Prince Charles is locked in the past and out of tune with his nation

Share
Related Topics

For a man who appears so mild-mannered in public, Prince Charles somehow manages to stir up an extraordinary amount of controversy. Controversy by itself is no bad thing ordinarily - except when you are heir to the throne and waiting to become a nation's sovereign.

For a man who appears so mild-mannered in public, Prince Charles somehow manages to stir up an extraordinary amount of controversy. Controversy by itself is no bad thing ordinarily - except when you are heir to the throne and waiting to become a nation's sovereign.

That is why the opinions that have come to light this week as the result of claims by a former employee at an employment tribunal are so fascinating. It is fair to observe that they were not intended for public scrutiny. They were expressed in a memo that would have remained private, had the employee, Ms Elaine Day, not decided to take her case for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal to court. If anything, however, this makes them more significant: they offer an insight into how the Prince of Wales really thinks and acts. From everything that we have learned about the Prince over the years, they ring true - and are highly disturbing.

In his memo, the Prince revealed a cast of mind that is hopelessly outmoded. "Old-fashioned", was how the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, described it, with admirable restraint. It was not so much that the Prince had voiced frustration with people who, in his view, "think they can all be pop stars, High Court judges ... without putting in the necessary work or having natural ability", it was the clear inference that most people have no right to aspire to something better. "Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?" he asked.

Ms Day, who had precipitated his remarks by enquiring - perish the thought - about promotion prospects, was certainly in no doubt about how to interpret his words. "I completely felt," she told the tribunal, "that people could not rise above their station." The same hide-bound, class-bound view seems implicit in many of Prince Charles's public attitudes. The sad truth appears to be that the man destined to become our next monarch still hankers after a time when everyone knew and accepted their station in life. There is an even worse possibility: he may not just hanker after such an order, but believe it still pertains.

There is certainly a strand of opinion in this country that laments the passing of old social distinctions and the established order they exemplified. Prince Charles's characterisation of Ms Day as "so PC it frightens me rigid" could have come straight out of the male-only dining rooms of certain so-called gentlemen's clubs. But such bigotry is of a certain generation and should fade away with it. It is a relic, and it does not challenge the social change that has swept Britain over the past half century.

What makes the Prince's views so disquieting is that, while he will inherit a kingdom that has been adapting itself to modernity with often striking success, his whole view of the world seems frozen in the distant past. It is this that makes so many of his subjects question his fitness to be their king. His rigid espousal of traditional architectural styles, his concern at modern teaching methods, the way he has conducted himself as Duke of Cornwall, what we have glimpsed of the way he runs his households and his private life - even his watercolours - seem locked in another age. His mother, dare we say, seems more attuned to the concerns of today.

Unlike some of his royal contemporaries abroad, Prince Charles is no playboy. He has treated his responsibilities seriously. His Prince's Trust has a record of accomplishment. His views on the environment, sustainable development, organic farming and the rest have much to recommend them. A common thread, however, is his inclination always to view the future through a prism of nostalgia and conservatism. We also know that he does not present his views only from the public platform that is available to him, but in a barrage of private letters to politicians. This comes perilously close to seeking a degree of political influence that is not, and should not be, his. A modern monarch needs to be in touch with his subjects, not building barricades against them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence