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To say that the Prince of Wales’ relationship with his sons is complex is an understatement.
Both William and Harry have historically accused Charles of being a ‘laissez-faire’ father – one more preoccupied with weighty affairs of state and his considerable philanthropic legacy than bath time, wrestling matches and bedtime stories, writes Rebecca English.
It’s not entirely fair, of course. The reality when it comes to the Royal Family – as with any family – is always more complicated.
Like other royals, Charles was ‘deeply, deeply’ hurt at the manner of Harry and Meghan’s bitter exit from the family in 2020.
Still, as Harry and William’s relationship descended into acrimony, their father tried to remain a non-partisan figure – partly because Charles has always shied away from personal confrontation with his sons, but also because he genuinely wanted to retain a Swiss-like neutrality between them.
But, while disappointing, the statement from the prince’s Los Angeles-based spokesman effectively throwing his father ‘under a bus’ over the ‘cash for honors’ investigation did not come as much of a surprise.
The comment, which was belatedly issued yesterday after a newspaper highlighted Harry’s own links with Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, was at pains to try to emphasize the younger prince’s own foresight. It glossed over Harry’s private meeting with Mahfouz (pictured with the prince in 2013) in a close friend’s pub in Chelsea – and a subsequent encounter at Clarence House where he was said to have joked: ‘Has father beaten me to it and got the money?’
Much as there is the notion of collective responsibility at Cabinet level, so is it within the folds of the Royal Family: defend your position directly and to the point by all means, but not at the expense of your nearest and dearest.
Harry’s statement, however, was liberally sprinkled with digs at his father – the reference to ‘the CBE scandal’, for example.
Then there was the suggestion that the younger prince and his advisers saw sense at the earliest possible opportunity, when Charles’ former senior aide Michael Fawcett – and presumably the Prince of Wales himself – did not.
As for the claim that Harry ‘expressed his concerns’ about the donor… well, to whom? Certainly no one within his father’s household has any recollection about this at all.
Indeed, I understand that Charles wasn’t even aware until this weekend that his son had met Mahfouz in a west London pub, let alone encouraged his charity to accept any money from him.
If Harry was that concerned about the Saudi billionaire, surely he could have warned his father, possibly when he saw him at his London residence the same day.
It was also no secret, subsequently, that Mahfouz had become a major donor to Charles’ charitable endeavors – he had a wood named after him at Dumfries House, the Scottish seat of his charitable empire, after all.
Contrary to claims in the BBC’s recent controversial documentary on royals and the media that the three royal households are all too quick ‘brief’ against each other, Clarence House was again maintaining a dignified silence last night.
But one loyal friend of the Prince of Wales felt obliged to ask: ‘If Harry indeed had such deep concern about this man and his “motives”, then why on earth did he not tell his charity, Sentebale, to just hand the £50,000 ($66,185) he had given them back?’