• King Charles

    With the accession of King Charles III to the throne, my mind goes back to a brief period when the then Prince Charles and I might have been described as friends.

    I was at the time a British MP. I received out of the blue a call from Prince Charles’ Private Secretary who said that the Prince wondered if he could meet with me briefly, since he had a number of political issues he would like to discuss.

    I readily agreed and found myself meeting the Prince a few days later. We had an enjoyable conversation about several political issues, and we parted with undertakings that we would repeat the experience from time to time.

    I have no idea why the Prince singled me out. I was a prominent Labour MP and it was widely known that I was a Kiwi; it may be that he thought he could kill two birds with one stone, gaining an insight into how things seemed from a left viewpoint and as seen from the southern hemisphere.

    At some point a little later, I recall a further call from the Private Secretary. “Why don’t you give Prince Charles a call from time to time?” he asked. “The Prince would like to have you as a friend.”

    I am sorry to say that I did not follow up on this invitation. It was, I felt, quite easy to respond to invitations from the Prince for a meeting for a defined purpose – less easy, to call him up out of the blue for a chat about nothing in particular.

    What I can say is that I reached some very clear conclusions about the Prince as a result of our meetings. He was, I thought, not only personable and courteous, as one would expect; but he was also intelligent, inquiring, well-informed and thoughtful. I recall thinking that we were very lucky in having him as the heir to the throne.

    Apart from a dinner which my wife and I attended and which Charles hosted, our “friendship” progressed no further, though my wife and I continued to receive Christmas cards signed “Charles and Diana” for some years. Some of those we have kept.

    I am sorry to say that my return to New Zealand brought an end to our contacts. On the strength of what I know of him, I am sure that he will succeed in following the example of his admired mother.

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