- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

LONDON — Prince Charles is locked in a bitter dispute with television bosses over a program that questions his fitness to be king.

The prince stands accused of being “too political” and of “meddling” in the affairs of state in a documentary from Channel 4. The program also will claim that he has used “questionable” financial arrangements to run the Duchy of Cornwall, the landed estate that provides him with an annual income of more than $25 million.

Clarence House, the prince’s private office, is furious at the accusations and was preparing a “robust” response this weekend. Senior royal aides will fiercely deny that Charles has ever become involved in party politics and will argue that, as Prince of Wales, he is filling a perfectly legitimate role, merely seeking to be “relevant” when he makes public statements.

However, the Dispatches documentary team, which has carried out a six-month investigation into the prince’s affairs, claims to have uncovered evidence of “secret lobbying and interference” and will say that financial savings have been found to fund the heir to the throne’s “extravagant” way of life.

“Charles: The Meddling Prince,” which is due to be broadcast a week from tomorrow, will contrast Charles’ role with that of his mother, who has reigned for 55 years.

“While the queen has always adhered to her constitutional role and kept her opinions to herself, her son has proved an outspoken and controversial figure,” the program will claim.

Royal aides describe such criticisms as “ludicrous” and insist that the prince has always made clear that he would behave differently as king from the way in which he does as Prince of Wales, a position that he thinks allows him some freedom to express his views on issues of the day. One friend of the prince accused the program’s makers of setting out to do a “hatchet job.”

The program is the latest in a series of disputes between Clarence House and Channel 4. In November 1998 another Dispatches program to mark the prince’s 50th birthday portrayed the heir to the throne as a lazy, greedy man whose concern for the environment is little more than skin deep.

As the latest row between the two sides grew, there was renewed pressure on Luke Johnson, chairman of Channel 4, who attracted widespread criticism for failing to halt purported racism in the “Big Brother” program.

Charles has aired his views on a range of subjects in recent years, including global warming, organic farming, education, alternative health remedies and modern architecture. The prince, 58, has been determined to find a purposeful role for himself while his mother continues on the throne.

A Television 4 spokesman said: “Prince Charles will one day be crowned King of England — a position which by constitutional convention is politically neutral. But in the six-month investigation, Dispatches reveals a number of concerns: the extent of his political ambition and interference, the measures he employs to silence his critics and questionable financial arrangements, which raise questions of his suitability for the throne and the future of the monarchy.

“The program reveals the extent of the prince’s political lobbying, with a former royal insider disclosing the frequency and regularity of letters he sends to ministers on a whole range of subjects.”

Friends of the prince are speculating that the insider is Mark Bolland, the former deputy private secretary to the heir to the throne.

Mr. Bolland has criticized his former employer in public, once describing him as “very, very weak.”

In a witness statement for a civil court case last year, he claimed that the prince often became involved in “politically sensitive” issues, though he conceded that the prince sought to avoid party politics.

Last night, friends of Mr. Bolland said that he had not given an interview for the documentary.

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