Prince charles

The old ways

I’m sitting across a café table from a young man with a sheaf of drawings that have an archive look to them but are in fact brand new. His Jacob Rees-Mogg attire — well-cut chalk-stripe suit and immaculate tie — sets him apart from the others in the room, who are mostly architects and architectural fellow travellers like me. We don’t dress like that. But George Saumarez Smith is indeed an architect, a very good one. He just happens to be a trad. A traditionalist, mostly a classicist. And now is very much the time of the architectural trads. They have crept up on us. There’s a revival going on,

The Protestant passions of Queen Victoria: her biographer A.N. Wilson reveals all

Our guest on today’s Holy Smoke podcast is A.N. Wilson, author of a hugely admired biography of Queen Victoria and – as you’ll hear – the most mischievous intellectual in the land. Cristina Odone and I started out by asking about Victoria’s vigorous (and possibly whisky-fuelled) persecution of Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England: the Queen lobbied hard for the legislation that sent several of them to jail for popish “ritualism”. But that was the just the beginning of Wilson’s hilarious whistlestop tour of the passions and prejudices of Queen Victoria. Topics discussed: Victoria’s surprising liberalism (and indulgence towards actual Roman Catholics), the quasi-Victorian moralising of virtue-signalling students, the gentle but

Diana the diva

Twenty years in August since Diana died. The anniversary is sad for me on many levels — she was definitely the final famous person I’ll have a pash on, and it reminds me that I haven’t yet earned back the whopping advance I was given for my book about her. To be fair, the book was an absolute stinker, written through a haze of gin, tears and avarice, containing such clodhopping clangers as ‘with blue skies in her eyes and the future in her smile’ and ‘affection swooshed out of her like a firework from a bottle’. Nurse, the screens! But there was good stuff in it, too. Namely, the

The next financial crisis is coming ‘with a vengeance’, says the expert. But when?

There’s a passage in Philip Larkin’s All What Jazz, the collection of his writings as the Daily Telegraph’s jazz critic, that imagines his typical readers. Husbands of ‘ageing and bitter wives they first seduced to Artie Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine”’ who take comfort from collections of ‘scratched coverless 78s in the attic’, they are ‘men whose first coronary is coming like Christmas’. The same sense of gloomy inevitability often pervades the so-called ‘dismal science’ of economic commentary, amplified by political uncertainty and traumatic events: the one thing we know for certain is that economic life is cyclical and that any run of benign signals can only ever be temporary. It’s

Prince Philip, the timeless rebel

The Duke of Edinburgh is finally to retire in the autumn, after more than 70 years of public service, just after his 96th birthday. Philip – a former first lieutenant in the Navy – is one of the last prominent figures in British life to have served in the second world war; he’s also possibly the only one worshipped as a living god, as far as I know. Yet this man at the very heart of the British Establishment has come to be known as a sort of arch-reactionary, an English colonel figure who goes around insulting foreigners ­­– either to our amusement or utter horror. He was once, in the

Will Prince Charles’s ‘climate collapse’ prediction come true?

Each year, this column has the melancholy duty of reminding the public of the Prince of Wales’s prediction, made in Brazil in March 2009, that there were only 100 months left to prevent ‘irretrievable climate collapse’. Those 100 months will have elapsed at the end of next month, so it looks as if we are all doomed. The general election on 8 June will therefore be pretty pointless. It is noticeable, however, that the Prince has not, in recent years, repeated his exact dating of the catastrophe, muttering, in 2015, that it might be 35 years. Even more striking was his co-authorship, at the beginning of this year, of the

Prince William is just a chip off the Charles block

Generally, I am the last person to advocate modesty, sobriety or duty. But then, I have been supporting myself financially, with no assistance from any other source – spouse or State or taxpayer – since I was seventeen years old, and am free to do as I please. The same, sadly, cannot be said of Prince William, who swerved this year’s Commonwealth Day service in favour of dad-dancing, Jägerbombing and high-fiving party-girls on a four-day jolly with his mates in Verbier. And this after spending a surprisingly modest thirteen days performing his official duties this year.  It’s no secret that I was one of the late Princess of Wales’ most

The Queen is a true Christian leader. But what about Prince Charles, who seems more interested in worshipping himself?

