It’s like any traditional bazaar. Cushions litter the floor and crowds gather around displays of Chinese pottery and Persian rugs. Tea cups stand ready to celebrate a hard-bartered purchase. Except no tea will be poured: this market happens to be in the middle of a stateroom in Buckingham Palace and is the centrepiece of the Prince of Wales’s new exhibition showcasing his favourite pieces of art and craftsmanship. The show is titled ‘Prince and Patron’, and it is packed to the brim with objects he loves.
It also offers a glimpse of what the eventual reign of King Charles III may look like. There has been court gossip that the Prince will choose another name to reign with rather than be identified with the two previous monarchs called Charles. It is a rumour he has never acknowledged; and it is surely no coincidence that one of the first artworks visitors see in the exhibition is a triple portrait of the Prince of Wales that is an almost exact copy of van Dyck’s famous painting of King Charles I. Nearby is also Verrio’s study of Charles II. These are not the choices of a man keen to distance himself from his namesakes.
Horticultural and architectural drawings remind the visitor of the Prince’s involvement in controversial issues such as the environment, a habit that has fascinated Britain’s media for decades. The Guardian spent five years and thousands of pounds in court battles to gain access to the infamous ‘Black Spider’ memos, in which the Prince expressed his concern over matters that included the plight of the Patagonian toothfish and the lack of support being given to British troops in Iraq. The obsession stems from the fact that while the Queen has always remained remarkably discreet about what she thinks, her son and heir has never been afraid to make his views heard.
When he does speak, it enrages a very particular elite group in society, regardless of what he says.