A Royal Furlough: National Value and Private Wealth: The Upstanding Character of Prince Charles

By Matthew Groves – BMS Blogger-in-Residence

A decision by His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales, has been highlighted and favoured by the printed press in an unprecedented move by the British media. The Prince has been lauded for his decision to pay his furloughed staff out of his own private funds, unlike many private businessmen and women, who have tried to make use of the Government furlough scheme, financed by the British taxpayer.  Such a positive reaction by the nation’s media to his decision, is a sure sign of the unusual times that we are living in, as the press is finally giving credit where credit is due. His Royal Highness unfairly receives a barrage of negative press criticism during usual times, because his statements are thoughtful and nuanced, rather than the partisan shibboleths columnists tend to understand and appreciate.

What lessons can we draw upon from the example that the Prince has provided, and how are his actions not only different, but the complete opposite of other wealthy countrymen?  First, such actions clearly illustrate that Royalty is not defined by its wealth. Most of the institution’s wealth, being inherited, means that necessary acquisitiveness did not have to be developed to achieve such wealth. Instead, along with health, was inherited a sense of noblesse oblige – a trademark of our Royal family.

Second, not many outside of the embittered hard Left resents wealth, but at the same time it is possible with a discerning eye to see the distinction between those who are slaves to their wealth, and those for whom it is merely a means to higher ends. Of course, there are many good and wealthy philanthropists, but what makes Royalty distinctive in its attitude towards wealth, is in not being defined by it. Not only did most Royal financial wealth come by inheritance, but that same inheritance contained more than just finance such as duty, awareness, continuity, philanthropy, charity, morality and stewardship to name a few areas, means Royalty has emerged from an elite milieu that values many other aspects of life than wealth. 

In sense there is a strange link between Royalty and the poor, in that both perhaps value things other than acquiring wealth. The egalitarian in us might say that is all very well but unlike the poor, living for higher things is a luxury for Royalty – that is to misunderstand the very nature of the Royal vocation.  It points us all to higher things. The duty, role and job connected with the responsibility of being Royal was inherited as a vocation not by choice and demands of the people who are Royal public duties and scrutiny few of us unaccustomed to it could bear with.

There are many sacrifices that must be made by one who is Royal, and those sacrifices are not a matter of choice. This is a state to be admired not envied. Due to the sacramental nature of her coronation Her Majesty, the Queen is perhaps endowed with greater strength to fulfil her vocation. Nonetheless, the milieu, the family history, the upbringing, have shaped Charles and his siblings to understand who they are, even when the tabloids misunderstand. 

For that reason, Charles decided with his sense of vocation, that at this difficult time for the nation, he himself would bear the financial burden of his staff’s salaries, rather than requiring support from his subjects. Contrast this with the world of the capitalist, where acquisitiveness is often a motivating factor. When wealth is not inherited it must be got, and once it is acquired, it is then very difficult to pause and reflect about when it is no longer appropriate to keep getting.

Indeed, this is one reason why Royalty is there (amongst many more reasons – both articulated and not articulated). In its focus on vocation, noblesse oblige, and duty, it points us all to higher values.  It reminds us that there is another way to live, whilst helping us to adapt our behaviour when looking up to the cultural norms of our Royal Family and their values. Even better, while they are undoubtedly Royal, they are also human beings like the rest of us – they can fail from time to time as to err is human.  Nonetheless they cannot just walk away when they do fail but must pick themselves up and continue in their vocation of duty to the nation and the Commonwealth in the line of public and media scrutiny.

In Prince Charles’ different approach to staff salaries and wages, apart from his other wealthy peers, we see the outlined idea of vocation to others exemplified. More importantly we see the personal ethics, morals, and values of the heir to the Throne reflected and played out for all of us to learn from and recognise.