Wednesday, February 1, 2023
HomeNewsKing Charles faces scandals over Prince Harry, Andrew and Michael Fawcett investigation

King Charles faces scandals over Prince Harry, Andrew and Michael Fawcett investigation

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Later this week, King Charles III will pass a creepy milestone when he surpasses the 78 days that Edward V managed as king (technically) before the 12-year-old was deposed by his homicidal uncle Richard III who shoved he and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York into the Tower of London. The boys were never seen again. (Lady Jane Grey takes the top spot having only managed to stay queen for nine days before that feminist dream ended with her beheading.)

Maybe the particularly rough trots of Edward V and Lady Jane might help put things in perspective for our King – no one is threatening to lop off his noggin – because this week His Majesty is having a time of it as he faces a series of simmering crises and scandals. Simultaneously.

It’s hard to know quite where to begin here. The dodgy diamonds controversy? The fact that his mates-with-a-sex-offender brother Prince Andrew has left the UK to stage a possible Middle Eastern comeback? That his son Prince Harry is about to get a human rights award for loudly telling the world that the monarchy suffers from structural racism?

That the Metropolitan Police has passed the cash-for-honours case that felled his longest serving aide to prosecutors? Or that Buckingham Palace’s social media team had the nifty idea this week to share a video showcasing the royal family’s collection of gold plates during the biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation?

Maybe a spell in the Tower with only his botany books and a family-sized pack of Jaffers might sound quite tempting to Charles right about now …

So let’s do this from the top. Those diamonds. Oh those pesky, history-making diamonds that are so big they look like cheap knock-offs.

This week will see Buckingham Palace quite literally roll out the red carpet for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife Dr Tshepo Motsepe for the first state visit of Charles and wife Queen Camilla’s reigns. There will be state coaches doing a lap of The Mall and on Tuesday a state banquet will see the royal family get frocked up for a white tie reception that will involve jewellery.

Lots and lots of the often highly disputed, often murkily-acquired stuff.

Even before anyone has had a chance to riffle around in the jewellery vault, Queen Camilla has been urged to skip wearing the Cullinan diamonds by Zwelinzima Vavi, one of South Africa’s best known trade unionists who has told the Telegraph of Her Majesty wore it, it would “be like spitting in the face of South Africans”.

In 1905 the 3,106 Cullinan diamond, the largest uncut diamond in history, was found in Pretoria and was actually thrown out as not being possibly real because it was so comically big. In 1909, two of the largest stones were given to King Edward VII as a gift and then later Queen Elizabeth received 21 large South African diamonds on her 21st birthday.

It was cut into pieces and today the Cullinan II, a 317.4-carat diamond is set in the front of the Imperial State Crown and the Cullinan III and IV stones make up what is believed to be the world’s most expensive brooch.

If Camilla did wear any of the Cullinan pieces, Vavi has said that “it would be most unfortunate and would be flaunting … the colonial era’s mining industry – a period where the minerals and the land were taken from us which we then had to fight for.”

This situation right here sums up the moral and diplomatic minefield that is the vast Royal Collection, with the vast majority of it acquired during Great Britain’s colonial forays across the globe where they had no compunction about stripping out all the valuable bits and pieces from the nations who made up the Empire. Pillaging, what ho!?

(In one rare piece of good news on this front, the chiefs of the Benin people in what is now Nigeria last week said that the King was exempt from their campaign to have the Benin Bronzes, the famous artworks taken by British forces in 1897 and which are now in the British Museum, returned.)

Next, there’s the Andrew situation but really, when isn’t there an Andrew situation? On the weekend the Sun broke the news that the disgraced and defrocked Duke of York has flown to Bahrain, via private jet of course, amid speculation that he is “targeting an unofficial role as intermediary between the West and oil-rich Gulf states.”

Per the report Andrew, a man who once happily accepted the hospitality of a man on the child sex offender’s register, has been staying at the Four Seasons where the Royal Suite will set you back more than $15,000 – a-night and with sources claiming that he “fancies his chances” of “another stint as government special representative for international trade and investment.”

Intriguingly that was not the only bit of Andrew propaganda doing the rounds with John Bryan, yes he of the Fergie toe-sucking fame, popping up in the Mail on Sunday to give an interview revealing that he was called in by the Duchess of York for a crisis meeting of sorts in the aftermath of Andrew’s car crash Newsnight interview in 2019.

When Bryan arrived at the Yorks’ home Royal Lodge, Andrew “was distraught. They were distraught.”

Bryan told the Mail that at another point, the duke “was shouting, ‘I don’t care any more, I don’t care. I am being treated unfairly.’”

