Prince Charles has been caught up in yet another cash-for-access scheme

Charles visits Lloyd's of London

In early August, there was a curious story in the British press with barely any follow-up reporting. The story was this: the Duchess of Cornwall’s nephew Ben Elliott was acting as a middle-man to provide introductions to his aunt Camilla and the Prince of Wales. Elliott was selling access to them and also using those introductions to raise money for Tory politicians and various royal foundations. It was a complicated scheme but not a new scheme – there are all kinds of shadowy figures around royalty and politicos, selling access and providing introductions and “fundraising.” Well, it looks like Charles has been caught up in yet another pay-to-play scheme.

A major ethics investigation was last night launched into an extraordinary ‘cash for access’ scheme involving Prince Charles, which has been uncovered by The Mail on Sunday. A bombshell email reveals in excruciating detail how wealthy donors could pay £100,000 to secure a lavish dinner with the Prince of Wales and an overnight stay at Dumfries House, his country mansion in Scotland. The payments were intended for Charles’s charity ventures, but the email details how fixers would pocket up to 25 per cent of the fees.

A spokesman for the Prince last night said he was unaware of the cut being taken by middlemen and his foundation has now severed links with two men involved in the scheme.

The furore will be highly embarrassing for Charles, whose reputation risks being damaged by accusations that an association with him can be bought. Critics have accused the Royals of naively believing that donors are motivated by philanthropy when, in fact, they are often seeking other benefits.

The email includes 14 bullet points setting out precisely what a donor can expect in exchange for paying £100,000 for two people to visit Dumfries House, the mansion that Charles secured for the nation in 2007 with a £20 million loan from his charity foundation. After being driven to the Palladian house in a Royal car, they ‘can have a tour of house or gardens’. Clients, as the email describes them, assemble for drinks at 7pm and then meet Charles. ‘HRH appears and greets each guest individually with conversation and photographer,’ it adds. A black-tie dinner and entertainment such as a piano recital follow before the guests retire for the night.

The email was sent by society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker on November 15, 2019, and sets out that 5 per cent of the fee will go to him. It claims the funds are paid to the account of Burke’s Peerage, the guide to the gentry, whose editor William Bortrick is named as being closely involved in the scheme. A further 20 per cent goes to another middleman.

Last night, a spokesman for the Prince’s Foundation, which has overseen the massive project to regenerate Dumfries House, said its ethics committee to investigate and that he would no longer work with Mr Wynne-Parker or Mr Bortrick. ‘The Prince’s Foundation takes very seriously the allegations brought to its attention by The Mail on Sunday relating to third parties who have introduced prospective donors to our charity in the past. We were not aware of any financial gain being sought by these individuals, whom we have never paid, and have ceased our relationship with these individuals and referred the matter to our ethics committee for investigation. Michael Wynne-Parker does not represent The Prince’s Foundation and the email he sent is not representative of the Foundation’s approach to fundraising’.

Wynne-Parker last night said that donors to the Prince’s Foundation tended to give ‘between £100,000 and £1 million’ and insisted it was ‘normal practice’ for intermediaries to be paid a commission for facilitating charitable donations. Asked why the funds were paid into the Burke’s Peerage account, he said: ‘I was advised this [was] to be the vehicle. I believe this often happens.’

[From The Daily Mail]

This is so much like the Ben Elliott situation in that I was sure that this kind of thing was common knowledge anyway? Like, of course a prince can be “bought” or rented. Of course you can buy access to Charles and Dumfries House if you give enough money. Of course the middleman is going to take a cut, he’s the one facilitating everything and keeping Charles “clean” from asking for the money himself. I mean, I also understand why they’re basically opening up an ethics investigation into themselves too – because it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing that some shady oligarch or crass nouveau riche peasant would be able to get this kind of access to the future king for £95,000 after the middleman’s cut. I mean…?? Have some self-respect! No one should get the Dumfries House red carpet rolled out for less than a million.

Royal visit to Wales for Wales Week

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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67 Responses to “Prince Charles has been caught up in yet another cash-for-access scheme”

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  1. Erica says:

    I don’t really see why this is a big deal, if the money goes to charity. The real issue I think is that he got a 20 million dollar loan from his charity. That seems unethical.

    • Amy Bee says:

      @Erica: No one’s supposed to be paying for access to Charles. That’s unethical.

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      DOES that “cut” go to the charity, or is some skimmed off into an off-shore account (Panama Papers, anyone?). We all know they ALL have off shore tax havens (which is why their personal accounts are NEVER open to scrutiny).

