Support 100 years of independent journalism.

10 July 2010

How Charles wrote himself out of the papal visit’s script

Did prince sulkily refuse to meet Benedict because he wasn’t put on a par with mother? And if so, wh

By James Macintyre

Prince Charles has caused anger in London and Rome after declining an invitation from the Pope to attend an interfaith event, allegedly after being denied a one-to-one audience on a par with the Queen’s, sources reveal.

Previously, the Guardian has touched on news that the Pope will not meet Charles, and the Mail on Sunday‘s take will be that it is a “snub” on behalf of the Pope. What is clear is that — as things stand — the Prince of Wales will now play no part in the papal visit in September. The question, though, is why.

It is because — to the dismay of some close to plans and arrangements for the visit — he actually turned down an invitation from the Vatican to attend an interfaith event at St Mary’s University teacher training college in Twickenham on 17 September, despite the prince’s proclaimed interest in interfaith issues.

The refusal to attend came after Clarence House had apparently sought a private meeting with the Pope of the sort his mother, the Queen, will enjoy when she and the pontiff lunch together at Holyrood House in Edinburgh at the start of his trip. Sources say that there was no room for Benedict XVI to hold another one-to-one meeting with a member of the royal family, and that Clarence House has formally declined the Pope’s invitation to the interfaith event.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

When I called Clarence House, a spokeswoman said that the prince’s agenda is made public only two weeks in advance. Intriguingly, Charles’s office referred the matter to Buckingham Palace.

The extraordinary behaviour by the heir to the throne will cause speculation that he is more concerned about being seen on the same level as the Queen than with meeting the Pope. Relations between Clarence House and Buckingham Palace are notoriously poor.

If it is true, as one source put it, that Charles “threw his toys out the pram” over the papal visit, then this should be seen in the context of the bizarre self-obsession that appears to govern Clarence House. Charles has proved time and again that he has a pitiful notion of his role, with his willingness to swing in and out of politics like a hammer in a teashop.

Many observers will conclude that if he wants to be king, it is high time he put his duties before himself.