David Lorimer: A Prince for the spiritual and practical

From a lecture by the research director and author to the Royal Geographical Society in London
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The Independent Online

While stories about Prince Charles's private life surface with monotonous regularity, the public is kept more or less in the dark about the full extent of his achievements in public life. Indeed it is hard to think of another public figure who has achieved so much across such a wide range of projects.

The Prince is a controversial figure because he is highly critical of the secular materialism espoused by conventional rationalists who believe that life is a purely physical affair devoid of spiritual purpose. He advocates a spiritual and ecological approach based on the recovery of a sense of the sacred, which he believes sets certain limits and boundaries on our technological aspirations.

But what has the Prince achieved in practice? His concern with environmental sustainability has meant that he has supported campaigns to save rainforests, fisheries and sea birds. The Duchy of Cornwall Home Farm at Highgrove has become a model and inspiration to the organic farming and gardening movement.

The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health is playing a leading role in promoting provision of complementary therapies within the NHS, encouraging research and providing a framework for professional regulation of practitioners. Medicinal herbs are grown at Highgrove.

The Prince's Foundation in Shoreditch, in east London, houses a number of initiatives connected with architecture, urban planning, hospital design, and the regeneration of heritage buildings.

Pointless Prince? Come off it! The most important functions of the monarchy lie in the public sphere, where the Prince has amply demonstrated his qualities of creativity, wisdom, compassion and courage.