Charles: The Green Prince
His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales is well known to be a strong advocate of sustainability and by dint of his constitutional role he is able to be a voice in support of this important cause. Whether it is through his contact with his ministers in Government or through his public comments, the Prince has made sure that sustainability remains on the agenda, whatever the political ephemera dominating that day’s headlines. While the latest political spat will be reduced to tomorrow’s fish- and-chip paper, the need to live sustainably will not go away. Not only does the Prince’s role give him a unique opportunity to campaign for us to live more sustainably, but his role also gives him a particular perspective. Unlike elected politicians who inevitably take a short-term perspective, usually limited to the term of a Parliament and the next general election, our Royals are there for the long term and not following a career, but a vocation. This gives them the opportunity to see things differently from the very centre of our constitutional system. The issue of sustainability seems especially relevant to the Royal Family. While politicians generally answer to specific constituencies, dominated by large towns and cities, the Royal Family’s legitimacy and roots lie deep in this nation’s countryside as well as its cities. All the Royals understand the countryside and agriculture in a way that many in the media or politics simply do not.
Furthermore, being a member of an ancient family and having inherited duties to a country is exactly the sort of upbringing that would make one mindful of what one has received on trust to pass on to the next generation. Such values can be seen being strongly reflected by the Prince’s passionate commitment to ensuring a sustainable approach to Nature – which has not been acquired by us but inherited by us as a gift. And a gift is never quite ours in the same way as something we have purchased. We feel more as though we are stewards rather than outright owners.
In much the same way, monarchy is about stewardship and a man waiting to inherit the Throne of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and other Commonwealth nations is inevitably deeply aware of the duties of stewardship. Different times and different personalities mean different interpretations of this duty of stewardship and Prince Charles concerns and passions are particularly contemporary and must resonate with so many of his subjects. Long before sustainability became a fashionable goal to strive for, the Prince of Wales was proving himself to be a leader and not a follower of trends with his setting up of Duchy Home Farm as an organic farm in 1986. Duchy products are now of course regarded as exemplar and are very popular. The underlying beliefs behind Duchy Home Farm are now the common consensus. The Prince was ahead of his times then, but now seems to speak for his times. It is a shame that the political party that claims to represent the Green agenda seems to have become dominated by bitter republicans at exactly the time when the next in line to the Throne is such an able champion of the cause they claim is their priority – the environment. It is not only very short-sighted politically, but raises a question about whether they are more concerned with the environment or pet Left-wing causes.
Yet the egos of politicians getting in the way of good work is nothing new. Politics is about careers in the Twenty-first Century and that is all the more reason that we need a Royal Family that cares about the long-term issues and while remaining politically neutral can give a voice to those important causes often overlooked by media and party politicians alike. The Prince is not only an advocate, but an example. His Royal Highness lives sustainably both in his garden at Highgrove – growing his vegetables and within the residences relying on renewable energy. When travelling the Prince minimises his carbon footprint by using bio-diesel for the Royal Train and bio-diesel for the Aston Martin. Flights are organised in the most energy-efficient way possible. Opponents of the Prince’s passionate beliefs have often tried to write him off as an eccentric and yet every time the critics are the ones who end up looking behind the times. Whether it is the ugliness of post-War architecture, compared with our great inheritance of traditional architecture, the importance of harmonious inter-cultural relations, the future of farming, the work of the Prince’s Trust or his passionate commitment to the environment, the Prince always ends up looking wiser and more in touch than his critics.