wasn’t that thoughtful of us, to respond to the camps of Syrian refugees by sending them Charles and Camilla?
Let’s hope that this was the first of a series, and next week we’ll send them Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, to explain that they have to stay strong and believe in themselves like she did when critics were beastly about the skirt she wore to the Baftas. Then they can have Lewis Hamilton to assure them that they will pull through, as he did when forced to leave the country because of the dreadful tax rates. And, finally, Nicholas Soames can tell them a humorous anecdote about being served the wrong starter at the Dorchester, ending: “THEN you’d know the meaning of starving”.
The Foreign Office must assume Syrian refugees have the same deference towards the British Royal Family as Cockneys in films about the Blitz, so by now they’ll be gasping to the medical staff: “My job was to clean the desert in case Mrs Assad wanted to look at it. Then a Scud missile came through the kitchen window so I had to walk 300 miles carrying my grandmother, and now I have cholera. But it’s been worth it because I caught a glimpse of Camilla Parker Bowles.”
And if there’s one man who can empathise with refugees, it’s Prince Charles. Yesterday, we learned that, to his credit, he’s been learning Arabic for several months in anticipation of this trip, presumably because there’s a cactus in Jordan he’s keen to get to know. The camp he visited had 1,000 residents, but Charles said: “They worry there could be one million here one day.” Though, he was stopped from adding: “I suppose that’s once all their valets arrive.” He was probably also stopped from asking: “If this refugee camp is your main residence, one presumes you also have a country refugee camp for when you need to get away from it all.”
To be fair, Charles has more experience of Syrian politics than some might imagine, as his mum hosted a visit from President Assad, whose terror Charles’s audience in the camps are fleeing, when Assad and his wife stayed in Buckingham Palace as guests of honour. Maybe that helped Charles to get along with the refugees, as it meant they have something in common. One of them would explain how Assad’s planes destroyed his street and fired on fleeing civilians, and Charles could say: “Ah, well, if you see him again could you pass on his shaving brush as he left it in our bathroom?”
The Assads’ visit wasn’t just a passing trip that they made because, with all the pressures of dictating, they needed a weekend break, so they looked on Trip Advisor and saw the King of Bahrain had written: “Buckingham Palace a great choice. Views are a delight and servants if anything are TOO subservient! Transport great, easy for getting horse-drawn coach to the sights! Highly recommended!!”
They were invited because the Syrian leaders were deemed to be our friends in the war on terror, who would need arming, so Tony Blair insisted their visit must be granted “as much pomp and ceremony as possible”. Because you can’t expect someone to still be against terror if their hosts skimp on the equerries. Part of this ceremony was that Assad and his wife were granted an audience with Charles, who must have persuaded them that terror was really bad, as they seemed to come over to our side.
It’s since been revealed, by the Sunday Times, that Blair’s government suggested asking the Queen to consider awarding Assad an honorary knighthood. And maybe this is where the trouble started. Blair didn’t get his way, Assad was furious and thought: “Well, bollocks then. If I’m not worth an honorary knighthood, I might as well blow up Aleppo.”
Now Charles and Camilla are visiting Saudi Arabia but, to show how versatile they can be, instead of mingling with refugees, they’re meeting the Saudi royal family, whose regime has the highest execution rate in the world. It must be confusing for them on these trips, each time having to ask: “So, today, are we for terror or against it? And if we come across anyone fleeing, is it awful and heartbreaking or do we grass them up so they can be shot?”
According to Clarence House, the visit’s first theme will be “military collaboration”, although they assure us that Camilla and Charles will not raise “anything controversial”. Because it’s only polite, when you meet an unelected dictator, to stick to small talk about how many fighter jets we can sell them and not touch on anything controversial that people might object to. Otherwise, you know what Charles is like. He’ll go and say something like: “That shed where your firing squad is shooting the woman accused of adultery, what an ugly modern structure it is – couldn’t you do it somewhere more classical?”
It’s not his fault, of course. He’s only doing what he’s ordered to. But maybe next time he visits a Syrian refugee camp he’ll say: “The volunteers running this operation are marvellous. And, without my family’s support, your President would never have fired on you all so you’d never have met these splendid, generous people, would you? I hope you’re grateful.”