UK publishes Prince Charles' secret letters to officials

What Prince Charles' Private Letters Could Reveal


LONDON (AP) - The British government has released previously secret letters written by Prince Charles to government officials - letters that were the subject of a lengthy legal battle that pitted Charles' right to privacy against the public's right to know.

The cache of 27 letters, including 10 written by Charles personally, includes letters written a decade ago to former Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top officials on topics that include agriculture, redevelopment in Northern Ireland and other matters. The British press has dubbed them the "black spider" memos, due to the handwritten greetings and closings that Charles wrote in his familiar cramped style.

The letter-writing is controversial because as Britain's future king, Charles is expected to remain neutral on political topics.

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UK publishes Prince Charles' secret letters to officials
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 09: TRH Prince Charles & The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles depart the Civil Ceremony where they were legally married, at The Guildhall, Windsor on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales leaves the VE Day 70th Anniversary service at Westminster Abbey on May 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images)
The Wedding Of Hrh The Prince Of Wales & Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles At The Guildhall, Windsor. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with their families (L-R back row) Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles (L-R front row) Duke of Edinburgh, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla's father Major Bruce Shand, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, after their wedding ceremony. (photo: Anwar Hussein)
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, formerly Camila Parker Bowles, arrive at St. Georges Chapel. (photo: Martin Hayhow/PA Archive)
In this handout from Royal Mail an image of a new stamp featuring HRH Prince Charles and Camila Parker Bowles is seen. A series of stamps will be released on the day of the royal wedding in April. The last set of Royal issue stamps was brought out to commemorate Prince William?s 21st birthday in July 2003. (Photo by Royal Mail via Getty Images)
In this handout from Royal Mail a composite image of new stamps featuring HRH Prince Charles and Camila Parker Bowles is seen. A series of stamps will be released on the day of the royal wedding in April. The last set of Royal issue stamps was brought out to commemorate Prince William?s 21st birthday in July 2003. (Photo by Royal Mail via Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles and his bride Camila Duchess of Cornwall leave St George's Chapel in Windsor following the church blessing of their civil wedding ceremony, 09 April 2005. In the background is Britain's Queen Elizabeth. Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, the true love of his life, on Saturday in a private civil ceremony that inevitably paled against his storybook wedding to Princess Diana more than 20 years ago. (Photo credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: Charles, Prince of Wales sits as he attends a meeting with United States President Barack Obama (not pictured) in the Oval Office of the White House on March 19, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The Prince and Duchess are in Washington as part of a Four day visit to the United States. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
JINJA, UGANDA - NOVEMBER 24: HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales pose for a photograph at the source of the White Nile on November 24, 2007 in Jinja, Uganda. The Prince and Duchess are in Uganda during the Commonwealth Heads of Govenment Meeting. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: TRH Prince Charles and his wife The Duchess Of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles meet the crowd following the Service of Prayer and Dedication after their marriage at The Guildhall, at Windsor Castle on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on March 17, 2015 for a four-day visit to the US.(Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales visit the Lincoln Memorial on the second day of a visit to the United States on March 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Prince and Duchess are in Washington as part of a Four day visit to the United States. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales speaks with armed forces personnel during a reception at Guildhall, after the Afghanistan service of commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral on March 13, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, United Kingdom: FILES - Picture taken 14 November 2002 shows Britain's Prince Charles (R) and his companion Camilla Parker-Bowles leaving the Ritz hotel where a private party was held to celebrate the succes of her jubilee in central London. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles will marry in Scotland in the coming autumn, a German royal expert and author said 18 May 2004. (Photo credit: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
SANDRINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles arrive together to attend the Sandringham Flower Show on the Royal Sandringham Estate July 31, 2002 in Norfolk, England. Camilla's arrival with Charles, suggests an effort on the part of the British Royal Family to introduce her to more public Royal duties due to her relationship with the Prince. (Photo by Sion Touhig/Getty Images)
GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Britain's Prince Charles attends a polo match at the Beaufort Polo Club for The Ronnie Wallace Memorial Trophy in aid of The Hunt Servants' Benefit Society July 27, 2002 in Glocestershire, England. (Photo by John Li / Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Britain's Prince Charles (R) and Camilla Parker Bowles (L) leavee the Ritz Hotel after a private party to celebrate the succes of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II jubilee in central London 14 november 2002. (Photo credit:  NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
NORFOLK,ENGLAND - JULY 23: Camilla Parker Bowles meets fans at the Sandringham Flower Show July 23, 2003 at Sandringham in Norfolk, England. (Photo By Steve Finn/Getty Images)
LONDON - JULY 20: Camilla Parker-Bowles enjoys the speech by the Prince of Wales to London black taxi drivers, during a garden reception in the grounds of Clarence House, on July 20, 2004 in London. (Photo by ROTA/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: The Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles arrive for a charity concert, 11 November 2004 to celebrate the career of music producer Trevor Horn. Charles's partner joined him as he attended the official engagement, titled Produced By Trevor Horn, a concert for the Prince's Trust at London's Wembley Arena. (Photo credit: ANDREW PARSONS/AFP/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles arrive for a party at Windsor Castle after announcing their engagement earlier 10 February, 2005. Britain's Prince Charles and his longtime companion Camilla Parker Bowles are to marry, his office announced Thursday, putting the official seal on a relationship that first blossomed 35 years ago. (Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM: Camilla Parker Bowles shows off her engagement ring as she and Prince Charles arrive for a party at Windsor Castle after announcing their engagement earlier 10 February, 2005. Britain's Prince Charles and his longtime companion Camilla Parker Bowles are to marry, his office announced Thursday, putting the official seal on a relationship that first blossomed 35 years ago.  (Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: HRH Prince Charles (L) and fiancee Camilla Parker Bowles leave church accompanied by the Rev. Christopher Mulholland, following the Sunday service at St Lawrence Church on March 13, 2005 in Gloucestershire, England. (Photo by Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales, and his new wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall and guests (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
HRH Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles during The Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Charles and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles - Outside at Guildhall in Windsor, Great Britain. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: HRH Prince Charles & The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles depart the Civil Ceremony where they were legally married, at The Guildhall, Windsor on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
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In the memos, the sometimes quirky prince, known for his commitment to organic farming and traditional architecture, freely expresses himself on matters like badger culling, the readiness of the Armed Forces and standards for the use of alternative medicines.

