Palace insiders say relations soured when Boris arrived for a meeting with Prince Charles in a state


‘Boris Johnson hasn’t given Prince Charles the respect he deserves’: Amid talk of friction, Palace insiders say relations soured when the Prime Minister arrived for a meeting at Birkhall in a ‘distracted and shambolic’ state

  • PM was invited to Scottish Highlands at the end of the Queen’s summer break
  • His demeanour during the meeting with Charles led to ‘eyebrows being raised’ 
  • Courtiers concluded that Mr Johnson had displayed ‘disrespectful’ behaviour

Even for Prime Ministers, a visit to the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral is considered a unique privilege – a glimpse into the inner workings of the Royal Family in a more relaxed setting.

But when Boris Johnson was invited to the Scottish Highlands at the end of the Queen’s summer break in 2019, it was a profoundly awkward experience for all concerned.

The Prince of Wales had extended an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit him at Birkhall, his home on the estate, after Mr Johnson had met the Queen at Balmoral.

But the Prime Minister’s demeanour during the meeting with Prince Charles led to ‘eyebrows being raised’ – courtier code for ‘we are not amused’.

Even for Prime Ministers, a visit to the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral is considered a unique privilege – a glimpse into the inner workings of the Royal Family in a more relaxed setting

Even for Prime Ministers, a visit to the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral is considered a unique privilege – a glimpse into the inner workings of the Royal Family in a more relaxed setting

A ‘distracted’ Mr Johnson is said to have arrived in a ‘shambolic state’ with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds, and was ‘clearly not focused’ on the meeting in hand.

While the Prince of Wales remained ‘Sphynx-like’ throughout, the courtiers concluded that the Prime Minister, who had been in Downing Street for only a matter of weeks, had displayed ‘disrespectful’ behaviour.

‘Let’s just say,’ said a well-placed source, ‘that the Prime Minister was not focused on the meeting with the Prince of Wales in a way one might expect.

‘The Prince of Wales is used to meeting all sorts of people but among the aides there was a feeling definitely that during the Birkhall meeting with Boris Johnson, he wasn’t being afforded the respect you might argue that he deserves as a senior public figure who works very hard for the country. The Prince wasn’t kicking up a fuss about it. It was more the staff who felt sorry on his behalf.

‘The next time they met, it was sort of quashed. Things have got better, but they have never been what you might call the best of friends.’

Difficulties between the two men are said to date back to Mr Johnson’s time as Foreign Secretary. He is famously relaxed about punctuality, keeping people waiting for meetings, then being breezily dismissive about the delay. Prince Charles, however, cannot abide lateness, leading to ‘irritations’.

But when Boris Johnson was invited to the Scottish Highlands at the end of the Queen’s summer break in 2019, it was a profoundly awkward experience for all concerned

But when Boris Johnson was invited to the Scottish Highlands at the end of the Queen’s summer break in 2019, it was a profoundly awkward experience for all concerned

Whitehall sources say the problem has eased the longer Mr Johnson has been in No 10 – if only because Prime Ministers are forced to keep to a strict timetable by rigid diary and strict security considerations.

Mutual friends have also helped to draw the two men closer together.

The source added: ‘They are not cut from the same cloth. They have totally different world views. But over time they have found some common ground, particularly on environmental matters.’

For their part, senior Tory figures enjoy playing the game of ‘guess how Charles would vote if he did’ – with answers tending to range between ‘Liberal Democrat’ and ‘Wet Remainer Tory’.

Last week the pair were seen together at the Guildhall reception following the Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Charles and the Prime Minister had a brief but cordial conversation. Charles then moved off to meet the Governors-General from the Commonwealth.

The Prince of Wales had extended an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit him at Birkhall, his home on the estate (pictured), after Mr Johnson had met the Queen at Balmoral

The Prince of Wales had extended an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit him at Birkhall, his home on the estate (pictured), after Mr Johnson had met the Queen at Balmoral

Another source said: ‘Boris seems to have finally realised that he may be having weekly audiences in the not-too-distant future with Prince Charles and that he ought to treat him accordingly.’

No one questions the warmth of the relationship between Mr Johnson and the Queen, or with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Later this month, the Prince and the Prime Minister will be reunited again for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, the African country where the Government intends to resettle asylum seekers.

For those close to Charles, the Home Office policy is an unwelcome distraction during a historic first visit by a member of the Royal Family to the country, which joined the Commonwealth in 2009.

The itinerary, which includes a meeting at a church where 10,000 Tutsis were massacred during the 1994 genocide, will also take in visits to environmental projects.

But the Prime Minister’s demeanour during the meeting with Prince Charles led to ‘eyebrows being raised’ – courtier code for ‘we are not amused’

A source said: ‘The Palace will be trying to make sure that Their Royal Highnesses are not seen to be endorsing the controversial plan in any way and that they don’t come anywhere near any protests.’

