A “Marie Antoinette moment”? Or much ado about nothing?
Either way it had all the trappings of a perfect media storm with Prince Charles bang at the centre of it. He was dubbed a “modern Marie Antoinette” after his remarks in a newspaper interview recently were interpreted as effectively tellin g people to eat organic food when, thanks to rising prices, they are struggling to afford Pot Noodle.
This, critics said, had echoes of the good old Marie A’s arrogant advice to starving peasants to go and have cake if they didn’t have bread. Dark references were made to the “fate of the Bourbons” alluding to the fact that Marie Antoinette and her family ended up on the guillotine.
We are, of course, now told that she never made the remark that made her so infamously famous. And, so it seems, the Prince never meant what was attributed to him. For, as the controversy over his comment appeared to spiral out of control, “sources close to him” were reported as saying that he had been misunderstood. His critics were accused of putting a spin on his statement to make him sound like a latter-day “M.A.”
The row started when the Prince, who has his own successful organic food business and markets a range of fashionably expensive organic products under the brand name Duchy Originals (don’t try their biscuits; they taste like chalk), used an interview with The Daily Telegraph to launch a vituperative attack on GM food technology describing it as the “biggest environmental disaster of all times” and a threat to food security.
His comment shocked scientists, angered government ministers and left his ordinary subjects choking on their bargain cornflakes. Republicans watched with glee as experts tore into the Prince, calling him “shockingly ill-informed,” and accused him of fuelling “hysteria” over GM food at a time when the world is desperately looking for cheaper alternatives to meet food shortages and avert hunger.
One leading scientist dismissed his remarks as an “ignorant rant” and pointed that India’s famous “green revolution” would not have occurred if such views were taken seriously.
“He seems to be ranting about GM crops ... and even hybrid plants. He is inflating fears instead of contributing to reasoned debate,” Professor Alison Smith of John Innes Centre at Norwich, Britain’s premier plant science institute, told The Times.
The Prince also faced accusations of a “conflict of interest” with critics asking whether it was constitutionally proper for the country’s putative next monarch to plug his business by so directly and aggressively attacking the Government’s policy on GM food. Some in the Labour Party felt that he had ``overstepped the mark” and compromised his constitutional role.
But on controversies, the Prince has form. Indeed, he seldom opens his mouth without ending up ruffling feathers. Anything that has a whiff of modernity — modern architecture, modern methods of teaching, urbanisation, the whole process of globalisation — is anathema to him. And, to be fair to him, his attack on GM food had more to do with his old-fashioned worldview than any affinity with Marie Antoinette’s anti-people sentiment.
There is something about old-fashioned eccentricity that is both charming and annoying. And the Prince revels in old-fashioned eccentricity. There was a phase when he famously talked to the trees because he believed (mind you, all this is hearsay) that plants understood him better than human beings. Heaven knows what the trees made of those of conversations but certainly he has a knack for putting off people.
There was quite a furore when referring to journalists during a media photo-shoot a few weeks before his wedding in 2005 he was overheard muttering under his breath: “These bloody people.” And then singling out the BBC’s uber-Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell added: “I can’t bear that man. I mean, he’s so awful, he really is.”
Not long ago, he upset the Chinese when he referred to their leaders as “appalling old waxworks.”
It is often said that he is truly his “irascible” father’s son. The notoriously grumpy Duke of Edinburgh once left Indians fuming when, spotting a particularly shoddy piece of work at an exhibition, he commented that it must have been “made in India.” Like father, like son, yes. But, as the king-in-waiting, Prince Charles doesn’t have the luxury of following in his father’s footsteps beyond a point. For, even ultra-royalists don’t like to have a curmudgeon for a monarch.
But what the hell, if you choose to stick with monarchy you can’t complain too much about who gets to sit on the throne. Can you?
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U.S. calls it ignorance
For all those out there who blame American government’s policies for so much anti-Americanism around the world, there is news. According to a survey much of the anti-U.S. prejudice in Britain and mainland Europe is driven by ignorance.
The poll, commissioned by a group called America in the World which wants to improve America’s image abroad, claims that more than 70 per cent Britons “incorrectly” believed that U.S. had done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000; a majority agreed with the “false” assumption that since the Second World War America had more often supported non-Muslims in conflicts involving Muslims; 80 per cent Britons “wrongly” believed that between 1973 and 1990 America sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons; and more than 50 per cent “presumed” that polygamy was legal in America when the fact was that it wasn’t.
We wanted to find out how people understood America and found that there was an unbalanced view. Maybe there are good reasons but if we cleared a lot of that factual ignorance we would have a better understanding of what America really is,” Tim Montgomerie, director of America in the World told one newspaper.
6 months ago