Prince Charles unhappy with arms role, new biography claims

Prince Charles Image copyright SAUDI PRESS AGENCY
Image caption Prince Charles visited Saudi Arabia last month following the death of King Abdullah

The Prince of Wales no longer wants to promote UK arms sales in Gulf states, a new biography by Catherine Mayer says.

The book, Charles: Heart Of A King, which is not authorised by Clarence House, claims Prince Charles "doesn't like being used to market weaponry" and avoids doing so where possible.

Its publication this Thursday comes ahead of the prince's tour to the Middle East later in February.

Clarence House said the visit aimed to strengthen relationships in the region.

Prince Charles has been a frequent visitor to the Middle East, and last month joined world leaders in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh to pay his respects following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

'Effective asset'

Charles: Heart Of A King - written by Time magazine journalist Mayer - is being serialised in The Times newspaper.

In the book, Mayer writes that Prince Charles has the confidence of key contacts in the Gulf region and has been an "effective asset" for the UK Foreign Office and the British intelligence community.

Image copyright Ebury Publishing
Image caption Catherine Mayer's unauthorised biography is due to be published on Thursday

On the arms issue, she says: "A source close to the prince says he doesn't like being used to market weaponry and now sidesteps such activities where possible."

"If he has changed his mind, why doesn't the dissident prince speak up? One answer - according to insiders, is that he has done so, in - thus far - private communications. If he is uncomfortable with his itineraries, he will say so."

She continues: "Another answer is that any noisy protests would diminish his usefulness in the Gulf. Some of the objectives of his recent trip to Saudi Arabia relied on that vanishing commodity: secrecy."

Prince Charles is due to return to Saudi Arabia as part of a six-day Middle East tour starting on Saturday. He will also visit Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

A Clarence House spokesman said: "The Prince of Wales' upcoming visit to the Middle East is not about sales of defence equipment and is not essentially commercial.

"The Prince of Wales undertakes official visits on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.

"The five countries the prince is visiting in the Middle East are important allies and key partners to the UK. This visit to the Middle East like others is to strengthen relationships and highlight stability in the region."

The spokesman added: "The programme has been designed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, its Middle East posts and Clarence House to make the most of the prince's knowledge and expertise, and to highlight both HRH's concerns and those of the UK government about conflict in the region."

No exclusive access

Mayer's biography also quotes a former staff member comparing Clarence House's internal rivalries to "Wolf Hall", with "common and bloody" turf wars between Prince Charles' employees.

Clarence House has said the biography was not authorised and the author did not have any exclusive access to the prince or his staff.

Mayer has said she made "no over-claims about access".

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said she had spent "about six months trailing" Prince Charles for a Time cover story in 2013.

"I had some help from Clarence House to not only attend events that press could accredit for, but also to talk to members of his inner circle and his friends," she said.

"After that cover story came out I continued researching. I went to every event that it was possible to get to."

Asked how much time she had spent with the prince "personally", she said: "I've sat down with him once and recorded a conversation."

Ms Mayer added: "By the standards of other journalists I have spent a lot of time with him."

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