Mr Johnson will be hosted by the Prince, who in 2018 was named as the next leader of the Commonwealth group of countries. 

Speaking ahead of next week’s visit, Chris Fitzgerald, deputy private secretary to the Prince of Wales, said: ‘His Royal Highness will host a reception for Heads of Government who have been appointed since the last CHOGM and that evening will host a dinner on behalf of the Queen for all heads of Commonwealth delegations.’

It has not been confirmed whether Charles will also host a private meeting with Mr Johnson during the week-long event. For those in the Palace, none of Charles’s views will come as a surprise.

The first signs of the Prince’s disagreement with Mr Johnson over the Rwanda policy came in the same week that the Government’s plan was announced.

A ‘distracted’ Mr Johnson is said to have arrived in a ‘shambolic state’ with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds, and was ‘clearly not focused’ on the meeting in hand

A ‘distracted’ Mr Johnson is said to have arrived in a ‘shambolic state’ with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds, and was ‘clearly not focused’ on the meeting in hand

In a carefully worded Easter message, the Prince said: ‘Today, millions of people find themselves displaced, wearied by their journey from troubled places, wounded by the past, fearful of the future – and in need of a welcome, of rest, and of kindness.

‘I have found myself heartbroken at the sufferings of the innocent victims of conflict, or persecution, some of whom I have met and who have told me stories of unutterable tragedy as they have been forced to flee their country and seek shelter far from home.’

While many saw it as a message of support to families displaced by war in Ukraine, others read it as a subtle riposte to the Government’s Rwanda scheme – despite the Prince’s close relationship with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Clarence House has not denied reports that the Prince described the refugee plan as ‘appalling’, but a spokesman said that there had been no lobbying of Ministers on the Prince’s behalf.

Whether the leaking of the Prince’s views will affect the relationship between the Prime Minister and the heir to the Throne remains to be seen.

‘We will not back down on Rwanda, Charles’: Priti Patel to launch new migrant crackdown with targeted social media campaign after Prince of Wales called her asylum plan ‘appalling’ 

ByGlen Owen Political Editor For The Mail On Sunday

Ministers are to bolster their plans to send migrants on a one-way ticket to Rwanda, despite Prince Charles privately describing the idea as ‘appalling’.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week launch an advertising blitz directed at migrants to warn that if they enter the UK they could be sent straight to the African country. 

The campaign comes as she faces the second round of a legal battle to ground the first flight containing 31 asylum seekers, which is due to leave on Tuesday.

The Mail on Sunday understands Ms Patel intends to overhaul laws on modern slavery to stop them being used by Left-wing lawyers to block deportations in future. 

She is also examining whether to cut funding to United Nations bodies which engage in legal action against the British Government.

The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that Charles had privately condemned Ms Patel’s Rwanda plan, which he fears will overshadow the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, on June 23.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week launch an advertising blitz directed at migrants to warn that if they enter the UK they could be sent straight to the African country

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week launch an advertising blitz directed at migrants to warn that if they enter the UK they could be sent straight to the African country

Ms Patel declined to comment on the report. She is known to be on friendly terms with the Prince and is a frequent visitor to Clarence House.

Charles, who will be representing the Queen, will be joined at the summit by Boris Johnson. Sources have claimed the pair’s personal relationship is occasionally fractious.

On Friday, campaigners failed in a High Court bid to halt the first Rwandan flight, with Mr Justice Swift deciding that there was a ‘material public interest’ in Ms Patel being able to carry out her policies. The Home Secretary praised the judgment, while Mr Johnson described it as ‘welcome news’.

Yesterday Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which brought the case along with several migration charities, refused to rule out his Border Force staff boycotting the Rwanda policy.

Ms Patel hopes that the advertising campaign will help to stem the flood of migrants across the Channel, with more than 10,000 people having made the journey so far this year

Migrants travelling through Europe will be targeted with Facebook and Instagram adverts in their native languages, warning them that even if they survive the dangerous crossing to the UK they might not even get to remain here.

Ministers are to bolster their plans to send migrants on a one-way ticket to Rwanda, despite Prince Charles privately describing the idea as ‘appalling’

Ministers are to bolster their plans to send migrants on a one-way ticket to Rwanda, despite Prince Charles privately describing the idea as ‘appalling’

One, above a picture of an overloaded dinghy in front of the white cliffs of Dover, reads: ‘Arrive illegally in the UK and you could be leaving for Rwanda’. 

Another, showing a migrant behind a metal fence, warns that ‘new measures will make it harder for you to reach and remain in the UK’.

The campaign aims to counter claims by people-trafficking gangs that the arrangement with Rwanda is nothing but a ‘scare tactic’ or ‘empty threat’.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was introduced by Theresa May before she became Prime Minister and aimed to tackle what she described as the ‘great human rights issue of our time’. 