    • ABritGuest says:

      Not the no Fail exposing this after he did an exclusive opinion piece for them last week. Tsk tsk. I always knew Fergie wasn’t only royal doing cash for access. They just decided to publish in her case.

      I think this kind of scheme is wrong where there’s case of access to Charles or another royal helping a political party as was suggested with Camilla’s nephew arranging access to Charles to Tory donors. Also we know royals do lobby for laws so hopefully their Dumfries guests aren’t asking for certain ‘favours’.

      • Whirly says:

        I do agree that it is so utterly wrong. Imagine you could get access to the French President or the American President or the Canadian by paying to a charity which is governed by “middlemen” and such.
        And of course Charles gets his cut. Why else would he agree to such a scheme? And of course Charles advisors knew this. That is what they get paid to do. And of course Charles knew everything. A king who can’t “rule” his advisors isn’t fit to be king. And Charles has a lot of experience in such matters.
        As for Fergie and her cash for access scandal: someone did set her up in order to kick her out of the Royal Family. Since that scandal Fergie wasn’t allowed into any big official event with the Royals any more.

      • EPPY says:

        @Whirly – I don’t disagree that this doesn’t seem ethical to my eye, but your examples made me think… isn’t that exactly what political fundraisers do? I mean can’t you pay the Democratic/Republican party to wine and dine with the future president during the campaign fundraising stages? And that does kind of seem parallel to paying the charity to wine and dine with the future king?

    • Chaine says:

      Right, and if I understood correctly, the purpose of the charity is the upkeep of his various houses? So it’s not like he doesn’t benefit from these donations. They are all going to his homeowner slush fund, like those little bits we would set aside to buy a new dishwasher, except his is going to make his 2000 acre Scottish estate look properly historic.

      • Amy Bee says:

        @Chaine: Exactly. Dumfries House was bought under the guise of conservation and charity but it was really so that Charles could have another place in Scotland

      • BayTampaBay says:

        Charles does not own Dumfries House personally. Charles is the “head” of the trust charity that owns Dumfries House.

        The trust was set up with the name “The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust”, a reference to the title Great Steward of Scotland held by Charles in his role as Scottish heir apparent.

      • Mac says:

        The Prince’s Trust is a huge charity that does all kinds of work. Restoring Dumfries House is just one small piece of it.

      • Chaine says:

        @BayTampaBay but isn’t the whole “my charity owns it not me” one of the ways the royals get around the public understanding that they actually do have possession and use of all of these properties? Just Google Prince Charles and Dumfries House and basically all of them call it “one of his Scottish residences”; he is obviously using it as a party venue for meeting his donors; and there are articles where Ant and Dec describe staying the night there and that their bedrooms were on the same hall as Charles and they had to be quiet so as not to wake him.

      • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

        Charles TOTALLY benefits from this. He calls it HIS home. If it’s “under the Charity”, why does NO ONE ELSE from the charity get to *live* there? Or vacation there? W/out having to pay to rent it out?

        It’s another of HIS residences, w/the charity footing the bills.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        @Chaine – I am not stating nor did I mean to imply that Charles does not benefit from the use Dumfries House.

        What I am trying to say is that Charles does not own Dumfries House nor is Dumfries for the exclusive use of the Prince of Wales as Highgrove is.

        I believe, and I may be wrong, that Charles uses Dumfries House to hold weekend ‘house parties” to raise money for the charity that owns Dumfries House. I could care less about meeting Charles, or staying under the same roof as Charles for that matter, but I am willing to bet that few UK or EU people would be willing to donate funds to “The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust” if they were not invited to “dine & sleep” with Charles. I am not saying that all of this does not sound shady but many private “trust” for historic houses work this way.

      • Maria says:

        The whole defense of “The Queen/Charles/etc do not personally own this that or the other property” is completely moot and a royalist one at that. In reality it makes no difference because for all intents and purposes it is theirs and if they don’t retain ownership it’s merely to avoid any liabilities in future whether financial or otherwise. They have the best of both worlds and the situation is orchestrated for that. Dumfries House represents a significant loan that the Prince’s Trust and the donors thereof are responsible for whether the returns from Dumfries House can cover it or not.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        What does one think should have happened to Dumfries House if Charles did not step in?

        What does one think should now happen to Dumfries House?

        I am just curious as to what everyone thinks should happen.

