Prince Charles’ Black Spider Memos released: harmless or really fascinating?


Here are some photos of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall today in Liverpool. They were visiting the World Museum’s exhibition ‘The Mayas: revelation of an endless time’. I think Charles looks pretty sharp here, doesn’t he? While he’s not trendy or “hip,” he sort of has a timeless style.

Anyway, the big news for Charles was that the “Black Spider Memos” were released with much fanfare yesterday. Charles and various British government officials had been fighting the release of Charles’ correspondence to various government officials, but the British courts basically said that considering everyone involved was a public figure, the public has a right to know what Charles writes to government officials. They’re called the “Black Spider Memos” because A) the Brits love to give ridiculous names to mundane things and B) Charles’ handwriting resembles a black spider or something.

Some people behaved like they expected Charles’ memos to reveal some kind of terrible man giving terrible advice on the most pressing issues of the day. In truth, the memos revealed what we already sort of knew about Charles: he’s a pretty decent, rather harmless guy with varied interests and he’s happy to discuss those interests with whomever will listen. He’s rather funny in a cheeseball way (he makes a lot of jokes about being so old), he cares deeply about organic farming and the British food chain (not shocking), he pays close attention to the welfare and resources of soldiers fighting overseas (nice), he’s an advocate for herbal medicines and supplements, and more. He links bovine TB to badgers and he has harsh words for the Badger Lobby! Big Badger is going down!! He advocates for conservation many, many times. You can read some excerpts from the memos here and here.



Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet.

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25 Responses to “Prince Charles’ Black Spider Memos released: harmless or really fascinating?”

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  1. LAK says:

    Considering the big, long buildup and chest thumping from the guardian, I was expecting a smoking gun in the letters.

    These letters have merely shown him to be decent. Best PR for him.

    • The Original Mia says:

      I was reading on another site that this was embarrassing for the Guardian because it didn’t make Charles out to be a bad guy. Oh no! He cares about the troops and plants. These read more like letters to your congressman than the future monarch dictating anything.

      • OhDear says:

        I think they may have been expecting something more scandalous and outrage-inducing, though Sixer raises a good point.

    • Sixer says:

      But I do agree with the Guardian. Monarchs and heirs shouldn’t be privately lobbying government. It breaks our constitutional pact.

      That many people can agree with Charles’s various sentiments is really besides the point.

      What if they couldn’t? What if he was advocating something controversial? Increased expenditure on his family? Reintroduction of the death penalty? Wanting extra exceptions for the CofE on equalities legislation like gay marriage?

      As the person who will eventually be our constitutional head of state, any political lobbying he does – whether benign or controversial – has to be a matter of public record.

      • LAK says:

        Sixer, I don’t disagree with you.

        My main surprise about the content of the letters, which seems to be the reason most people aren’t as outraged as they should be, is the fact that the guardian sold it to us in a way that largely implied that there was something smoking gunnish in the letters.

        They also emphasised his ‘influence’ on the various govt depts which has been shown not to be true since he was largely ignored.

        Then there is the current political climate where the political class is seen to be out of touch who can’t or won’t listen to the public. These letters paint a picture of a man who does listen, even if only in his areas of interest, and that has made this a PR coup for him.

      • Sixer says:

        Absolutely. I think the Grauniad was right to pursue it. I think the government will be wrong if they do grant an ongoing FoI exception for the royals. But in the narrow instance of this particular set of letters, rather than the broader principle, Charles comes out well.

      • The Original Mia says:

        What LAK said is what I meant, Sixer. She just said it more eloquently.

      • LAK says:

        I thought the royals meaning HM and POW already have an ongoing FOI exception. Plus, the current extension to cover correspondence is already in effect, no? Wasn’t it part of the judgement that allowed these letters to be made public?

        The guardian is always on the case. They’ve publicised many instances of royals and govt figures abusing their positions in the past.

      • Sixer says:

        Andrew Neil on Daily Politics was talking about plans for a “belt and braces” strengthening of it, LAK, yesterday. But I was working and only half listening, so I could be wrong!

  2. Lucretias says:

    Looks like the memos show the possibility of a future hiking who cares for his environment and its military

  3. Sixer says:

    Copy pasting for bluhare what I just said on the other thread (sorry for ‘jacking, I do it all the time, I know).

    Um… boring? No real juice there, was there? Nothing above and beyond what he had said in speeches.

