zondag 16 november 2008

Prince Charles wants to speak out as king: biographer

Prince Charles, who has just turned 60, wants to break with tradition and keep speaking out on key issues when he becomes king, biographer Jonathan Dimbleby said in The Sunday Times.

Charles, the heir to the throne, is outspoken on several matters such as climate change and architecture. However, sovereigns traditionally keep their opinions out of the public domain.

"There are now discreet moves afoot to redefine the future role of the sovereign so that it would allow King Charles III to speak out on matters of national or international importance in ways that at the moment would be unthinkable," said broadcaster Dimbleby, a close friend of the prince who wrote an authorised biography of Charles.

Since inheriting the throne in 1952, Charles's mother Queen Elizabeth II has adhered to the tradition that the monarch's views are only heard by prime ministers and the privy council.

"To breach this convention, however cautiously, would represent a seismic shift in the role of the sovereign," Dimbleby wrote.

"It has the potential to be politically and constitutionally explosive."

Charles would not speak out to the degree he does now, Dimbleby said.

"But those who believe Britain needs an 'active' sovereign in the 21st century claim that it would be a waste of his experience and accumulated wisdom for it to be straightjacketed within the confines of an annual Christmas message or his weekly audience with the prime minister," he wrote.

Charles has told confidantes that he would like the role of monarch to evolve so that his experience and knowledge are not wasted once he inherits the throne, Dimbleby said.

Supporters of the idea think it would be "missing a trick for him to be required to take a vow of monarchical silence."

"This is not an issue that the prince likes to discuss in such terms even with his most trusted intimates," Dimbleby said.

However, "he has latterly intimated to one or two of his confidants that he would like his present role to evolve so that once he inherits the crown, his knowledge and experience, his contacts and his unique ability to 'convene' others in the national interest could be put to good use rather than go to waste."

Charles would speak "for the nation and to the nation" in the same vein as the presidents of Germany and Ireland.

"Although these heads of state are required to be politically non-partisan, they are otherwise free to speak their mind in public," Dimbleby said.

The veteran broadcaster also said that talks were underway between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace about ending the ban on Catholic monarchs, which has prompted fears in royal circles about the disestablishment of the Church of England.

The 1701 Act of Settlement bars monarchs or their heirs from becoming or marrying Catholics.

However, reforming the act could be problematic as tinkering with the succession laws affects 15 other countries where the British monarch is head of state, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica.

Charles continued his 60th birthday celebrations Saturday with a star-studded dinner at his country retreat, where he was serenaded by rocker Rod Stewart.

The heir to the throne was entertained at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire, southwest England, at a bash thrown by his second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Among those attending were "Mr Bean" comedian Rowan Atkinson, while other acting luminaries included Oscar-winner Judi Dench and Joanna Lumley.

Saturday was yet another night of celebrations for the prince, following a comedy show on Wednesday and a black-tie gala dinner thrown by Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday attended by more than 400 friends including European royalty.

He spent his actual birthday on Friday in London meeting young people at projects led by the Prince's Trust and attending the Royal Opera House. The day was also marked by traditional gun salutes.