It's time we learned to cherish and stop chastising Prince Charles

According to a new poll, Charles has fallen out of favour with the public

Added: 21/08/2017 08:46:31

If I have one enduring memory of the Prince of Wales during my 12-year tenure at Buckingham Palace, it’s of the time he did a double-act with Phil Collins. It was during a holiday camp in Caister, Norfolk, in aid of The Prince’s Trust – an annual event that the Prince was always keen to attend - that he suddenly sat down at Collins’ drum kit and began bashing away.

The kids surrounded him, applauding and cheering. Never for a moment did they expect that a future King would behave like that, or that he should even want to help them. Yet that was exactly what he did, and has done for the entirety of his life. And that is typical of Charles.

So it was with some displeasure that I read news yesterday that the Prince’s popularity has supposedly nosedived, according to a poll carried out by YouGov. Its findings were as stark as they were misleading.

Just a third of Britons believe that the Prince of Wales has been beneficial to the monarchy, down from nearly two-thirds four years ago; one in four think he has had a negative impact on the Royal Family, a significant rise since 2013.

When he is made King, only 14 per cent believe the Duchess of Cornwall should become Queen; a third think she should have no title at all.

The reason for such a dire showing, to me, is clear – and no reflection upon the Prince or his wife. Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It will be, of course, a highly emotive occasion, and there has been a plethora of documentaries, as is to be expected, in commemoration of the late princess’s life and untimely passing.

But if YouGov were to ask the same questions in, say, eight months time, I suspect they would get very different answers. Peaks and troughs in public feeling have been part and parcel of the monarchy for centuries. Both Charles and the Queen know this.

What’s more, as has been proved time multiple times, polls are frequently misleading. Is an opinion poll truly representative of population of more than 65 million? I think not.

But the Charles I know is far too old and wise to let any of this knock his confidence. He will, as he has done in the past, dust himself off and continue to serve his country to the fullest of his abilities.

For years now, Prince Charles has been presented as the bad boy of the Royal Family: having an affair, portrayed as never really having loved Diana and singled out to blame for the disintegration of their marriage. Yet in my experience, they absolutely adored each other, and embarked on married life in 1981 with the highest of intentions.

Three days before they married, I had tea with Charles and Diana at Buckingham Palace. Back then, I was a radio reporter for Independent Radio News and a presenter for LBC, and they were all over each other like a rash, holding hands, giggling and clearly utterly besotted.

Equally, once returned from honeymoon and together during public engagements, Charles was tactile and would think nothing of squeezing her bottom, something I noticed more than once. You can’t fake that sort of affection.

And yet, people change, pressures develop within marriages and dynamics shift. In this, the royal couple were no different to any of us – except they were under constant public scrutiny, which made it even harder to adapt and withstand.

To chastise the Prince unendingly for his relationship with Camilla is deeply unfair. If anything, he will be a modern King, with a deeper trove of life experience, because of it.

Equally, when judging the heir to the British throne, one might be better of considering his conduct in the face of his marriage breakdown. As in many things, his approach to the public interest in their relationship was different to that of Diana’s.

Following publication of Andrew Morton’s 1992 book, Diana: Her True Story, she appeared in a one-off BBC Panorama, discussing her marriage with Martin Bashir. For his part, Charles has spoken publicly just once about such matters, in 1994, to confirm what had long been suspected by the public – that it was over.

Weblink: First published in the Daily Telegraph 21 August 2017
Dickie Arbiter