It was designed to help the 10,000 people in the UK who were then estimated to be victims of labour exploitation or sex trafficking, or living in domestic servitude.

However, it has increasingly been used by lawyers to lodge injunctions against the deportation of migrants. An independent reviewer will be appointed to examine reforms to the system.

The campaign aims to counter claims by people-trafficking gangs that the arrangement with Rwanda is nothing but a ‘scare tactic’ or ‘empty threat’

The campaign aims to counter claims by people-trafficking gangs that the arrangement with Rwanda is nothing but a ‘scare tactic’ or ‘empty threat’

A Whitehall source said: ‘Child rapists, people who pose a threat to national security and illegal migrants who have travelled to the UK from safe countries have sought modern slavery referrals, which have prevented and delayed their removal or deportation.

‘It is imperative that this system is fixed quickly, and for good. Unless we make drastic reforms, the true victims of modern slavery will continue suffer with excessive decision-making periods, and a system that rewards those who seek only to exploit it.’

Britain last year gave nearly £80 million to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which gave evidence during Friday’s court case arguing that the Rwanda scheme failed to meet the required standards of ‘legality and appropriateness’ for transferring asylum seekers from one country to another. 

The Whitehall source added: ‘Should taxpayers’ money be used to help block Government policy?’

The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that Charles had privately condemned Ms Patel’s Rwanda plan

The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that Charles had privately condemned Ms Patel’s Rwanda plan

Ms Patel said: ‘Evil criminal gangs are putting profit over people by facilitating dangerous and illegal small boat crossings. We have a duty to warn people of the consequences of these journeys, and expose the lies sold to vulnerable migrants by inhumane people smugglers.

‘People should be in no doubt of our message here: Britain is closed for business to people-traffickers’.

Charles has been branded the ‘meddling prince’ in the past for giving his opinion to Ministers. In 2015, a series of letters he sent to former PM Tony Blair and other Government figures, dubbed the Black Spider Memos because of the Prince’s distinctive handwriting, were published following a decade-long legal battle.

Clarence House insists Prince Charles ‘remains politically neutral’, with sources saying they ‘genuinely did not recognise’ the suggestion he had fallen out with the Prime Minister.

SARAH VINE: By deploring the Rwanda deal, Charles scorns the concerns of the common man. It’s almost a ‘let them eat cake scenario’ 

By Sarah Vine For The Mail On Sunday

On the one or two occasions I have met Prince Charles, I have found him to be incredibly well informed and clear-sighted. 

He has a busy and inquiring mind, which has probably been his saving grace during the long years – a lifetime, in fact – spent in the shadow of his mother.

He’s never been content to simply luxuriate in the privilege of his position: he has always sought, and found, a purpose.

He’s a good listener too, something he has in common with his mother. Sitting next to him at dinner once, and slightly overwhelmed by the occasion, I waffled breathlessly on at him for the whole of the second course about an idea for a book, an ordeal he endured with charm and perseverance.

The inevitable truth is that soon – sooner than any of us would wish – Charles will be King. At which point this sort of thing won't just be a bit of an embarrassment, it will be a huge problem

The inevitable truth is that soon – sooner than any of us would wish – Charles will be King. At which point this sort of thing won’t just be a bit of an embarrassment, it will be a huge problem

But he’s not a man to bite his tongue if something displeases him either: at an earlier occasion, as we all rose from drinks, I made the mistake of absent-mindedly walking ahead of the Duchess of Cornwall. There was some rather loud throat-clearing from the direction of HRH and, realising my faux pas, I stood to one side, red-faced. Camilla flashed me a reassuring smile, as if to say, ‘Don’t worry dear, his bark is worse than his bite.’

The truth is, the Duke and Duchess are, given the parameters of their existence and roles in public life, about as sane and as normal as they can be (I always remember the pair of them on that tour of Canada a few years ago, dissolving into giggles while listening to a particularly vigorous performance by two Inuit throat singers). Which is why, I think, Prince Charles sometimes struggles to maintain the Royal facade and stay neutral about the many issues he cares passionately about.

Over the years he has been vocal (and right) about a lot of things: education, farming, the environment, China.

So this latest intervention, in the matter of the Government’s policy to deport illegal immigrants to Rwanda, should not really come as a surprise. If anything, it’s rather true to form.

According to a source, the Prince has voiced his discomfort with the scheme, calling it ‘appalling’, and lamenting the timing, which clashes with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, this month, where Charles is due to represent the Queen.

I doubt very much whether it was his intention to make his thoughts known (Clarence House has explicitly downplayed the news). It is more likely that it will have come up as a topic of discussion at some function or other and been leaked by an acquaintance or official with an agenda.