Every time I suggest on social media that the Queen is Britain’s most inspiring Christian leader, there’s a chorus of agreement – with Catholic voices among the loudest, interestingly. Churchgoers in this country have noticed that Her Majesty is quietly uncompromising about her beliefs; her Christmas message doesn’t skate over the teaching that the infant Jesus is God incarnate: typically, it affirms it without qualification. But, as of this month, the Queen has been reigning for 65 years. Attention is inevitably focussing on the next Supreme Governor of the Church of England, presumably Prince Charles. And here the same people who recognise his mother as a Christian exemplar tend to

Against Queen Camilla

How would you feel about a Queen Camilla, as in the wife of King Charles? Personally I’d be dead against, for reasons I’ll bore you with later, but what matters is how the nation feels. Because the Prince of Wales very much wants Camilla to be queen when he becomes king. As has been reported elsewhere, there’s now a veritable ops department at Clarence House — jovially called ‘QC’ by its members — who are responsible for ensuring that the middle class is prepared for just this outcome. Actually, that’s probably over-egging it. Seems QC is more of a concept than a war cabinet, but also that if you’re not

Building block | 23 February 2017

What a strange affair it now seems, the Mansion House Square brouhaha. How very revealing of the battle for the soul of architecture that reached maximum ferocity in the late 1980s and which still echoes today. Where developers now jostle to build ever taller, fatter and odder-shaped City skyscrapers, this was a time when it took 34 years to get just one building built. An ambitious bronze tower and plaza by the German-American modernist pioneer Mies van der Rohe was finally rejected in favour of an utterly different post-modern corner block (with no plaza, but a roof garden) by Sir James Stirling. Both were shepherded by a man in search

For the sake of Britain’s constitution, will everyone please shut up?

One of the striking features of Britain’s unwritten constitution is how it relies on various people keeping their opinions to themselves. The monarch, the Speaker of the House of Commons and senior judges must all avoid expressing political views in public – or even in what one might call semi-private. It’s not their right to remain silent; it’s their responsibility. The royal family is expected to stay out of politics from birth, the Speaker is an MP who puts aside partisanship when he or she is dragged to the chair, and judges must show that they are applying the law, not advancing their own agenda. Any appearance of partiality is

For the sake of the constitution, please shut up

One of the striking features of Britain’s unwritten constitution is how it relies on various people keeping their opinions to themselves. The monarch, the Speaker of the House of Commons and senior judges must all avoid expressing political views in public – or even in what one might call semi-private. It’s not their right to remain silent; it’s their responsibility. The royal family is expected to stay out of politics from birth, the Speaker is an MP who puts aside partisanship when he or she is dragged to the chair, and judges must show that they are applying the law, not advancing their own agenda. Any appearance of partiality is

Islamofascism and appeasement are the biggest dangers facing the West

The appeasers, apologists and ‘useful idiots’ have been out in force over the festive season, busily lighting candles, declaring ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’ and proclaiming that the murderous attack on the Christmas market had nothing to do either with Islam or mass immigration. Thinking of them prompted me to pluck from my shelf one of my favourite books, a slim tome entitled ‘Ourselves and Germany’, written in the winter of 1937 by the Marquess of Londonderry. Otherwise known as Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, or ‘Charley’ to his pals, the Marquess could neither write well nor read men well, but his book is nonetheless riveting. It’s a timeless reminder of where an educated

