After the excitement of the Platinum Jubilee, complete with emotional tributes to ‘mummy’, Prince Charles might have been forgiven for wishing to avoid the limelight for the summer. But the heir to the throne is once again in the news. Following the recent revelation that he is said to find the government’s policy of flying refugees to Rwanda ‘appalling’, the prince is in the headlines with a story that is less likely to appeal to the progressives who briefly kept company with him. Once again, Charles has been embroiled in an incident (‘scandal’ is not quite the word being used at the moment). Once more, his basic judgement has been called into question.
The details, as reported in the Sunday Times, are almost comical, as well as questionable. In 2015, Prince Charles met Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar – aka ‘the man who bought London’ – at Clarence House, and was given a bag containing €1 million (£860 million) in cash. On another occasion, Hamad handed the Prince another €1 million stuffed into Fortnum and Mason carrier bags. The Prince received a total of €3 million between 2011 and 2015, according to reports.
Some people might be taken aback by being given enormous quantities of banknotes in bags from London’s most upmarket grocers, but Charles and his aides are made of sterner stuff. So, after the cash was counted by his advisers, it was deposited in a Coutts account. A terse statement from Clarence House said that the money ‘passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities who carried out the appropriate covenants and assured us that all the correct processes were followed.’ As the well-worn statement has it, there is no suggestion of illegality on anyone’s part. But still it’s worth asking a question of Prince Charles: was it wise to accept the money?
It is hard to avoid feeling that those who wish to seek favours or advancement from Prince Charles have now been given a fairly explicit indication of how to get what they want: secure a private meeting with the heir to the throne, hand over a vast amount of money, and hope for the best.
Charles himself may not be for sale. But every story of this kind that emerges will contribute to the sense that, compared to the probity displayed by his mother, his reign will be one saturated with stories about bags stuffed with cash. It’s not a good look.
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