There are no overcrowded hostels next to Clarence House, and neither Charles nor any member of his family is likely to be negatively affected by the extra pressure on public services – social housing, access to healthcare and so on

There are no overcrowded hostels next to Clarence House, and neither Charles nor any member of his family is likely to be negatively affected by the extra pressure on public services – social housing, access to healthcare and so on

But for me this is less about the specific subject of the leak itself and more about the repercussions for the Prince and the potential for damage, not just to him personally but also for the Monarchy and, in particular, the Queen’s legacy. The inevitable truth is that soon – sooner than any of us would wish – Charles will be King. 

At which point this sort of thing won’t just be a bit of an embarrassment, it will be a huge problem. Because, as his mother has demonstrated over seven decades on the Throne, the Monarch must avoid, wherever possible, getting bogged down in individual matters of policy or partisan politics.

Over the years the Queen has become adept at sidestepping such situations. As my colleague Robert Hardman explains in his new, impeccably sourced Royal biography, Queen Of Our Times, she expresses her disapproval indirectly. ‘It starts with what some officials call ‘an eyebrow’,’ he writes, ‘progressing in more extreme cases to ‘both eyebrows’ and then a firm, ‘Are you sure?’ ‘ In other words, she doesn’t comment, she questions. A typically elegant solution.

We’ve grown so used to her quiet diplomacy, it’s easy to forget that Elizabeth II’s approach is the exception, not the rule.

Queen Victoria, for example, was famously opinionated, not shy of promoting this or that favourite candidate for this or that public appointment, and lecturing her Prime Minister on her ‘strongest aversion for the so-called and most erroneous ‘Rights of Women’. Even the Queen’s own father, George VI, once waved his shoes at a Labour Chancellor, declaring: ‘I really don’t see why people should have free false teeth any more than free shoes.’

But, for whatever reason, Elizabeth II took a different approach, and it has paid off, contributing in no small part to her success as Monarch over the years.

How else could she have survived successive changes of government and 14 British Prime Ministers from wildly opposing ends of the political spectrum?

According to a source, the Prince has voiced his discomfort with the scheme, calling it 'appalling', and lamenting the timing, which clashes with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, this month, where Charles is due to represent the Queen. One of the locations expected to house migrants is pictured above

According to a source, the Prince has voiced his discomfort with the scheme, calling it ‘appalling’, and lamenting the timing, which clashes with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, this month, where Charles is due to represent the Queen. One of the locations expected to house migrants is pictured above

She understood early on that the key to a successful modern Monarchy is to remain at arm’s length from day-to-day politics.

Not just because such a dirty, cut-throat business taints anyone who goes near it, but also for the more prosaic reason that for everyone who agrees with you, there will be many who don’t. And that’s something a future king needs to worry about.

This current row is a perfect illustration of the risks. Immigration is a deeply divisive issue and expressing any sort of opinion risks alienating whole swathes of the population. In this case, many of the 17.5 million who voted for Brexit in the hope that loosening ties with Brussels would help get immigration under control.

If Prince Charles – or indeed any member of the Royal Family – has one weakness, it’s being perceived as being out of touch with the concerns of the common man.

He, like many of the members of the liberal intelligentsia who turn their noses up at the Government’s efforts to tackle the problem of illegal immigration, is largely unaffected by the problems it causes. There are no overcrowded hostels next to Clarence House, and neither Charles nor any member of his family is likely to be negatively affected by the extra pressure on public services – social housing, access to healthcare and so on.

It is those who most feel the effects of uncontrolled immigration who most desire a solution to it. They may also have reservations about the Government’s strategy, but with thousands of illegal immigrants reaching these shores week after week, with the people smugglers out of control and with the situation only set to get worse, they may well feel that this action is better than none.

In particular, those at the sharp end of the crisis resent being characterised as bigots and racists for simply wanting to control the numbers.

By dismissing the Rwanda deal as ‘appalling’, Prince Charles also dismisses them. It’s not quite a ‘let them eat cake’ scenario, but it’s not far off.

The job of the Monarch is to unite the nation (as we saw with the recent Jubilee celebrations), not divide it.

It is key to the authority of the Crown, and an important part of ensuring the sovereign serves ALL the people, not just certain factions. That is not to say the Monarch should not be entitled to a private opinion; just that the position requires discretion and diplomacy.

That is the point Prince Charles seems to be missing. Because despite representing the Queen at the recent State Opening of Parliament and at the forthcoming Commonwealth summit, he does not yet seem to have adjusted his personal settings from ‘heir apparent’ – a position of importance but with plenty of wriggle room – to the far more onerous ‘king in waiting’.

It is a subtle but important shift, but it’s one he needs to make – not only in order to do his mother proud, but also to preserve her legacy for a new generation.

Source

Related posts