Hear that? That’s the secret bell that rings whenever it starts to look like there is an effort afoot to curry sympathy for Andrew or anytime a story crops up that makes it appear as if Andrew still thinks he can inch his way out of the public’s bad books. (Good luck mate, that is going to happen the day after Charles and Camilla part ways with their beloved bar cart or so I’m guessing.)

And while we’re on the subject of Charles’ troublesome relatives, enter stage left Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In early December they are set to be honoured, alongside others including Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, at the RFK Foundation Ripple of Hope Awards Gala in New York. Speaking to El Confidential, the Foundation’s Kerry Kennedy, said the duo “went to the oldest institution in UK history and told them what they were doing wrong” and that they were “heroic” and had gone up against the royal family’s “power structure.”

Exactly what Charles does not need at this point is for the world to be reminded of the Sussexes’ claims of institutional racism inside the monarchy and for The Firm to be painted as male, pale and stale baddies of the piece who forced out the only person of colour to have made it onto the Palace balcony.

Then, let me introduce you to Michael Fawcett, a man so close to Charles he is widely reported to have squeezed his toothpaste onto his royal boss’ brush and to once have held a specimen bottle when the then Prince of Wales had to give a urine sample. (Remember that next time your boss asks you to go above and beyond.)

Last year, Fawcett was forced to resign as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation after a Times investigation raised allegations he had “fixed” a CBE honour for a Saudi tycoon who had donated $2.6 million to royal charity. The CBE was awarded by Charles in a private Buckingham Palace ceremony that did not end up in the official Court Circular.

This week it was reported that the Met’s special inquiry team has now sent the case to the Crown Prosecutors Service who will decide if Fawcett will be charged under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act.

(Fun fact: Charles has something called “sovereign immunity” which means he cannot be forced to ever give evidence in court.)

It hardly needs pointing out how widely damaging Fawcett being charged would be His Majesty.

I’ve saved the most ridiculous for last – the Case of the Gold Plates. Last week the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (basically their treasurer) Jeremy Hunt announced $98 billion in tax rises – yes, rises – to try and sort out the massive black hole in British government finances. Brits are facing a winter that will see average power bills rise to more than $5370 and the country is already in a recession.

Therefore, this obviously makes it the perfect time to showcase the Palace’s collection of gold servingware! And the fact that they have pastry chefs whose job it is to make ornamental flowers that won’t get eaten!

Marie Antoinette – is that you?

Specifically, ahead of President Ramaphosa’s visit and the state banquet, the official royal social media accounts shared two short videos, one showing a pastry chef creating elaborate sugar proteas to adorn the gold plates for petit fours and another introducing the public to the large staff who looks after the horses and gold harnesses in the Royal Mews.

Okay, sure, there is a case to be made here that Brits are proud of all the pomp and ceremony and the gilded frippery of the royal family and that being invited behind the closed doors of the Palace will win over some hearts and minds.

But is this the moment to decide to pull back the curtain a bit on the unthinkable level of ostentation of big royal occasions such as this week’s or the unthinkable level of resources that go into such extraneous things as sugar flowers or gold-bedecked bridles? Is that a risk that Charles can or should be taking at such a precarious moment?

The king is entering a new reputational phase of his reign with the lingering, hangover of affection for Queen Elizabeth drying up and the novelty factor of Charles in charge waning.

It’s time for His Majesty to show the UK what he is made of and what sort of monarch he is going to be.

So, will he be a sovereign who looks the other way while his younger brother canters off to the Gulf States to pal around with human rights abusers? A king who is stumped as to how to handle his intractable son and daughter-in-law whose new lives and careers seem largely built on anti-palace agitprop? Whose longest serving aide may or may not be about to face charges? And whose communications team is busy showing the public the most absurd, bloated parts of royal life? (What, you don’t have handmade inedible decorations on your dinner table occasionally?)

The challenge for the 74-year-old is that the monarchy has to exist in a perfect state of tension and balance between the practical – the helping of communities in tangible ways – and the symbolic and iconographic. Charles has to be able to point to concrete ways he is helping improve society and people’s lives while also acting as the uniting figurehead of an ancient institution.

No one said ruling was ever easy.

Here’s what I would do if I was the King. I’d go and find that pastry chef who can make sugar proteas and immediately get her to start work on conjuring up a box of replica Quality Street and then I’d go and hide with all those choccies in the Royal Mews. His Majesty should enjoy all the Orange Cremes and Strawberry Delights while he can, what with is staff, family and former aide potentially all about to give him the Chocolate Toffee Finger.

Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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