      • Maria says:

        Forgive me if I’m mistaken but I’m not convinced the only two options were either Dumfries House falling into disrepair and being sold, or Charles taking over its restoration for his own personal vanity projects and use, the expenses of which his donors had to cover regardless if the profits were enough. Was there some barrier to him raising funds for it and donating it to a worthy organization such as The National Trust after completing the very costly necessary renovations (which I am sure were the reason the National Trust declined it when offered and which Charles could have spearheaded more fundraising)? At least that way there wouldn’t be shady Russian money laundering schemes surrounding it like the one that surfaced in 2019.
        Charles is very good at using his endeavors to cover all sorts of questionable business and financial transactions, and the British Media does the rest.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        @No one in particular – Were there other schemes on the table for Dumfries House other than Charles steeping in to “save & restore” and Johnny, The Marquess of Bute stripping the estate and selling it off piece-meal? I am really curious as to what other options where on the table.

        FYI: I am not saying what Charles did was correct nor am I taking up for Charles in any way. I am just curious as to what else could have been done to preserve this historic estate.

      • Maria says:

        Again, Charles could have spearheaded something that didn’t involve it ending up a front for his activities and his own use.

      • Va Va Kaboom says:

        @Marie I’d forgotten about the shady Russian money. I wonder if a similar scheme is how William met his (alleged) Russian lawyer girlfriend.

    • GraceB says:

      Totally. There are lots of examples of celebs selling meetings with them for charity or the wealthy hiring them for private events, so why shouldn’t Charles use the same method to gain funding for his charities? At least he’s doing some work and who cares if these rich folk have other agendas, so long as Charles doesn’t fall for them?

      We put Royalty on too much of a pedestal.

      The loan from his charity was the part that bothered me the most too and I hope it was paid back with interest.

    • Lori says:

      Isnt the bigger deal that the paid access to Charles is used to gain residency into the UK? If these donors are using their association with Charles’ supposed good works to worm their way into the UK, isnt he selling citizenship.

    • lunchcoma says:

      I think the real issue is what Charles is giving in exchange for these donations. I don’t think anyone’s such a fan of his that they’re paying that much money just to be graced with his presence.

    • myjobistoprincess says:

      Oh, they know very well the scheme, but just dont say anything because they get the money for the charity in the end. Without that cut to the fixer – there would be no donations & nobody works for free, and even less if you are the fixer to donators who have the ability to give 100K to a million more. Those people need to get paid to do the begging job.

      It’s either a fixor or the royals themselves would need to actually work full time to get the donations for their foundation, and they would not get as much unless there is some type of privilege or benefit. You guessed right, they will not chose to actually work, lol, please.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        “Those people need to get paid to do the begging job.”

        “they would not get as much unless there is some type of privilege or benefit.”

        The above statements just about sums it all up. Many charities and fundraisers work on this model be it a flat fee or a percentage. Whether it is right and correct is another question.

  2. lanne says:

    But the Sussexes…

    so another rent-a-Prince. We knew the rent-a-Kents and Airmiles Andy weren’t the only grifters. I’ll bet that the Cambridges have some sort of pay for play for their Royal Foundation as well.

    Abolish the royal family!!!

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      Have those financial “irregularities” found in their Foundation ever been sorted out? We know that is a good part of the reason why H&M wanted to sever ties (they weren’t getting access to monies they raised for their causes).

      Charities CLOSED for lack of funding from W&K. *Where* did all the money go? And if it *is* there, why weren’t their charities helped?

      Inquiring minds wanna know!

    • Debbie says:

      Right, lanne, it’s a Rent-a-prince scheme. I can’t believe the BM didn’t use the word “scheme” during that article. I also can’t believe they used the word “naive” to describe a 70 year old man.

  3. Hell Nah! says:

    Color me unsurprised (and by that I mean noblessly obliged) – they ALL engage in pay-for-play. Just because they already have gobs of stolen wealth doesn’t mean a thing to this cadre of thieves.

    As Kaiser noted, the only reason to call in the ethics investigators is because they’re hella embarrassed and want their hands to look clean. Damn – There’s been a murder in the hen house. Call in the fox, STAT!

    As for – “Critics have accused the Royals of naively believing that donors are motivated by philanthropy when, in fact, they are often seeking other benefits.” – give me a break! Even the so-called “critics” are going easy on them by calling them innocently naive. Naive my Ass!

    #AbolishTheMonarchy and done.

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      Pedo ACTIVELY SOUGHT Pay-for-Play schemes…right out in the open!! Asked for a “cut” in the Dragon’s Den stuff that he had shoot IN BP!!

