Dear Prime Minister: Letters from Prince Charles to Tony Blair released

Story highlights

  • Letters released under UK Freedom of Information Act
  • Prince Charles, a farmer, expresses interest in support for agriculture
  • Little of genuine embarrassment found in letters

London (CNN)From the look of it, Prince Charles had an inkling, perhaps even a slightly queasy feeling, that things might turn out this way.

Private letters he wrote to then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004 and 2005 expressing his views on various issues have been released to the public due to Britain's law regarding what must, in response to a request, be made public.
    "Dear Prime Minister," the heir to the throne wrote in February 2005. "It was very good to see you the other day and, as usual, I much enjoyed the opportunity to talk about a number of issues. You kindly suggested that it would be helpful if I put them in writing -- despite the Freedom of Information Act!"
    Yes, indeedy.
    Prince Charles' 'Black Spider Memos' from 2004-05 have been released
    Twenty-seven letters written by the prince to seven government departments between September 2004 and April 2005 were released this week pursuant to a request by the Guardian newspaper under -- you guessed it -- the Freedom of Information Act.
    The letters to Blair seem relatively unremarkable, if perhaps a tad embarrassing. They open with the handwritten salutation, "Dear Prime Minister" and end with the handwritten closing, "Yours ever," followed by an indecipherable scrawl that reason dictates must say "Charles."

    Specific policy issues discussed

    In between, the letters discuss specific policy areas, which is a little dicey as the royal family is supposed to remain above the political fray. As the official Parliament website notes, the UK is a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch "remains politically impartial."
    Nevertheless, the prince expresses strong views on some issues.
    In a letter written to Blair on September 8, 2004, Charles says that beef farmers need help if subsidies are withdrawn.
    "The worry is that the removal of specific livestock support may mean that farmers will decide it is simply not worthwhile rearing animals," the letter says. "If this happened, the large areas of the countryside dependent on beef and sheep farming will be changed beyond recognition."
    One paragraph down, the prince writes that "every support must be given to beef farmers."
    It bears noting that Prince Charles owned Duchy Home Farm, on which cattle and sheep were raised. The Guardian once referred to him as "the farmer formally known as Prince."
    But it is not clear that the farm would have benefited from anything proposed by the prince. And it also bears noting that Charles raises a lot of money for charity, some of it from the farm.
    Whether the Prime Minister welcomed the prince's letters is uncertain. He took more than a month to respond to the one about livestock support.
    But his reply is cordial. And it closes with a handwritten note praising the Charles' recent speech on climate change before ending, "Yours ever, Tony."

    Circumvention of EU rules hinted at?

    The livestock letter includes one other potential point of embarrassment. The prince seems to suggest that Blair's government look for a way to circumvent EU rules.
    He expresses the wish that more could be done to encourage people to buy British. Only with the support of consumers, he writes, will British agriculture survive.
    "I know that European Rules preclude the Government from running a campaign to promote, solely, British produce but, for all that, it would be splendid if the Government could find innovative ways to give the necessary lead," he writes.
    But there appears to be little in the letters that could threaten the monarchy or the prince's role as heir to the throne.
    To accede to the throne, however, he will have to wait his turn -- as he has been doing, lo, these 60-plus years. His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, shows no inclination to retire. And this fall, with more than 63 years on the throne, she will surpass Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the realm.
    Which must make Prince Charles one of the longest-serving heirs ever.