SARAH VINE: Meddling Charles has earned the crown

SARAH VINE: Meddling Prince Charles has earned the right to be crowned King of England

 Life for today’s younger generation can be very tough. Finding a job and a home is not easy, with the result that many are still living in the shadow of their parents well into their 20s and 30s.

They remain perennial children for ever in thrall to the older generation. It can’t be easy.

And then there’s Prince Charles, who turns 70 today.

Prince Charles turns 70 today. ‘The often overlooked triumph of the Prince of Wales is how much he has managed to achieve despite the constraints placed upon him.’

At an age when most people are looking forward to retirement, he is still living next door to his parents, still waiting to take on the biggest challenge of his life following one of the greatest acts in royal history.

Even if he shares his mother’s good health, he will never beat her record as the longest-serving monarch. Nor, I suspect, will he ever occupy the same place in the nation’s heart, certainly not while the ghost of Diana still hovers over him. But that is no reason to dismiss Charles, as so many have done over the years.

Indeed, the often overlooked triumph of the Prince of Wales is how much he has managed to achieve despite the constraints placed upon him. How, despite being seemingly locked in permanent royal limbo, he has somehow forged ahead, in his own idiosyncratic way and at his own pace, shaping his legacy before the crown has touched his head.

In fact, one might argue that had the Queen (God forbid) made way sooner, much of what he has achieved might never have happened.

He said as much himself, in a recent BBC documentary marking today’s milestone: when he is King he will stop speaking out on topics he feels strongly about, as he is ‘not that stupid’.

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Instead, he will operate within ‘constitutional parameters’, avoiding politics and taking a more neutral stance on controversial issues.

It’s clear why he says this: he respects the position of monarch and does not want to undermine it. But in many ways it’s a bit of a shame.

For while Charles ‘unleashed’ hasn’t always met with universal approval among the public and his critics, much of what was considered eccentric and ‘meddling’ about his past behaviour has, with hindsight, turned out to be rather inspired. Or certainly ahead of its time.

As he puts it himself: ‘If it’s meddling to worry about the inner cities as I did 40 years ago, then if that’s meddling I’m proud of it.’

As well he should be. Perhaps if politicians had taken him more seriously all that time ago we wouldn’t be facing this devastating epidemic of violence on our streets.

His outspoken attacks on the ugliness of modern architecture and shoddiness of modern housebuilding; his warnings about climate change, wildlife extinction and rainforest depletion; his concern for the future of farming and the rural environment; his commitment to organic food and humane husbandry; his interest in studying Islam in pursuit of cultural harmony; his commitment to improving education standards, training and employment opportunities through the Prince’s Trust.

Prince of Wales poses for an official portrait to mark his 60th birthday

All of these are issues on which he has spoken out over the decades in the face of fierce opposition and ridicule. And yet, with that dogged determination that has been such an admirable feature of his mother’s character, he has ploughed on, undeterred — if not unscathed — by the naysayers.

True, Charles has come across sometimes as hand-wringing and occasionally petulant. Yet it is undeniable that he has used his immense privilege to highlight important, if not always fashionable, issues — and to try to help re-shape the cultural landscape for the better.

Of course, there will always be those who will never forgive him for what happened with Diana. Their marriage was a disaster and her death a tragedy. But just as a wife should not be defined by her husband, so Charles should not be defined by that unhappy union.

Diana was always cast as the romantic in their relationship, he the cold-hearted pragmatist.

But the fact that he eventually married his true love — Camilla — in the face of sustained hostility has always struck me as one of the great romantic gestures of our time, the mark of a man clearly capable of great passion and even courage. As for his children — William and Harry — what greater expression of Charles’s talents as a father could there be than these two young men who have overcome their mother’s death to build useful, fulfilling lives for themselves.

In pictures released today, we see the three of them, surrounded by the women they love, looking closer than ever.

So, yes, Charles has made mistakes. But who, as they turn 70, has not? A lesser prince might have spent his life in idle luxury, waiting for his birthright, grumbling about his lot. But not Charles. Even if he were never to wear the crown, he has proven himself worthy of it.

So here’s to you, Prince Charles. As Churchill said: KBO. Keep bxxxering on, and many happy returns.

 Holly’s mild, not wild

‘Fragrant as she is, I’m not sure that replacing naughty Ant McPartlin with Holly Willoughby (left) as the I’m A Celebrity co-presenter is quite the right choice’

Fragrant as she is, I’m not sure that replacing naughty Ant McPartlin with Holly Willoughby (left) as the I’m A Celebrity co-presenter is quite the right choice.

Granted, she probably looks much better than Ant in a bikini (or, for that matter, a Marks & Spencer jumper), and she’s a very professional presenter. But in terms of personality isn’t she perhaps a bit . . . well, safe?

The point about Ant and Dec was that — in the tradition of all great TV duos — Ant was the cheeky chappie to Dec’s straight man.

I imagine Willoughby’s idea of cheeky is asking for an extra shot of decaf in her soya latte.

For many women, including myself, ‘wife’ can feel like a loaded word.’ So says Michelle Obama in her new book, Becoming.

There are many women who will know exactly what the former First Lady means, but none more so perhaps than Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

On a tour of France in the company of that country’s President, Emmanuel Macron, Merkel was mistaken by a very determined 101-year-old lady for Madame Macron. No amount of protestations could persuade the centenarian otherwise.

A reminder, perhaps, that no matter how far she gets in her career — and Merkel has certainly achieved plenty in hers — a woman too often risks being overshadowed by the man next to her.

Even if he happens to be an undersized popinjay with a Napoleon complex.

 Respect? Not from Toxic Toksvig…

The Great British Bake Off presenter Sandi Toksvig (right) has lent her name to a letter signed by fellow humanists demanding that they get a shot at the Today Programme’s Thought For The Day.

‘The Great British Bake Off presenter Sandi Toksvig (right) has lent her name to a letter signed by fellow humanists demanding that they get a shot at the Today Programme’s Thought For The Day’

Apparently, humanists ‘make sense of the world through logic, reason and evidence, and always seek to treat others with warmth, understanding and respect.’

Is this the same Sandi Toksvig who once described my husband, Michael Gove, as having a face that ‘makes even the most pacifist of people reach for the shovel’? Call me old-fashioned, but that seems a very odd definition of ‘warmth, understanding and respect’.

 ALL 20 clubs in the Premier League have been asked for a £250,000 contribution to buy outgoing executive chairman Richard Scudamore a £5 million farewell gift. Certainly puts the average office whip-round into perspective!

 A real Xmas message

Iceland’s Christmas advert featuring Rang-tan, a baby orang-utan whose habitat has been destroyed by palm oil cultivation, has been deemed too ‘political’ to be broadcast on television.

You can, of course, see the advert on YouTube, where it is already closing rapidly on four million views.

I’ll be honest: it’s a little bit syrupy for my taste, and a touch self-satisfied. But as far as I know, this is the one time that an organisation has decided to use its marketing budget not to flog more pointless stuff but to convey a genuinely Christian message of love and respect for our fellow creatures.

The supermarket chain’s festive commercial features the friendship between a young girl and a baby orangutan

How the advertising regulator Clearcast can justify banning that and not, say, the incessant adverts urging people to gamble online, or pushing junk food to children, is a mystery.

It’s not Rang-tan who’s the problem here — but the daft apes at Clearcast.

 A couple from Banbury, Oxfordshire, have been convicted of belonging to a banned far-Right group. The giveaway, apparently, was naming their son after Adolf Hitler. Personally, I find this encouraging — it displays a reassuring level of stupidity.

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