Royal privilege and the freedom to speak one’s brains

In the case of Charles Windsor, crown prince of England and pretender to the title of “Prince of Wales”, royal privilege and freedom to speak his brains on all that takes his aristocratic fancy do not go together.

This is the stated view of anti-royal campaign group Republic, of which I am a declared supporter.

Following Mr Windsor’s comments on genetically-modified (GM) crops in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Republic issued the following statement:

“Prince Charles is quickly making his position as heir to the throne untenable with his meddling in politics. As a future monarch he must be silent on political issues. To take sides in any political debate would cause a constitutional crisis.”

“That’s the deal with the monarchy: he gets to wear the crown and live off the state, but he has to keep his opinions to himself. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.”

“Of course Charles should be free to speak his mind, but he can’t also expect to be an unaccountable, unelected head of state. It’s time to decide Charles: do you want to be a prince or politician.”

Quite. If Mr Windsor-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha wishes to make an arse of himself in public, just like the rest of us, then he should renounce his royal position. On the other hand, if the prince wants to continue living in luxury off the state, then he must keep his opinions – whether they be foolish or wise – to himself.

As for Mr Windsor’s views on GM, what “gigantic experiment” is he talking about? I’m certainly not aware of any, and as a science journalist I do try to follow developments in agricultural technology. All I see is small-scale field trials: too small, possibly, to provide meaningful answers to the many questions being asked of the technology and its potential ecological impact. GM is a hugely important subject that affects us all.

It is very easy to go on about multinationals this and multinationals that. And in doing so you are likely to hit on at least some small some truth about the unacceptable side of capitalism. But for Charles Windsor to focus his discussion about a food technology into an attack on multinationals displays ignorance and lack of credibility.

GM is no golden bullet that will feed the world, neither is organic farming, and the two are not mutually exclusive. And control over the research, development and marketing of GM need not be the preserve of multinational agro-corporations. The current economic and intellectual property realities could be overridden by political decisions, if the will were there.

As long as the House of Windsor continues to occupy its privileged position at the head of British society, I do so wish it would cease making us a laughing stock on the international stage. It’s highly embarrassing.

For now, at least, long live the Queen!