Prince Charles and Boris Johnson: the ‘souring’ relationship between future king and the PM

Tensions have allegedly escalated following reports that Charles criticised No. 10’s Rwanda policy

Boris Johnson with Prince Charles
Boris Johnson and Prince Charles at Cop26 in Glasgow last year
(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Tensions are reportedly growing between the prime minister and the heir to the throne, sparked by the government’s controversial decision to deport asylum seekers arriving in the UK to Rwanda.

Reports on Friday suggested that Prince Charles had privately described the policy as “appalling” and while a Clarence House spokesperson insisted that the Prince of Wales “remains politically neutral”, they did not deny that he opposes No. 10’s contentious plan.

A source told The Times that Charles felt particularly uncomfortable about the scheme – spearheaded by Home Secretary Priti Patel – because he is due to represent the Queen at a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda’s capital on 23 June.

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“[Prince Charles] said he was more than disappointed at the policy,” the source told the newspaper. “He said he thinks the government’s whole approach is appalling. It was clear he was not impressed with the government’s direction of travel.”

‘How come you know better than Prince Charles?’

During a visit to a farm in Cornwall on Monday, Johnson attempted to dodge questions from LBC’s Nick Ferrari about whether the Prince of Wales was “wrong” to make such alleged private comments about the government’s controversial deal with the African country.

“Prince Charles says the plan is appalling. The Archbishop of Canterbury says it is against the judgment of God. How come you know better than Prince Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury, prime minister?” questioned the radio host.

The Mirror reported that the PM “pointedly” told Ferrari that “most people” could see criminal gangs “need to be stopped”. He eventually answered the question directly, responding: “I do think it’s the job of government to stop people breaking the law and to support people who are doing the right thing. That’s what we’re doing.”

‘Carefully worded message’

The “first signs” of the Prince of Wales’s opposition to the Rwanda scheme “came in the same week that the government’s plan was announced”, said the Daily Mail.

In his “carefully worded” Easter message on 17 April, Charles spoke of the “millions of people” who “find themselves displaced, wearied by their journey from troubled places, wounded by the past, fearful of the future – and in need of a welcome, of rest, and of kindness”.

The paper added that while “many saw it as a message of support to families displaced by war in Ukraine, others read it as a subtle riposte to the government’s Rwanda scheme”.

‘Disrespectful behaviour’

However, Johnson’s relationship with Britain’s future king is thought to have soured long before the government’s plan to relocate migrants to a country more than 4,000 miles away made headlines.

According to the Daily Mail, “eyebrows were raised” when the PM was invited to visit Birkhall, the Prince of Wales’s home in the Scottish Highlands, at the end of the Queen’s summer break in 2019.

Johnson, who had only been in Downing Street for a few weeks at the time, reportedly arrived in a “shambolic state” with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds and was “clearly not focused” on the meeting with Charles. “It was a profoundly awkward experience for all concerned,” said the paper, which quoted a “well–placed” source who said the PM had displayed “disrespectful” behaviour.

“Let’s just say that the prime minister was not focused on the meeting with the Prince of Wales in a way one might expect,” continued the source.

‘Struggled with tribute’

The relationship between the powerful pair is so thorny that the PM “struggled” to come up with a personal tribute to Charles when, in autumn 2020, the BBC filmed interviews with Johnson to use in the event that the Prince of Wales died, said The Times.

The PM “told aides before the interview that he did not like Charles and made a series of jokes instead, paying tribute to his Duchy Organic biscuits”, claimed the paper.

Johnson is said to have “joked that Charles was the ‘king of biscuits’ and said he feared that he would ‘take the recipe to his grave’”.

The PM’s official spokesman told the paper: “The prime minister has nothing but respect and admiration for the Prince of Wales, who’s spoken out on a number of issues, not least the environment.”

‘Charles is dismissing the British people’

Although opponents of the government’s Rwanda plan may welcome Charles allegedly expressing his frustration with the scheme, not everyone is pleased about the heir to the throne providing an opinion on a political matter.

The Prince of Wales, “like many of the members of the liberal intelligentsia who turn their noses up at the Government's efforts to tackle the problem of illegal immigration, is largely unaffected by the problems it causes”, wrote Sarah Vine in the Mail on Sunday.

“By dismissing the Rwanda deal as ‘appalling’, Prince Charles also dismisses” the British people who “most feel the effects of uncontrolled immigration”, she added.

“It’s not quite a ‘let them eat cake’ scenario, but it’s not far off.”

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