The royal dress code can't cloak Prince Charles

Ministers are terrified of the effect on public opinion if the Prince of Wales’s letters are published

Joan Smith
Sunday 23 November 2014 01:00
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Over the next couple of days, a historic battle will be resolved at the Supreme Court in London. If the Government loses, we will be able to read a tiny sample of the letters sent to ministers in the Blair government by the Prince of Wales, lobbying them on a whole range of pet subjects. A friend of the prince described these activities last week as "heartfelt interventions", which Charles apparently intends to continue making when he becomes king. Some of us regard his use of such covert channels as a scandalous interference in the democratic process.

But who am I to have an opinion? I am writing this column in jeans, a sartorial offence so grave that I would not be allowed anywhere near a visit to Washington next month by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Buckingham Palace denies that it has issued new guidelines but points to "long-standing guidance" on the British monarchy website about "attire for journalists covering royal engagements". Whether in the UK or abroad, reporters should wear smart clothes "out of respect"; camera crew are not exempt from the edict.

I have yet to see a sound technician in a suit and tie, so I wish the palace luck with that. Some of the US media have taken umbrage: New York magazine asked why reporters should dress up to "make small talk with a (perfectly nice-seeming) British air ambulance pilot-in-training and a former chain-store accessories buyer".

I think that's really unfair to the duchess, who did the job for a only few months before realising she was cut out for a much greater destiny (wearing clothes, not selling them). She could teach those scruffy Americans a few tricks about putting on a dress and getting into a car.

Perhaps the palace should go further and issue "guidance" for people who write anything at all about the former Ms Middleton and her father-in-law. I don't know what the Palace means by a "skirt suit" but I have a lovely little Versace number with a matching corset jacket. Would that show enough "respect"? I wouldn't want to cause offence to people who can't bear to be in the same room as someone wearing "trainers".

I wish this were a joke, but it isn't. Members of the Royal Family think they are entitled to tell the media, including foreign journalists in their own countries, what to wear. Why should we be surprised? Prince Charles habitually fires off "black spider memos" which are widely believed to show him trying to change government policy.

Ministers are so terrified of the effect of publication on public opinion that they have spent years fighting a Freedom of Information request from The Guardian. If the paper wins this week, the Palace may have bigger problems to worry about than a few journalists in the wrong "attire".

twitter.com/@polblonde; politicalblonde.com

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