Explained: The many, many controversies of Britain’s King Charles III

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At long last, Charles is the new king. At 73, he will be the oldest to ascend to the British throne. This means that Charles, formerly the Prince of Wales, has had plenty of time during which he has collected his fair share of scandals.

Charles, who has been the heir to the crown since the age of three, has never enjoyed the same affection as his mother, which may only add to his challenges as the new king.

From his marital problems, to being called aloof and distant, to facing accusations of interfering in politics on various topics spanning architecture, homeopathy and climate change — King Charles has seen it all.

Charity scandal

In June, a UK media outlet reported that the then heir to the British throne allegedly accepted a suitcase full of cash as a charitable donation from the former prime minister of Qatar.

The Sunday Times reported that the suitcase was one of three bundles of cash given as charitable donations which the 73-year-old received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.

The three lots, which reportedly totalled €3 million, were handed to the prince personally between 2011 and 2015. Each payment was reportedly deposited into the accounts of the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF), a low-profile grant-making entity which funds projects close to the royal’s heart and his country estate in Scotland.

Despite the newspaper reporting that there is no suggestion the payments were illegal, there have been calls to investigate.

As per The Guardian, critics said it raised serious concerns about the future king’s personal judgment, especially given Qatar’s record on human rights.

One described it as more like the actions of a “South American drug baron” than a future king, while another said the image of Charles’s aides counting out the cash was like a scene from TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

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Paradise Papers

In 2017, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made public its investigation into how the world’s rich and famous stash their wealth offshore.

This follow-up to the 2015 ‘Panama Papers’ dubbed ‘Paradise Papers’ named big shots such as Shakira, Bono and  Lewis Hamilton.

And of course, Charles himself.

 

As per the BBC, documents from the Paradise Papers revealed that Prince Charles’s private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, secretly invested in an offshore company which lobbied to change climate agreements.

Sustainable Forestry Ltd lobbied politicians to amend global agreements to allow ‘carbon credits’ from rainforests to be traded.

Charles made speeches in support of this – and his estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, tripled its investment in Sustainable Forestry in the space of a year. It is not clear why this was.

The Duchy claimed the prince has no direct involvement in investment decisions.

Prince Charles denied ever speaking on a topic simply because of a company the Duchy may have invested in, as per the report.

Incidentally, Charles’ mother The Queen also made the list.

‘Black spider memos’

While the British Royal Family assiduously avoids getting entangled with government policy, Charles has not shown quite the same commitment – at least in a personal capacity.

In 2015, a cache of 27 letters – 10 by Charles himself – written to government officials including former Prime Minister Tony Blair over the years on a variety topics including agriculture, Northern Ireland and other matters were made public.

Countless government ministers have been recipients of ‘black spider’ memos, so called because of his distinctive handwriting style, The Spectator notes.

‘Sooty’

In 2009, Charles was ensnared in a racism row after British media reported that Charles, his second wife Camilla Parker Bowles and elder son William nicknamed a wealthy Indian property developer and polo friend Kolin Dhillon ‘Sooty’.

Those reports emerged after a race row over Charles’ younger son Prince Harry calling a Pakistani former fellow-cadet ‘Paki’ in a home video made three years ago.

While Harry issued a public apology for calling Ahmed Raza Khan ‘our little Paki friend’, Britain’s royal household strongly denied either Charles or any of his two sons are racist.

“We are not going to comment about a nickname which allegedly is used in a particular club,” Clarence House said in a statement.

“To imply the Princes are racist is ridiculous. Through their charity work all three of them are committed to helping people both in the UK and abroad regardless of who they are.

“The Prince of Wales has a very strong view on racial intolerance. No one has been more of an advocate for the understanding and tolerance of various religious and ethnic groups and his record speaks volumes on this issue,” it added.

Dhillon, who plays polo with Prince Charles and other royals at the Cirencester Polo Club near the Prince’s Highgrove estate, in fact came to Charles’ defence.

“I have to say that you know you have arrived when you acquire a nickname. I enjoy being called Sooty by my friends, who I am sure universally use the name as a term of affection with no offence meant or felt,” said Kolin.

Dhillon added, “The Prince of Wales is a man of zero prejudice and both his sons have always been most respectful.”

Shaking hands with Mugabe

In 2005, Charles, attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II, found himself embroiled in a furore after shaking hands with then Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.

File image of Robert Mugabe. AFP

Mugabe, at the time, was an outcast – the European Union had banned him from the region.

Mugabe, a Roman Catholic, defied the ban to attend the funeral at the Vatican, which is not part of the European Union.

The EU had imposed travel sanctions on Zimbabwean government officials after accusations of vote rigging in Zimbabwe’s parliamentary polls in 2000.

“The Prince of Wales was caught by surprise and wasn’t in a position to avoid shaking Mr Mugabe’s hand,” a spokeswoman for the Prince, trying to defuse the uproar, said at the time.

Snubbing China over Dalai Lama

In 1999, Charles was accused of snubbing then President Jiang Zemin by declining an invitation to a farewell banquet at the Chinese Embassy.

The heir to the British throne, known to be an admirer of the Dalai Lama, was said to have wanted nothing more to do with the then president, as per South China Morning Post.

Charles’ absence was made even more notable after several members of the royal family including Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Alexandra and the Duke of Kent were in attendance at the official banquet.

The banquet, which followed the strict protocol of State visits to Britain, was a response to a banquet given in then president Jiang’s honour at Buckingham Palace at the start of his visit.

File image of Dalai Lama. News18

Mark Bolland, his former senior aide, described Charles as a ‘dissident’ working against the ‘prevailing political consensus’, as per The Spectator.

‘Correct processes followed’

Charles’ representatives said that correct procedures had been followed.

“Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the Prince’s charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed,” Prince Charles’ Clarence House office said in a statement.

The newspaper claims that on one occasion the money was handed over in a holdall at a meeting at Clarence House. On another, the paper reports the cash was contained in carrier bags from the famous London department store Fortnum and Mason.

“At a few hours’ notice from The Sunday Times, we have checked into this event in the past, and confirm that the previous trustees of PWCF discussed the governance and donor relationship, (confirming that the donor was a legitimate and verified counterparty) and our auditors signed off on the donation after a specific enquiry during the audit. There was no failure of governance,” PWCF chairman Sir Ian Cheshire was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

“The donation was made in cash and that was the donor’s choice,” he said.

The PWCF has the stated aim of transforming lives and building sustainable communities, by awarding grants to good causes in fields such as conservation, education, health and social inclusion.

The Sunday Times said Sheikh Hamad’s lawyers declined to comment.

With inputs from agencies

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Explained: The many, many controversies of Britain’s King Charles III
Explained: The many, many controversies of Britain’s King Charles III
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