In one letter to Blair on Sept. 8, 2004, the future king and military veteran raises concerns about the British Armed Forces not getting enough resources. He mentions delays in delivering military aircraft due to budgetary pressures.

"I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources," Charles wrote.

Funding levels for the military is a political topic for any country's government.

The British government tried for years to keep the letters secret - fearing that publishing them might damage public perceptions of Charles' neutrality - but eventually lost a Freedom of Information case brought by The Guardian newspaper.

Charles' press office issued a statement Wednesday defending the letters. It said Charles was "raising issues of public concern and trying to find practical ways to address the issues."

The royal statement said Charles was expressing concerns about issues that he has raised before, including "the state of farming, the preservation and regeneration of historic buildings" and other matters.

Charles had earlier said he is unhappy that his privacy was not protected. The government has also indicated it may tighten rules to protect future royal communications from release under the Freedom of Information act.

There were signs of tension Wednesday as an angry senior press officer working for Charles tore the cover off the microphone being used by a TV reporter who asked the prince about the letters.

The government was ordered to release the letters in 2012 after losing its court case. But the attorney general vetoed the decision, arguing that Charles' letters were part of his preparation to become king and should be kept private.

That was upheld by one court, but then overturned in 2014 by the Court of Appeal, which decided there was no justification for overturning the earlier decision. Britain's Supreme Court in March supported that ruling, leading to Wednesday's publication of the memos.


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