The letters The Prince of Wales wrote to government ministers are to be released today, following a court ruling in March.
The ‘black spider memos’, as they have been dubbed due to Charles’ writing, were written to ministers under Tony Blair’s Labour government, and have been released following a 10 year legal battle with The Guardian and a Freedom of Information request.
Conclusion: The letters do not contain anything harmful to Prince Charles’ reputation, and they do not undermine his ability to rule in future.
The ‘black spider memos’ merely show that Prince Charles cares about his future subjects and wants to make the country a better place.
You can find all the letters released here.
A spokesman from Clarence House said Prince Charles’ work “gives him a unique perspective” which “sometimes…leads him to communicate his experience or, indeed, his concerns or suggestions to ministers, from all Governments, of whatever party, either in meetings or in writing.”
“Government ministers have often encouraged him to do so, and many have welcomed the Prince’s views and ideas on a range of subjects. There are examples of this in the correspondence that has been made public.”
Most of the letters are responses to the Princes’ correspondence.
Charles expressed his views that the troops in Iraq were not supported well enough in 2004:
“I fear that this is just one example of where our armed forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job particularly in Iraq without the necessary resources.”
The letters have been released by the government and one to Tony Blair regarding agricultural issues can be read here.
Dominic Grieve, the man responsible for making them public after vetoing the same decision in 2012, said the letters contained the Princes’ “most deeply held personal views and beliefs”.
Mr Grieve, who previously prevented publication, said the notes “could seriously undermine the prince’s ability to fulfil his duties when he becomes king”, but a source said that Charles had ‘no fear’ over the contents of the letters, since they were mostly benign’, discussing matters such as derelict buildings lying unused in areas with housing shortages.
The letters were due to be released at 3pm, but there has been a delay.
27 pieces of correspondence are to be released, but The Telegraph was told that fewer than 10 were written actually written by Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales wrote to the ministries of Business, Innovation and Skills, Health, Children, Schools and Families, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Culture, Media and Sport, as well as the Northern Ireland Office and the Cabinet Office, between 2004 and 2005.
Prince Charles has been attending engagements in London today, and ignored questions from journalists about the imminent release of his letters. Clarence House described the decision to publish the correspondence as ‘disappointing’.
The Freedom of Information Act was tightened in 2010, to ensure that correspondence from the Sovereign and heir to the throne cannot be published for 20 years from the date written, or five years after their death, whichever is longest.
John Prescott, former Labour minister, said:
“I did receive letters from the prince when I was in government but they had no effect on any policy. People say he shouldn’t be writing to ministers but he’s quite entitled to express his opinion. Politicians are lobbied all the time by individuals and groups and none of them would allow a letter – even from Prince Charles – to unduly influence them.”
The Queen has remained strictly neutral throughout her reign, with few people knowing her true views on topic such as politics, and some think Prince Charles will struggle to do this when he ascends the throne. However, many people agree that The Prince of Wales’ comments and views largely reflect those of the people, and are merely trying to improve things for his future-subjects, in areas he is passionate about.
Denis MacShane, former Europe Minister, said to BBC Radio 4:
“I think the real worry for the Government is, is no member of the Royal Family will ever dare to write a letter to the government again and nobody in any position of status will ever dare write for fear their private views, bingo, will be front page news.
“It reduces the interflow, the Royal family are important, he’s going to be head of State one day, I think he should be able to communicate with the government privately.”
Photo: © Chloe Howard 2015