June 22

Prince Charles saves heritage building


Those who love London are no doubt saying " God Bless the Prince of Wales."  But the internationally renowned British architect Lord Rogers is calling for a national inquiry into Prince Charles's role in “single-handedly destroying” the £3 billion re-development of the Chelsea Barracks ( this column  Prince Charles defends old London” 5/5.)

 His Lordship says the Prince has broken “a bond of trust” with the British people. The miniscule United Kingdom republican movement is behind him as are assorted elites.

But on all the evidence the British people are delighted.  

 “The peer of the realm says that it must never happen again, that the Black Prince must be muzzled and a committee of independent constitutional experts must vet his involvement not just in architecture but medicine, agriculture, the arts and the environment,” writes Alice Thompson in The Times (17/6).

“It is an outrage for anyone unelected to have any power, he says.” Ms. Thompson, who I am told is the great-great-granddaughter of Alice Todd after whom Alice Springs was named, comes magnificently to the defence of the Prince. “What are the royals for if not to protect our heritage?” she says. 

 “He’s meddling, you say, but the Prince is at his best when he becomes involved. The neighbours never wanted these glass and steel high-tech residential towers stuffed with £50million flats. But they had no influence over the combined might of Lord Rogers, Gulf State money and the Candys (who have two other vast projects in the capital) and who are held in awe by London's planning committees. 

…HRH acts…

Prince Charles could do something. He pulled rank and wrote a letter to his friend, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the ruler of Qatar, who was backing the project. The arrogance of architects has been trumped by the arrogance of princes.

“What do you want the heir to the throne to do? Do you want a vacuous, empty-headed playboy or a serious person (albeit one in a kilt and holding a crook) prepared to join in the argument about community versus ideological modernist architecture.”

…ahead of his time…

 Ms. Thompson makes a point we have been making here for some time. The Prince  has  an uncanny knack of championing causes decades before they became popular.

 “The former Cabinet minister Charles Clarke once derided him as ‘old-fashioned and out of time’ but he is curiously prescient for a man surrounded by flunkeys and courtiers.

 “He was still experimenting with cherry brandy when he first talked about the environment. He was derided for instigating a bottle bank at Buckingham Palace years before councils thought of recycling.

David Cameron now espouses his call for more localism, Tesco is catching up with his views on organic food. Long before 9/11, he was talking about Islam and the need to understand the underlying religious tensions in this country. With his Prince's Trust he was years ahead of Sir Alan Sugar in encouraging young people to start their own businesses.  “He has set up projects to embrace his beliefs about social deprivation, community cohesion, urban planning and Britishness, firing off letters to ministers suggesting the elderly may not be having a nice time in hospital.” 

The Prince is respected internationally. It is good to see some recognition of his quite extraordinary contributions  being given in the British press.  

Let's hope they are going to give their tired old caricature journalism a rest.     



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