The madness of Prince Charles

If the heir to the throne wants to employ an army of slug botherers, why not? Good luck to him.


Prince Charles: is he really so divorced from the life of ordinary people?
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2018 Shutterstock. No use without permission.)

Like most people, I enjoy the pageantry associated with the royal family, and certainly wouldn't want to see us go in the direction of the stripped-down "bicycle monarchy" that they have in Sweden. So one has a degree of sympathy for the trials of the prince who is the next in line to the throne.

It's true that the stories revealed in Tom Bower's latest book, Rebel Prince, do Prince Charles no favours. Indeed, the book paints him as a man "whose lavish spending reveals a royal utterly divorced from the life of ordinary people", as Alison Flood points out in The Guardian. Examples include his trip on the royal train from Highgrove to Penrith to visit a pub, a journey that cost £18,916; and his "army" of 120 staff, "deployed to prowl through the undergrowth at night with torches and handpick slugs from the plants of leaves". Worse, access to Charles has been sold "to raise money for his many charities and to indulge in ostentatious luxury". One Turkish billionaire paid £200,000 for his wife to sit next to the prince at a dinner in 2000, for example. American oil tycoon Armand Hammer spent about £40m over several years on Charles's charities and personal expenses in an attempt to rehabilitate his own public image.

These are hardly hanging offences though, as Dominic Sandbrook points out in the Daily Mail. After all, "Charles is not spending taxpayers' money, but the income from the Duchy of Cornwall". So, "if he wants to waste it on organic martinis and human slug detectors, good luck to him". He also "undertakes some 600 engagements a year, to the visible delight of the people he meets along the way". At the same time, The Prince's Trust, the charity he founded in 1976, has helped at least 870,000 young people and, according to a study by HSBC, has returned an estimated £1.4bn in benefits to society, which "strikes me as very good going".

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Charles should just take a few lessons from his mother, says Harry Mount in iNews. Even when she was hosting the Saudi king, the Queen "had her trusty two-bar electric fire blazing in the grate". Such symbolism sends a message, just as it did when she would go around Buckingham Palace late at night, turning off the lights. Charles's problem is that he can't preach austerity when it comes to saving the planet, but practise ostentation in his personal life. Once he becomes king, "the moment he tells his subjects to behave in one way, while himself behaving in an entirely opposite, selfish fashion, his popularity will nosedive".

Still, the good news for the Prince of Wales is that the public's limited memory means that "we will forgive Charles his past if he can rise to the occasion", says Sarah Baxter in The Times. Even if he doesn't curb his spending, he can still take consolation in the fact that even his greatest extravagances are likely to fall far short of his more distant predecessors. When Elizabeth I went on royal "progresses" in Tudor times, she would practically bankrupt her wealthy hosts.

Tabloid money Lara Croft's terrifying tube adventure

"As the kick-boxing heroine of the new Lara Croft film, Tomb Raider, Alicia Vikander is supposedly fearless, but she wasn't so brave in the days when she was an impoverished wannabe living in north London," says Adam Helliker in the Sunday Express. The Swedish actress, 29, remembers being "terrified" as she pedalled to auditions on an old bicycle in order to save money that she would have spent on the buses and the tube. "Public transport was so expensive that I got myself a bike and swerved traffic and the red buses. I almost got hit," Vikander says, shuddering. But since winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Eddie Redmayne's wife in The Danish Girl, Vikander can command huge fees. So no more bone-shakers it's limousines all the way.

Ever since the Brexit vote, bosses have been whining about how we need more migrants to create a vibrant economy, says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "Their chief complaint is that YOU are useless not worth giving a job to." They say that European workers have a better work ethic and are often better qualified. But what qualifications do you need to pick a Brussel sprout? Let's get things straight. The only reason farmers employ 80,000 eastern Europeans is because they can pay them "next to nowt". So, when they talk about superior work ethics, what they really mean is "Poles and Romanians are happy to work for a pittance and we can exploit them to make lots more money for ourselves."

A survey by insurers Direct Line has found that British people don't feel like adults until they reach "the rather advanced age" of 26, says Jennifer Selway in the Daily Express. No wonder. "Many of our modern social rituals are geared to endlessly putting off maturity: gap years; higher education for all when students are still treated like children; unpaid internships; returning home to live with your parents because you can't afford to rent let alone buy a home of your own." Millennials earn £8,000 less during their 20s than the previous generation did, and first-timebuyers now tend to be in their 30s. "Life is far more expensive day today than it was when I was a young adult, making it almost impossible to save a bean."