When you complain that the Prince of Wales is living above our means, you need to bear in mind that as the owner of the Duchy of Cornwall he is not entitled to spend any of the Duchy’s capital, merely its annual income, which in 2007 was a niggardly £16.3 million. And here is evidence that the Duchy is well aware of the hardship and struggle ordinary people are suffering during the present financial cutbacks and wishes to do its bit to help:
With office biscuits often the first victims to feel the bite of the current crunch, we’re coming to the rescue and offering those suffering the Biscuit Blues the chance to win a Duchy Originals Biscuit Ration Box for their crumb free office. While the biscuit barrel is never barren at Duchy Originals, there are many companies who, in the current economic climate, have called time on our favourite British treat. We’re calling on all those working in biscuit bare zones to enter our weekly competition to win a Duchy Originals Biscuit Ration Box until we see the end of the crumb crunch.
Prince Charles, friend to the poor, heir to the throne, Duke of Cornwall, biscuit-entrepreneur, receiver of public money, landowner (133,602 acres), is also a lobbyist who wrote to Boris Johnson about planning in London, and famously intervened personally to stop a proposed redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks. He set up the Prince’s Teaching Trust which awards schools that live up to its requirements – traditional subject teaching; the school of the week, Bexley Grammar School, retains the 11-plus exam – the right to put Prince of Wales feathers on its notepaper. Its website has lots of celeb CBEs and knights – Michael Palin, Tom Stoppard, Terry Jones, Lennie James (no CBE or knighthood, but he’s black) – extolling its work. Melanie Phillips, who is said to advise the prince on educational matters, does not seem to be there, but his other educational adviser, David Starkey, is present, cooing about how the Trust manages to ‘reawaken teachers to the joys of narrative and personality’. Melanie Phillips and David Starkey: we should know a man by who he chooses to advise him.
And now, it turns out that Charles Windsor is not merely a meddlesome prince, he also has the right to be consulted and exercise a veto on any proposed parliamentary legislation that could affect anything to do with the Duchy of Cornwall. He has been offered a veto of twelve bills since 2005, and the Guardian has published a letter from Lady Andrews begging consent for the government’s Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. She urges discretion – ‘As I’m sure you will understand, the circulation of the draft should be restricted to only those who need to see it’ – and apologises ‘for the fact that it is necessary to go into some detail about these provisions, as they are highly technical’ but she considers that part of the bill is ‘capable of applying to the Crown, and the Queen and the Prince of Wales’s private interests, and therefore that consent is required’.
Neither Clarence House nor the government will reveal what bills, if any, Charles has had altered to suit. The Royal Family is exempt from answering Freedom of Information inquiries. That last link is to Republic, the campaign for ‘a democratic alternative to the monarchy’. You might feel, while you’re there, like signing up.