Colin Brazier: Charles intervenes in environmental debate again - will he stop making these interventions when he's King?

'As we prepare for the day when Charles becomes king, what can we say about the future of an institution the Queen has done so much to protect?'

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As I mentioned earlier, the Queen was at Westminster Abbey today. She was using a walking stick, not all the time, but to get to and from her car.

Our 95-year-old sovereign was attending a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the centenary of the Royal British Legion. Her Majesty was handed the stick after stepping from her state limousine and again as she left.

An emblem of indefatigable service, inscrutable duty, and unflinching continuity in a changing world.

The hallmark of her reign has been its longevity, but also her uncanny ability to avoid controversy in a culture which actively seeks it in every utterance or, increasingly, non-utterance. We are moving into a world where not saying something, not condemning something, can be taken as evidence of moral wrongdoing.

Queen Elizabeth II leaves after attending a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in London to mark the Centenary of the Royal British Legion. Picture date: Tuesday October 12, 2021.
Queen Elizabeth II leaves after attending a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in London to mark the Centenary of the Royal British Legion. Picture date: Tuesday October 12, 2021.

The Queen has avoided tiger traps that might have caught-out a less wary figure. But, as we register the signs of ageing in our monarch and, as we prepare for the inevitable day when the hereditary principle brings Charles to the throne, what can we say about the future of an institution the Queen has done so much to protect?

Yesterday, Charles dipped his toes into the environmental debate. Again. He praised Greta Thunberg but also said that some protests – he presumably meant Insulate Britain – alienated people. Will he be able to stop making these pronouncements when King?

We don’t know. There are those who think the Prince of Wales is just getting things off his chest while he can. But there are others, fans of his like me, who, when they call Charles to mind think of the Aesop’s Fable, the scorpion and the frog. I wonder if you remember it?

The scorpion who begs a frog to carry him across a river in spate and, in spite of promising not to, stings him half-way to safety.

“Why?” asks the frog, did you sting me and send us both to our deaths? “Because,” replies the scorpion “it’s in my nature.”

I fear it’s just in the nature of our heir to the throne to speak his mind, come what may. If he can keep his counsel, there’s every chance the reign of Charles III will hold republicanism at bay. All the signs for the next generation of royalty are good. William and Kate seem to get what the gig means.

They appear to have a strong sense of what the public want. William, for instance, has reportedly said that Prince Andrew can never return to public life. The judgement of the Cambridges is also seen in a promising light when held up against the misjudgements of the Sussexes.

Today’s news, that Harry and Meghan are to work for an American investment fund is further evidence that the brothers are on two very different trajectories.

If you’re still in the mood for fables, William is the tortoise to Harry’s hare. He’s a plodder, not a shooting star. William’s head isn’t easily turned. He seems to intrinsically understand, that over the course of a long race, what the public want is someone who, year after year, just like his grandmother, will stay the course.

Meeting subjects, opening schools, planting trees, cutting ribbons. Leave Wall Street, and the Hollywood show-boating to your brother William. As the Queen’s popularity testifies, if we have to be subjects, we need to believe that our monarch isn’t just another celebrity on a power trip.

That's the Brazier Angle.