UK Charles' letters show concern for troops and toothfish

Wed May 13, 2015 1:07pm EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Charles wrote to ministers on issues ranging from resources for British troops in Iraq to the fate of the Patagonian Toothfish, according to private letters published on Wednesday against government wishes.

The 27 letters to and from the 66-year-old heir to the throne were released after the government lost a decade-long legal battle to stop their publication on the grounds they might cast doubt over the future king's political neutrality.

Under Britain's unwritten constitution, the royal family is supposed to remain above politics, and Queen Elizabeth has kept her opinions to herself during her 63-year reign.

However Charles has often spoken out about subjects close to his heart, such as agriculture, architecture and nature conservation.

In one letter to former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004, he queries delays in the procurement of military helicopters.

"I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources," he wrote.

The Guardian newspaper first sought access to the letters in 2005, but successive governments blocked disclosure, with the country's former Attorney General warning they could damage his future role as monarch.

But in March the Supreme Court agreed a gagging order was unlawful and allowed the publication of the letters, nicknamed "black-spider memos" because of Charles's scrawled handwriting.   Continued...

Britain's Prince Charles prepares to address during a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, in Gallipoli April 24, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal