DCSIMG

Charles and the 'appalling old waxworks of China...'

THE controversial political views and puckish humour of Prince Charles contained in a journal were made public yesterday at the High Court in London.

The Prince of Wales said Tony Blair relied too much on focus groups. He also complained about being bumped out of First Class by a posse of politicians and described Chinese leaders as "appalling old waxworks".

The 3,000-word document detailing the prince's thoughts on the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, which he subtitled "The Great Chinese Takeaway", is one of eight journals in the possession of the Mail on Sunday and at the centre of a privacy battle between Associated Newspapers and the prince.

Yesterday one of the journals, extracts of which had already appeared in the press, was released by the prince's lawyers after applications by the media. The views expressed in it appear to support the suggestion, made by Mark Bolland, Charles' former deputy private secretary, that the prince viewed himself as a political "dissident".

Prince Charles writes about his sense of "overwhelming sadness" at losing the colony of Hong Kong and notes that the Royal Yacht Britannia was followed by communist spyplanes as it departed. "No wonder countries in the region are beginning to become somewhat edgy about the Chinese," he said.

The journal begins with Charles relating his puzzlement at being seated in Cabin Class on the flight out, instead of First Class, with which he was more familiar. He wrote: "It took me some time to realise that this was not First Class (!) although it puzzled me as to why the seat seemed so uncomfortable." He discovered other dignitaries, including Edward Heath, Douglas Hurd, "the new Foreign Secretary Robin Cook", Lord Wilson and the then leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, were "ensconced in First Class immediately below us".

He recorded: "Such is the end of Empire, I sighed to myself."

The journal goes on to describe how he landed in Hong Kong and was "delivered" to the Royal Yacht Britannia which was tied up alongside the old naval base and near the Prince of Wales building: "I must have named it in the 1980s". Following in brackets he wrote: "Goodness only knows what the Chinese would have renamed it by now".

He then said it was wonderful to be aboard Britannia but this was "tinged with an overwhelming sadness" as this was to be the last time on an overseas visit before the yacht was "ex-commissioned". He said there was "a kind of exasperated sadness experienced by all and sundry" about the decision and quoted Madeleine Albright, the US Defence Secretary, as saying: "Why is this happening?"

On Tony Blair and his wife, the Prince of Wales wrote: "The PM and Mrs Blair came on board for an hour and seemed suitably impressed after the whistlestop tour around the ship. If only he could have seen the yacht with the receptions and dinners under way and heard people's reactions. But they are all in such a hurry, so never really learn about anything."

He went on to say that the Prime Minister spent just 14 hours in Hong Kong. "They then take decisions based on market research and focus groups, on the papers produced by political advisers and civil servants, none of whom will have ever experienced what it is they are taking decisions about."

He did, however, enjoy his conversations with the new Prime Minister: "He is a most enjoyable person to talk to - perhaps partly due to his being younger than me."

On the future of the former British colony, Prince Charles said that everyone was being: "thoroughly optimistic". However, he went on: "In the background was the sneaking worry about creeping corruption and the gradual undermining of Hong Kong's greatest asset - the rule of law."

He said the Chinese Army was another concern because they were paid so badly that there may be "irresistible temptations to intimidate or threaten local people when the soldiers discover that a glass of beer costs about as much as their weekly salary".

At another dinner aboard the yacht, he said Ms Albright was "good value" and that "we had a good talk about Islam and about the unhelpful US attitude to global warming at the New York summit earlier in the month."

He referred to Chris Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong, coming on board Britannia and looking "incredibly sad". Speaking of his "moving speech" later, the prince said: "I ended up with a lump in my throat and was then completely finished off by the playing of Elgar's Nimrod Variations."

The prince then attended a banquet for 4,000 people at the Convention Centre. "I sat next to the Chinese Foreign Minister who must have had considerable difficulty knowing what to make of me. After a lot of toasting we left the dinner and just waited around until we could go through the ridiculous rigmarole of meeting the Chinese president, Tiang Zemin, without loss of face to either side."

The prince referred to the president and "his cronies" at a handover dinner that followed. "After my speech the President detached himself from the group of appalling old waxworks who accompanied him and took his place at the lectern. He gave a propaganda speech which was loudly cheered by the bussed-in party faithful.

"At the end of this awful Soviet-style display we had to watch the Chinese soldiers goose-step on to the stage and haul down the Union Jack. The ceremony ended with us all being photographed in a group, shaking hands and marching off through different doors. Thus we left Hong Kong to her fate and the hope that Martin Lee, the leader of the democrats, would not be arrested."

The prince is trying to stop the Mail on Sunday publishing more of his journals, which he says were copied by a disloyal former employee.

He is seeking a summary judgment - a ruling without a full trial - over his claim for breaches of confidentiality and copyright. He also wants the journals returned.

The hearing continues.

Smooth operator cast out from the Firm but no less powerful in influence

MARK Bolland is the ultimate insider's insider. Not for nothing is he known as Lip Gloss, a sobriquet bestowed upon him as testament to his smoothness, by everyone from the Royal Family to the cognoscenti of the London public relations scene.

Even in exile from Clarence House, his influence reaches far and wide. That power is augmented by his long-term relationship with Guy Black, a former director of the Press Complaints Commission and adviser to the former Tory leader Michael Howard.

Mr Bolland, the son of a bricklayer, is worth keeping on side; with one phone call, he can shape public opinion - as the prince is finding to his cost.

The denouement of the working relationship between Prince Charles and his former deputy private secretary is being played out this week in witness statements submitted in the prince's High Court action against a Sunday newspaper.

In them, Mr Bolland has claimed Prince Charles deliberately flouted the convention that senior members of the Royal Family should steer clear of political controversy.

The Prince has taken the action claiming that publication by the Mail on Sunday of extracts from his journals is a breach of his confidence and copyright.

Behind the court battle lies a tale of betrayal and revenge.

Mr Bolland's friends say he was "deeply hurt" when shown the door by Clarence House. His feelings were further insulted when an official apparently struck his name off the list of those to be honoured for their service to the Royal Family. Many allies are asking: was Mr Bolland's witness statement his final act of revenge - or is there more to come?

For seven years, Mr Bolland, 39, was the hero of Clarence House, credited for masterminding a campaign to make the British public like Camilla Parker Bowles.

His campaign to revive Prince Charles's popularity after Diana's death saw the prince's public rating rise from 20 to 75 per cent, and thus made remarriage a palatable possibility.

But by 2003 Mr Bolland had outlived his usefulness and was banished.

The old guard at Buckingham Palace blamed his ruthless style for causing a rift between the prince's court and the rest of the Royal Family.

While Mr Bolland's methods were undoubtedly successful, he made powerful enemies along the way. When hostile stories appeared about the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Mr Bolland was blamed.

The man who wielded the knife was Sir Michael Peat, the private secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Queen's trusted "eyes and ears".

Insiders claim he despised Mr Bolland's methods.

A source close to the Royal Family told The Scotsman last night: "Mark Bolland had ambitions to become the private secretary to Prince Charles and, when he eventually becomes king, to be his right-hand man.

"Unfortunately he briefed against other members of the family, mainly Edward and Sophie, and the Queen wouldn't have it.

It was dressed up as Bolland moving on to PR, but he leapt before he was pushed."

ALISON HARDIE

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page