The story that Prince Charles was being ‘cut out’ of Prince George’s life has rankled with the heir to the throne ever since it was first raised earlier this year.
Unfortunately for him, Charles’s pathetic bleat that ‘they don’t let me see my grandson’—as first reported by the authoritative Daily Mail diarist Sebastian Shakespeare—captured the imagination of watchers of the royal soap opera worldwide.
Many people could relate—being excluded either tacitly or explicitly from a youthful relative’s life is an agony that millions of people around the world have experienced.
The story renders Charles an all-too human figure, and offers proof that despite the ermine and the staff and the palaces, royals are just as vulnerable on a personal level to rejection and family strife as all the rest of us.
Courtiers at the palace have consistently briefed that the story is not true and that Charles and George enjoy a ‘normal’ grandfather-grandson relationship, and have sought to portray the relationship between Charles and Kate and William as warm.
But Charles’s non-attendance at Prince George’s birthday last week raised eyebrows among some (although it should be noted that the Prince had an official engagement in Cirencester).
The truth, however, is that Charles and William are not particularly close—recent revelations that Charles had exploited his kids for tabloid gain didn’t help matters—and have very different attitudes about almost everything.
The one thing they are united in, however, is their passion for conservation, and a shared passion to use their privileged position as a force for good in a messed-up world.
And, it should be emphasized, there is no lack of respect on William’s part for his father.
But, sources say, William and Charles are not ‘mates’, at least not in the way that William and Kate are close to Kate’s parents, Carole and Mike.
And there is little doubt that Carole spends way more time with George than Charles does.
It is Carole who gets to take George to the petting zoo or to playdates with friends.
But, as Charles’s defenders point out, maternal grandparents are often closer to grandchildren than paternal ones are, and Carole doesn’t have to carry out 200-odd public engagements a year the length and breadth of Britain (and, indeed the world).
Which brings us to Prince Charles’s PR fightback on the story that he is alienated from George.
The campaign began with a rather unsubtly placed picture of George on an official Youtube video but has now slipped into overdrive, with a cavalcade of carefully placed and extensively briefed stories appearing this week, on the subject of how Charles has built a den in his garden at Highgrove, his country house in Gloucestershire, especially for George.
The Shepherd’s Hut on wheels was apparently gifted to George by Plankbridge, whose customers reportedly also include Liz Hurley, as a thank-you to the Prince of Wales for helping to establish the company with a Prince’s Trust loan.
The little hut is parked on the edge of Charles’s wildflower meadow in the gardens at Highgrove, which are open to the paying public.
The Telegraph reports that, “Prince George loves to have tea parties with his grandfather, using plastic cups…the Prince of Wales has also initiated him in the art of tree planting, another perpetual royal duty, by getting him to help put in two saplings in the garden of Highgrove.”
The Telegraph’s well-informed chief reporter Gordon Rayner adds, “Prince Charles has also refurbished the treehouse once played in by the Duke of Cambridge. The wooden house, hidden away in an area of the gardens known as the stumpery, was originally installed for Prince William’s seventh birthday in 1989.”
Certainly, George has been to Highgrove, but the visits have been rare. In fact none of the press pack who pursue the royals can recall ever seeing George and Charles in private together.
Charles doesn’t really like babies, and the idea that he and George have been spending afternoons hanging out in his Shepherd’s Hut having play tea parties is…well, let’s just say the news might be being received with some surprise at Kate and William’s house, Anmer Hall.
What’s next for the George/Charles PR push?
With Charles in Sandringham this week, don’t be entirely surprised if we hear that Charles has popped round to Anmer himself to deliver a belated birthday gift.
There is little doubt that the palace would prefer to see more stories emphasizing the positive relationship between Charles and George.
However, on the record, a note of polite discretion is being sounded. A spokesperson for the Prince of Wales, asked how often George and Charles saw each other, declined to comment, saying the relationship was “private.”