It's hard to know what to make of Prince Charles.
One minute you think he is a total waste of space, wittering on about organic farming and other such rubbish; the next he appears to be the only person of influence in the UK with any sense.
That is if you believe he campaigned against Tony Blair's indecent rush to invade Iraq. I feel inclined to accept that it is true. While the Prince's spokesman has refused to comment on a story based on “speculation”, you can bet your bottom dollar if it was totally untrue he would have denied it in no uncertain terms.
Much has been made of the fact that Charles was acting unconstitutionally by lobbying senior politicians and foreign diplomats against the decision to go to war. Technically that may be true, but is it proper to gag the Royal Family in such a way? Charles' two sons have military careers, his brother Andrew fought in the Falklands.
Why should he be the only person in the UK not allowed to have a view on the decision to go to war in Iraq? We often say that the Royal Family should be more like the people they reign over. Well this was one instance when Charles, apparently, was echoing the views of many ordinary people and to my mind he was right to express his anti-war sentiments.
Charles has often had an independent streak, most notably on environmental issues. That, perhaps, is a bit rich from a family which must have a carbon footprint the size of Wales given their endless supply of hard-to-heat castles, foreign flights, luxury limos etc. But he fought for what he believed was right and didn't mince his words when he saw some horrendous development taking place.
Of course, none of that mattered a jot in the long run. Who really cares what sort of architectural carbuncle is built in our cities? It may look horrible, but no-one will die just because some guy created funny shapes on a drawing board.
However, if we can applaud Charles for going to war — if you excuse the pun — on such issues, how much more justified was he in speaking out against the decision to invade Iraq, which we all now accept was an act of revenge against Saddam Hussein rather than a time-sensitive mission to destroy weapons of mass destruction which could be launched at any moment. The only slight problem with those weapons was that they did not exist.
Charles, if the newspaper reports are correct, also made a very valid point about the real cause of unrest in the Middle East, a point which would not go down well with governments in America and the UK. He said the Israel-Palestine question is the core problem that needs to be addressed. It is that which inflames opinion in the Muslim world which views the UK and America as partial and on the side of Israel. Very true.
However, there is one point in the whole story which must really disappoint Charles. He is said to have used his privileged position to lobby influential MP s and foreign envoys against the invasion. But obviously his influential friends were not that influential as the invasion plans were not halted, nor even slightly delayed.
In other words, what the future King thought about a very serious issue was of no real consequence to the government of the day.
That must be a bitter pill for the monarchy to swallow.