A foolish prince

Last December the Guardian launched what it called “A Challenge to the Crown”, the purpose of which was to hasten the end of the monarchy in Britain in favour of a republic. In the edition of the newspaper which got the challenge under way there were six pages of closely argued articles about the need for a complete change in Britain's constitutional arrangements, some of which acknowledged that getting rid of the monarchy would not be easy because of the British people's attachment to the royal family, for better or for worse. Little has been heard of the Guardian's campaign since it started but it has been given an enormous boost during the past few days by the activities of the Earl of Wessex and his production company Ardent in continuing to film Prince William at St Andrews University after all the other media cameras had withdrawn under the terms of an agreement previously worked out with the University. Only a few months have passed since Buckingham Palace concluded, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Prince Edward and his wife Sophie could simultaneously work as private citizens and maintain their royal status. This week's events have shown conclusively that the concept is insupportable; for the Earl to have used his princely prerogative as he did, to try to gain advantage over others, was disgraceful. The Earl is clearly a foolish man. What is more worrying is that Buckingham Palace had earlier backed him and his commercially–minded wife against all the wiser advice offered. There is a rogue self–destructive element in Britain's royal family which is more likely in the end to bring the monarchy down than the Guardian's campaign.

RAY FLEMING

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