Elizabeth II gets this- and has gone to great lengths to present herself to the world as a blank canvas. It's not so clear that her eldest son does. When I said yesterday that he's not allowed opinions I overstated the case. Opinions- and he has a ton of them- are permissible- but only so long as he keeps them within the private sphere. We all know he's got this thing about neo-classical architecture. Fine; no harm there. No harm in him building model villages on his own land with his own money. But when he gets embroiled in planning disputes in Central London- off his own turf- as he has done on at least a couple of occasions- he's out of order. Poundbury is his own business, Trafalgar Square ain't. It's even dodgier when he lobbies government ministers about his favourite causes. If he wants to spend his money on herbal remedies it's up to him, but he really shouldn't be pushing for the NHS to do the same.
As King in waiting he represents the nation- the whole nation- including modernist architects and people who think herbal medicine is rubbish and those misguided folk who don't think the Goon Show is funny. The more he individualizes himself, the more he picks quarrels with his future subjects, the less representative he becomes, the less acceptable to the nation as a whole, the less legitimate.
And just as he shouldn't be getting into quarrels with his future subjects so he shouldn't be getting into quarrels with his peers- the other people- monarchs and presidents- who are called upon to represent their nations in public. In the British system there's this useful division of labour: we have a monarch who meets and greets and is paid not to have an opinion on international affairs and a foreign secretary- currently Mr Hague- who may occasionally have to threaten Johnny Foreigner with gun-boats. This is quite a good arrangement- along the lines of Good Cop/Bad Cop; and diplomatically useful. But Charles has just dismantled it- so far as dealing with Russia is concerned- by taking Mr Hague's mantle upon himself. He was due to meet Mr Putin at the anniversary of the D Day landings in a few weeks time- and now- instead of it being a warm, teary nostalgia bath it's become a diplomatic incident waiting to happen- and the organisers are having to exert themselves to make sure the two men never breath the same air. Will Charles ever be able to meet Putin again? Bloody useless king he'll be if he alienates all the foreign heads of state!