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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Immigration enforcement officers lead a Romanian national who has been arrested on immigration offences from a house in Southall in London  

Don’t blame migrants – the West helped to create their plight

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?