It will be a milestone birthday for a man who has been waiting all his adult life to fulfil his destiny as king. He may well (as all of us hope) have to wait many more years yet to accede to the throne, given the extraordinary longevity of his family. The Queen is now 92 and the Queen Mother was 101 when she died.
This must be so strange for Charles. To reach the position for which he’s trained all his life, he must wait for his mother’s death. What a weird dilemma. It’s almost medieval. In modern life, it’s virtually unprecedented.
This week he made it clear he would not be “a meddling king… I’m not that stupid”. His lifetime of, at times, controversial campaigning will, he says, come to an end.
So what sort of king will he be? Already books and articles have proliferated about Charles and his future. Next week there will be even more. I hope they are positive. Because that’s what I want to write today; a heartfelt appreciation of a much-misunderstood man.
I’ve always liked Charles; well, when he and I were teenagers I must admit my Sixties mini-skirted Beatles-obsessed self thought Chas was a bit comical. Always so formal, with short Brylcreem’d hair, while my boyfriends had hair down to their shoulders. They wore jeans and cheesecloth shirts. Charles wore three-piece suits, his teeth were a bit goofy, and those ears! How unkind are the young to anyone not as cool and trendy as their peers.
But I’ve warmed to Charles enormously. I even think he’s attractive now, with that wonderful happy smile and twinkling eyes.
It’s all down to Camilla, of course. She’s transformed him. That pinched, awkward, unhappy man we saw when he was married to Diana has vanished.
Love has made him blossom and flourish as abundantly as his beloved garden at Highgrove.
Charles is serious and thoughtful – but he needs to be.
He’s also deeply compassionate. His work to help disadvantaged young people with the Prince’s Trust is quite extraordinary. I witnessed that as a reporter with Granada Television. Everyone who’s worked with Charles has nothing but good to say about our future king.
He’s also funny. Our daughter had the luck to be invited to Harry and Meghan’s wedding. She told me, with some surprise since she thought him an old fuddy-duddy, that his speech at the lunchtime reception was “hilarious”.
So here I am, nailing my colours to the mast. No more cattiness about Charles. No more saying he’s not fit to be King because of a failed first marriage. He will make an excellent King. And Camilla should, and will, be his Queen. She’s exactly what he and we need.
If necessary I’ll start a petition: “Charles and Camilla For ever!” Happy birthday, sir.
So was that foul stunt a hate crime?
R – DID your jaw hit the carpet when you saw the video of the Grenfell effigy being burnt on a garden bonfire? The cardboard replica, complete with paper cut-outs of the victims staring from windows or jumping out of them was accompanied by raucous commentary from onlookers, mockingly shouting: “Help me, help me, aarrghh, hahaha!!!” The well of human insensitivity is bottomless; it was repellent behaviour.
But was it a crime? The police don’t seem too sure. At the time of writing, there have been arrests (the culprits turned themselves in after the video went viral and appeared on news bulletins) but, as yet, no charges.
The incident was clearly racist – the human caricatures were made from brown paper – but took place on private property. So was it any different from someone screaming foul-mouthed racist abuse at their TV screen? Some commentators have concluded no crime was committed and the arrests were a waste of valuable police time. Hmm. I’m not so sure. Let me offer you an analogy.
If I keep a private diary in which I list a string of totally false and very serious allegations against someone, that’s a matter between me and my journal. But if I publish it, in print or online, it becomes a libel and is actionable. And in the worst case scenario, it may even constitute criminal libel.
Yes, those ignorant, morally bankrupt south Londoners jeering at one of the most horrendous UK tragedies of the 21st century did it in private. As such, they would simply have been left to stew in their own ordure. But then one of them (we don’t know which) published the video of the revolting cavorting by posting it online. And that transforms the situation. A private event suddenly becomes a public race-hate crime.
Should the Grenfell Five (or is it six, now? I’m losing count) be prosecuted? I don’t know. But we can all agree what a nasty lot they are, whether or not they’ve committed a crime.