Diary – 11 August 2016

Walking along the Brighton seafront, I was struck by posters advertising endless tribute acts; among them Suspiciously Elvis, the Small Fakers and The Kinx. The Edinburgh Fringe is much the same. Shows this summer include Dirty Harry: The Ultimate Tribute to Blondie and Billie Holliday: Tribute to the Iconic Lady Day. Or how about Gary Bland’s Mr Romantic: A Tribute to Johnny Mathis — ‘an insight into Mathis’s career, and how Mathis’s music has been a big part of Gary’s life through love, heartache and laughter’. The theatre at Edinburgh, too, is full of remakes. Fancy Dan Choo-Park’s The Song of Beast (after Hamlet), where the Prince of Denmark is teleported to

Low life | 12 May 2016

On Sunday we were invited for lunch at Chez Bruno, an unbelievably posh restaurant in the south of France. At Chez Bruno all the dishes, even the ice-cream desserts, are flavoured with truffles. Resting on the gate pillars as we drove in were two gigantic stone truffles, and next to the entrance was a long painted fresco of the Last Supper, with Bruno’s face superimposed on that of Jesus and 12 Michelin-starred chefs as his apostles. In the carpark a dignified old gent stepped in front of the car. His job was to park it for us. I took my foot off the clutch thinking the gears were disengaged, but

The Queen has proven herself to be a shrewd asset manager

One person who has never shown much interest in corporate correctness is Her Majesty the Queen — but if you had been able to buy shares in 1952 in the royal ‘firm’ of which she has been executive chairman these past 63 and a half years, you would have made out like Warren Buffett. When she succeeded her father, the royal ­finances were not a matter for public discussion: the first estimate of her private wealth, at £60 million, did not appear in the press until 1969. More recently, a consultancy called Brand Finance came up with a figure of £44 billion as the value of the entire monarchical enterprise,

What we learned from the much-anticipated Clinton emails

‘Gefilte fish,’ emailed Hillary Clinton to a pair of aides in March 2010, ‘where are we on this?’ That was it. Two words in the subject line, five more in the body. Nobody really knows what she was on about. Maybe it was code, maybe it was a reference to a new Israeli import duty slapped upon carp fillets from Illinois. Either way, in a 4,368-strong trove of emails sent and received by the former US Secretary of State, and just released by the State Department, this is the interesting bit. This was as good as it gets. OK, so I exaggerate. Or rather, under-exaggerate. There’s also some stuff from

Will he was

In 2011, the Daily Mail carried a long story about how the Queen’s cousin Prince William of Gloucester, who died in a plane crash aged 30, had been Prince Charles’s boyhood idol. (Our own Prince William, it claimed, was named after him.) In passing, it tactfully informed us that William’s ex-girlfriend Zsuzsi Starkloff ‘no longer wishes to be reminded of her lost love’. Well, the good news is that Zsuzsi has certainly changed her mind since. The following year she gave the Mail an interview describing their relationship in some detail. And on Thursday, she appeared in The Other Prince William: Secret History to tell all over again what Channel

High life | 2 July 2015

Tempus sure fugit, and how. Twenty years ago, on Saturday 1 July 1995, monarchs from around the world descended on London for the wedding of Greek Crown Prince Pavlos to Marie-Chantal, daughter of the duty-free magnate Bob Miller. I remember it well, especially the hangover. Never have I seen so many royals under one roof. The Greeks had treated King Constantine, father of the groom, very badly, managing to convince the press, and in turn the people, that the first man to resist the military takeover and stage a countercoup against the colonels was in fact one of them. Leave it to the Hellenes to say black is white and

The Spectator’s notes | 11 June 2015

Two beautiful volumes in a cloth-bound case reach me. They are Speeches and Articles by HRH The Prince of Wales 1968-2012, published by University of Wales Press. The explanatory list of abbreviations and acronyms alone gives a charming sense of the range of subjects covered — ‘Foot and Mouth Disease, Foreign Press Association, Forest Stewardship Council … Myalgic Encephalopathy, Member of Parliament … Non-Commissioned Officer … Not In My Back Yard! … Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil’. Among the many speeches on the environment, however, I cannot find his speech in Rio de Janeiro in March 2009, entitled ‘Less Than 100 Months To Act’. There Prince Charles warned that if