    Even so, there’s nothing wrong with him offering political opinions in public speeches, so long as those opinions aren’t *party* political. But there’s everything wrong with him lobbying government in private, even on issues he’s already spoken in public about. If he’s writing to government, it has to be public. So I’ll be sending cross emails to my MP about giving him future FoI exceptions.

    There are constitutional implications (even though most Britons won’t care one way or the other).

    BTW: the badger cull is a big ol’ divisive issue where I live. The only thing that unites the scrapping parties is the belief that the idiots in Westminster DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE COUNTRYSIDE. (Seriously, that could be the motto of my village, the amount of times I hear it).

    • Kiddo says:

      PLease explain the badger cull debate.

    • Sixer says:

      Badgers are suspected of spreading TB in cattle. In the UK, there’s mandatory TB testing of all cattle and any infected animals are destroyed. Farmers can’t get adequately/affordably insured for this. Hence the cull. Very intense arguments about whether the cull will work, how humane it is, how much it’s costing, etc. And the first go at it was a total debacle, whichever side of the debate you are on.

      Predictably, I suppose, I am anti-cull. Most of the farmers are pro, but a goodly minority aren’t.

      Charles is pro-cull because he is pro-farmer. The radical environmentalists will point out that Charles’s environmentalism isn’t necessarily the one that wants to save the planet – it’s the one that wants to preserve traditions for tradition’s sake: you know, the whole Tolkeinesque Shire thing. “Everything was so much better without nasty machines, back in the days of serfdom”. I think they’re probably not wrong but also that Charles means well.

      • Kiddo says:

        “Gentleman Farmers”? Those who have no callouses or dirt beneath the nails.

        I didn’t know about the TB situation at all. In fact, I’ve only ever heard of elephants having it, passing it on to other elephants or even humans.

        Also, honey badger don’t care.

      • Sixer says:

        Yes. Gentleman farmers! Read this about land ownership and management in Scotland (especially Balmoral’s policies) for a better outline than I could give:

        It’s long but the Wiki article is pretty even-handed on badger culling.

        It genuinely does make a lot of headlines here. And even more so where I live, where it’s actually all going on. Badgers regularly cross the lane right outside my house on their nightly runs. I would hate to see them go.

      • Brittney B says:

        The cattle industry is one of the very worst for the environment and public health. Instead of protecting farmers by killing animals who are infecting the animals they’re going to kill, I wish the British government would think about the actual animals (and the actual, direct human consequences of eating them and raising them for food).

        And before anyone says “but it’s their livelihood”… there are a WHOLE lot of livelihoods that got phased out because of how destructive they were. The world evolves. The world *should* be starting to evolve toward food sources that don’t require cattle, especially if we hope to survive another century on this planet. Instead the government and royal family both work to protect the status quo? AGH AGH AGH

      • Sixer says:

        To be fair, BrittneyB, UK cattle production is a great deal more sustainable than its US equivalent. And Charles is actively campaigning against allowing US-style agribusiness cattle production getting a foothold here.

        That said, I agree with your general point that we should be moving towards much more sustainable food sources.

  4. Tory says:

    Surely he would have some awareness in writing these memos that they could become public. Kudos to him for caring enough to want his voice to be heard, and for capitalizing on his extraordinarily privileged position to do so. It’s better than his heir, who, it seems, can’t be bothered to care.

  5. Jegede says:

    Prince Charles is an intelligent, thoughtful, extremely witty character.

    In the long run, I think these letters would do him good rather than harm.

  6. Murphy says:

    I think we all just expect that anything that was a secret but is now released-when it comes to Charles, is going to be bad. Everyone was kind of surprised and didn’t know how to react when the letters turned out to be non condemning.

  7. jen2 says:

    Well, in hind sight, Mr. Blair should have taken his advice about the Iraq war. His concerns for the military were on point. These only make him look better than the politicians that got Britain involved in that morass and I won’t even get into Mr. Bush.

  8. Sarah says:

    Much ado about nothing.

  9. Who is that hairball walking on Charles right with his shirt tail hanging out? No class

  10. Susan says:

    Reading these (or trying to stay focused on them, ha) has just further reiterated to me how mismatched he and Diana were. Not that either party is the good guy or the bad guy, just different.

  11. Caitlyn says:

    Both harmless AND interesting? I think they’re going to be a coup for him – it shows that he is intelligent and genuinely cares about issues that the general public is (starting to) care about.