      Who else, besides the Rent-a-Kents and The Rottweiler’s Relatives are outed as selling access? Now Charles. Sofiesta did. Freeloader did. Peter Philips was selling to the Chinese.

      Who else do we know of?

  4. Margaret says:

    Really, but who gets the 20 %?. They can donate to the charities without secrecy, don’t you think?. Why are there always excuses made for bad brf behavior?. Would you have said the same if it were the Sussexes, I think not.

    • Erica says:

      I’m sorry, I thought the 20% was to another middleman.
      Also, I’m definitely team sussex, they have actual jobs. My point is just that this seems pretty mild. It does of course show how ridiculous the monarchy is and how it has no actual purpose.

    • MrsRobinson says:

      It’s not uncommon to farm out fundraising, so that those who secure the funds get a percentage (eat what you kill) but 25 percent is outrageous.

      • salmonpuff says:

        I am a nonprofit consultant (comms), and I would never take a percentage of what I raised for a client. I work on a flat fee or a retainer. I’m on my own, but when I worked for a fundraising agency, it also worked on a flat fee and retainer basis. It may be a standard practice with some firms, though, particularly in political fundraising, which I’ve never done.

      • North of Boston says:

        In the US, there are these “police benevolent” organizations who fundraise to supposedly benefit retired or injured police officers. They do telephone fundraising and are sometimes kind of bullying.* There was an expose on them that found the fundraising companies take some ridiculous cut of what they collect.

        I don’t know why they are allowed to operate.

        * older relatives of mine used to donate because the group would send you a sticker to put on your car / business … it was implied that displaying that sticker would protect you from police interest/hassle (which implies about 20 different kinds of serious issues with policing even if it was also a blatant manipulative lie). I remember one fundraiser who called me pressuring me “don’t you think you should put money towards have police officers to respond if someone breaks into your house?” I said sure! That’s what my taxes are for and hung up.

        But yeah, that pay to play stuff for a supposedly politically neutral publicly funded royal family is all kinds of shady.

    • Mac says:

      I have no idea what the ethics rules are in the UK, but I’m a fundraiser in the US and we are required to charge flat fees, not commissions.

      • salmonpuff says:

        I thought it was unethical! But I’m on the comms side, so I’m not as up to date on the specific rules. And I’m in the U.S., too.

    • Chaine says:

      truly. i have never once had to pay someone else in order to donate to a charity, other than sometimes if it’s using a third-party app they ask if you will add a “tip” to cover the processing fee.

  5. Crowned Huntress says:

    Seems like they’re making money on the royal name which has always been the case.

    I guess them constantly accusing the Sussexes of only making it in the States because of their use of their HRH is that they’re jealous that they’re pulling in much more than £95k per…”tour”

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      As if they ALL don’t trade of it, HRH or not: anyone think Bea would get ANY job (esp at VP level entry, and they are jobs she NEVER seems to be working at) if not for her “connections”? Ok, Eugenie at least went into her field in more of an entry position, but would she have gotten into such a prestigious house if not for her title? Or Zara, Mike, Peter…all the endorsements they get? The list goes on.

      (And please don’t say how Zara is an “Olympian”…would she be one w/out TQ/her mother’s stable of race horses? Would Mike, as a retired footballer be in demand for his pearls of wisdom if not for his being a marry-in? Peter? Shilling milk to the Chinese saying he “drank it” on TQ’s farm?).

      • equality says:

        Zara’s teammates, who also won a silver, don’t have the big dollar Land Rover deals, etc. either so, no, it’s not because she is a medalist.

  6. iconoclast59 says:

    The article says Charles bought Dumfries house by taking a £20 million loan from his charity foundation in 2007 (14 years ago). My question: Has the money been paid back (in part or in full); and, if not, when does Charles plan to do so?

  7. Amy Bee says:

    Charles is as shady as Andrew. He also gets sent to the Middle East to ensure the British Government gets arms deals. Dumfries House is all part of his shady dealings. There was not a peep out of the press when Charles visited Goldman Sachs earlier this summer to inaugurate their new multimillion office. It was touted by the Royal rota as Charles thanking them remaining in London after Brexit. This new exclusive is reported like Charles had no knowledge of this money for access scheme or was not benefiting from it anyway. No questions are being raised about the Prince Charles Foundation investigating itself. No wonder Charles went on record endorsing the Daily Mail as a paper he trusts last week.

    I’ll add that the Princes Trust is a fraud as well because it’s not about giving people upward mobility but ensuring people know their place and don’t get above their station. You can see why the Palace had always had problems with Harry’s and later Meghan’s projects because they were about social mobility and truly helping people.

