Sir: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that no two countries with Macca’s outlets have ever declared war on each other whereas no two constitutional monarchies have not fought each other – hence most monarchies have Macca’s these days.
Therefore, Michael Davis is goose-of-the-week for his tendentious plan to install monarchs in the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq (‘Forget the republic, bring back the monarchy’, 9 April). I suggest you shout him a Happy Meal to remind him of all that stands between his stupid monarchies and Armageddon – though I will concede that jousting tournaments would probably be a hit on Al Jazeera TV as a way of selecting heads of state. (Apologies to JA.)
Sir: Warren Mundine’s claims (“Yes we were invaded”, 9th April) about “invasion” are unconvincing. No-one questions the authenticity of that perception by his ancestors, but that accusatory word requires intent to have validity. Cook’s mission was not invasion – that’s indisputable. Nor was its effect – he briefly visited Botany Bay and later Cooktown for repairs, then went home. Nor was Phillip briefed to “invade”, and his explicit instructions were to create a peaceful cohabitation with the locals. To the British perception, the absence of a recognisable nation, infrastructure or polity signalled to them that the land was there for the taking, so they took. Just as the Americans ‘took’ the Moon in 1969. Mundine’s assertion about hundreds of “nations”, is over-reach. “Nation” is a Renaissance European concept and construct, not an Indigenous one. It required the presence of a uniform dominant culture and language, a written legal code, national hierarchy, economy, defence, infrastructure, industry and farming. Terra Australis Incognita had none of these as recognisable by Europeans, as the population was fragmented physically, culturally, socially and economically on distinct tribal lines. There may be an Indigenous word for it, but “Nation” is inappropriate – if a touch grandiose – in that context. Historic revisionism and over-reaching achieves nothing.
In defence of Charles
Sir: As a former full-time member of the Prince of Wales’s office, and a part-time equerry for 20 years, I can identify with some of HRH’s interests, just like Geoffrey Wheatcroft (‘How to save the monarchy’, 9 April). In my case we share a passion for churches and other historic buildings. I also share some of Mr Wheatcroft’s frustrations — the chaos of the prince’s office has at times driven me to distraction. As the product of a Yorkshire grammar school, I have never considered myself part of any ‘Highgrove set’: the prince calls me ‘Matthew’, and I call him ‘Sir’.
But Mr Wheatcroft is wrong to assert that the prince’s passionate interest in diverse and sometimes controversial topics should somehow debar him from becoming our next king. What the prince manages to do time and time again is identify issues of enormous long-term importance and of great concern to many of our fellow citizens which the democratic process fails to address. The issues he has championed are often neglected by politicians. Deprived and demotivated young people (some 40 years before IDS); inner-city blight (he was there even before Michael Heseltine); the parlous state of much of our countryside; building closer links and understanding with the moderate mainstream in the Islamic world — the list goes on. And he has not just said ‘something must be done’ — he has got on, spoken out, and done something practical.
At a time when many politicians are seen as part of a remote metropolitan elite with an increasingly short-term outlook, I look forward to the reign of a king who has reminded us of the importance of many issues about which he has an enormous depth of knowledge. Who better to be consulted, to encourage or to warn?
I suppose I am of what Mr Wheatcroft calls ‘The Prince’s Party’, but I should conclude by saying that I have not sought Palace permission to write this letter, nor cleared it with anyone.
Matthew Butler MVO
Assistant private secretary to the Prince of Wales, 1993–1996; part-time equerry, 1996 to present
Sir: Simon Jenkins’s ‘Letting terror win’ (9 April) was a depressing read. Governments, not just our own, focus on the costly and risky process of late-stage interdiction of acts of terror, and yet downplay the fact that terrorism has political origins and can be curtailed at a much earlier point before it is ‘weaponised’. How many terrorists did Masood Azhar recruit when he toured 32 British mosques in 1993, spreading his gospel of hatred, violence and rejection of the British state? And yet still, even today, the security service website states that it does not counter subversion. It takes real moral courage and fine judgment to tackle subversion, and very little to beguile the public into thinking that a macho deployment of the SAS, spooks and robocops is the effective response.
Old but not ashamed
Sir: There’s much sombre truth in Stewart Dakers’s ‘Live fast, die not too old’ (9 April). Two years his junior, I agree that growing old isn’t much fun. But I part company with him on the matter of guilt. He claims the elderly feel ashamed of slowing traffic, causing delays at checkouts, and monopolising waiting rooms and hospital beds. Not all of us do. Ageing brings a certain dogged indifference to the opinions of others; almost a resurgence of the notion that we’ve every right to act as we do, and that the rest of society can get stuffed. We should no more feel guilty at our awkwardness than a baby is guilty about wetting itself. It’s just another phase of life.
Colwyn Bay, North Wales