Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

When has Charles been accused of ‘meddling’?

The future king has come under scrutiny in the past for expressing views in public and in private on issues from architecture to medicine.

Some of the Prince of Wales’ private letters to ministers were published in 2015 (PA)
Some of the Prince of Wales’ private letters to ministers were published in 2015 (PA)

The Prince of Wales has suggested he will not “meddle” in public affairs when he becomes king. Here is a look at some past episodes when there has been criticism over his involvement in public and political issues.

‘Black spider’ memos

In 2015 Charles had to defend his decision to write a series of letters to government ministers, some of which are known as the “black spider” memos, so-called because of his use of black ink.

A long-running legal battle by Guardian newspaper journalist Rob Evans to secure the release of the documents culminated in the UK’s highest court ordering the Government to publish them.

Publication of private letters can only inhibit his ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him Clarence House in 2015

The letters showed the prince had raised issues with ministers on several occasions between September 2004 and March 2005.

He tackled then-prime minister Tony Blair over the lack of resources for the armed forces fighting in Iraq and also wrote to ministers about the benefits of complementary medicine, the need for affordable rural homes and the threat to heritage buildings.

The opening lines of a letter dated 24/11/2004 written by the Prince of Wales to the then Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Charles Clarke (PA)

Clarence House said the correspondence showed “the range of the Prince of Wales’ concerns and interests for this country and the wider world”.

It also defended his decision to write the letters, with a spokesman saying: “The publication of private letters can only inhibit his ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him in the course of his travels and meetings.”

Sensitive documents

In the same year there was controversy when it emerged Charles had been routinely receiving copies of confidential Cabinet papers for more than 20 years.

An official document released after a three-year freedom of information battle showed documents of the Cabinet and ministerial committees were being provided to a “standard circulation” list.

As well as the Queen, it included the Prince of Wales, although it was not suggested he had requested access. Heirs to the throne were believed to have been included in the group since the 1930s.

The papers, which would include details of ministers’ discussions on forthcoming legislation, are normally kept secret for at least 20 years.

Republic, the campaign group calling for the monarchy to be abolished, urged then-prime minister David Cameron to remove Charles from the list.


Charles has made his views on Britain’s buildings clear on numerous occasions over the decades, leading to an at-times tense relationship with architects.

During an infamous critique of a proposed extension to the National Gallery in 1984, he described the plans as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. The proposals were later changed.

The extension plan for the National Gallery in London, designed by architect Peter Ahrends (PA)

He has also on occasion criticised the way architecture is taught, saying in 2009 that traditional buildings and projects are “looked down on”.

The same year, he intervened in the redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks in west London, writing to the owners to reconsider their designs.

The intervention provoked an angry response from some of the country’s leading architects, who warned he was threatening the “democratic process” with the “destructive” comments.


The Prince of Wales has long espoused the benefits of homeopathic remedies and complementary medicine – and come under fire from some in the medical profession as a result.

In a private letter to Mr Blair in 2005 he complained that a European Union directive on herbal medicinal products was having a “deleterious effect” on the UK’s complementary medicine sector by “effectively outlawing the use of certain herbal extracts”.

One of my great ambitions is to make sure more people understand just what remarkable and medicinal properties plants contain out there The Prince of Wales in 2001

In 2008 his Duchy Originals firm and British homeopathic manufacturer Nelson launched a range of herbal remedies.

The following year the UK medicines regulator told the firm to change the wording of a campaign promoting two products because their claims were misleading.

One of Charles’s foremost critics on the subject, emeritus professor Edzard Ernst, caused uproar in 2011 when he described the prince as a “snake oil salesman” over an artichoke and dandelion tincture that claimed to detoxify the body.

Homeopathic remedies are not widely available on the NHS.

A 2010 report by MPs said the remedies perform no better than placebos, while in 2017 NHS England recommended that GPs and other prescribers should stop providing them.



From Belfast Telegraph