    • Jan says:

      Did you see the story about Charles saying people want to above their station, because workers were asking for higher paying jobs because of their qualifications, can’t remember where I saw the story, but the part about above their station proves Charles is just as racist as his dad/family.

      • Amy Bee says:

        @Jan: I did. It was that article that made me realize that the Princes Trust was not about helping people. Its ensuring that there enough people to serve or entertain him and his aristo friends.

    • ABritGuest says:

      I didn’t know about this. Looking it up. Remember when it was claimed Harry did a speech for Goldman Sachs last year? Not sure reports were even verified but then GS was the worst thing ever. Funny how that works.

      My issue with pay for play is if the donors are getting something more than just a comfy stay/ time with the future king in exchange. We know businessmen donated to the Tory party after the Tory party chairman & Camilla’s nephew hooked them up with time with Charles.

  8. Concern Fae says:

    This is how charities work. Not all of them, but smaller ones, especially those that are essentially circular ego fluffers for the donors and person fronting the organization. Best case, there are underpaid minions making sure some good is done. But there are also people of good breeding who couldn’t cut it in the corporate world using it to maintain their standard of living.

    Convinced a big part of the reason the wealthy wants private funding for everything is they get a cut of it, along with a job for their useless nephews.

  9. Sofia says:

    Surprised this got published. It says the DM went to Charles’ charity about what they found and then the charity launched an ethics investigation but I would imagine his team would go “Can you not publish this?” and the DM did it anyways. Maybe Charles’ team didn’t ask or maybe the DM went “no we need gossip so you guys are out of luck” and went ahead.

    • Amy Bee says:

      @Sofia: However it’s being reported in way that absolves Charles of any wrongdoing so, CH got what they wanted in the report. Just imagine the tone of the report if Harry and Meghan involved in this scheme.

      • Sofia says:

        Yeah the DM would be singing a very different tune if it was about the Sussexes, I’m just surprised it got published even with a positive/sympathetic slant towards Charles. If we didn’t hear of it, Charles’ charity could do an investigation quietly and not publish the findings and we wouldn’t be any wiser to what happened.

      • Amy Bee says:

        @Sofia: The Daily Mail still has to pretend that there’s no invisible contract between them and the Royal Family. So every now and then they put out stories that seem like they’re reporting without fear or favour. I have no doubt that CH and the Daily Mail worked on this story together.

  10. Paperclip says:

    Guess we know why PC did the article for them now. Probably had much worse info they did not share in exchange for the editorial and the “… a newspaper the Prince trusts …” quote. Icky all around.

    • Islandgirl says:

      Agreed Paperclip…this article was very sympathetic to Charles. it could have been written quite differently.
      If it were about Harry and Meghan I could just imagine…
      Charles writing in the Daily Mail was quite strange but it all makes sense now.

  11. Galisteo says:

    This so reminds me of the Fergie selling access to Prince Andrew, and “opening doors” in 2010. She asked the undercover reporter for $500,000!

  12. lunchcoma says:

    I’m pretty sure they all do this, including Will and Kate. It’s gross, and I’m guessing they wish they still had Harry and Meghan around part-time to use as a distraction.

    Though I have no idea what Charles could do that would be worth £100,000 or 100,000 anything.

  13. Margaret says:

    I smell wllie leaking.

  14. Julia K says:

    Making money while using your royal name? I thought only Harry was guilty.

  15. teresa says:

    In his poshest accent he exclaimed, “I will no longer be associated with these greedy merchants”! Sure thing, Chuck, now that you’ve all been caught, wash your hands of those lowly money men.

  16. Cessily says:

    So everyone besides the Duke and Duchess are allowed to profit from the Monarchy and Royal association no matter how shady it is.. tell us again just how (not) racist the Royal family,firm and British tabloid Media are.

  17. Noor says:

    Fundraising methods that include selling access to royals at private functions and sporting events is a fact of life for the royals or any other celebrities like the Obamas.

    So the real question is why Prince Charles and his staff did not exercise due diligence and are not aware that 25% of the funds raised goes to the middlemen?

  18. nina says:

    Why does he look so awkward in his clothes. He reminds me of a male version of his grandmother. Wide hips, narrow shoulders, fat chubby fingers. He has the best tailors at his disposal and even their skills cannot hide his awkward looking body
    How does Camilla look at that day in and day out. I guess clear proof of when you marry for money…

    • Tessa says:

      Camilla kept her Raymill residence, reportedly she retreats there and is not with Charles 24/7 necessarily.