The Black Spider Memos

Prince Charles's 'Meddling' Lobbying Letters MUST be Released, Appeal Court Rules

Chris Jackson/Getty,Chris Jackson

Prince Charles has often been accused of being a 'meddling' prince, and finally the British public might get a chance to see just how far his efforts to influene government policy have gone.

For a nine-year battle by the Guardian newspaper journalist Rob Evans to be allowed to publish lobbying letters written by Prince Charles to government ministers received a major boost today after the Court of Appeal said that the Attorney General acted unlawfully when he blocked the publication of the letters.

The letters, sometimes referred to as the 'black spider memos" are said to contain the prince's, "most deeply held personal views and beliefs".

A spokesperson for the Guardian told the Daily Beast: "We hope the Attorney General will recognise he has reached the end of the legal road and that government departments will now publish the correspondence so that the public can judge for themselves."

The Guardian newspaper had sought the release of the letters under freedom of information legislation, but the letters were blocked on appeal in 2012 after the attorney general issued a veto that puts an absolute block on the publication of 27 letters between the prince and ministers.

Bizarrely, the reason given at the time for the ban on publication of the ‘particularly frank’ letters was that they may lead the British public to question Charles’s impartiality when he becomes King.

Of course, this was exactly the Guardian's point.

The attorney general said at the time: "They also contain remarks about public affairs which would in my view, if revealed, have had a material effect upon the willingness of the government to engage in correspondence with the Prince of Wales, and would potentially have undermined his position of political neutrality…In summary, my decision is based on my view that the correspondence was undertaken as part of the Prince of Wales's preparation for becoming king. The Prince of Wales engaged in this correspondence with ministers with the expectation that it would be confidential. Disclosure of the correspondence could damage the Prince of Wales's ability to perform his duties when he becomes king."

However, the Court of Appeal said today that the Atty. Gen. "had no good reason for overriding the meticulous decision" of the first tribunal, which examined evidence from constitutional experts and arguments from barristers for the government and the Guardian.

The Atty. Gen. has been ordered to pay the Guardians legal costs, which the paper said amounted to some £96,000.

The 27 pieces of correspondence between Charles and ministers in seven government departments date from between September 2004 and April 2005 "are in many cases particularly frank", according to Grieve.

Many are said to conatin the line, "It really is appalling..."

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A clue to their tone is provided by the few of Charles's' writings that have surfaced:

Charles reportedly wrote to Tony Blair, then the prime minister, criticising the government for "destroying the countryside" and failing to tackle rural poverty and housing. He was reported to have relayed a comment from one farmer, who said: "If we, as a group, were black or gay, we would not be victimised or picked on."

He is also alleged to have remarked that if hunting was banned, he might as well leave the country and spend the rest of his life skiing, according to the Guardian.

As far back as 1991, he complained about the way English was being used by people: " Our language has become so impoverished, so sloppy and so limited… we have arrived at a wasteland of banality, cliché and casual obscenity." In 2004, it emerged that he had criticised the modern education system, saying: "What is wrong with everyone nowadays? ... Why do they all seem to think they are all qualified to do things …? … This is all to do with the learning culture in schools that … is the result of social utopianism which believes that humanity can begin to genetically re-engineer … to contradict the lessons of history and the realities of nature."