Sir Max pens astonishing attack on ‘old man’ Charles

Sir Max Hastings and Prince Charles

Will Charles ever be king? Not if Max Hastings has anything to do with it…

BY David Cairns LAST UPDATED AT 14:59 ON Sun 19 Dec 2010

Veteran journalist Sir Max Hastings has penned a startling attack on Prince Charles, saying he would wreck the institution of monarchy if he became king. He writes: "It would be madness to allow a quirky, stubbornly opinionated and contentious old man to assume the throne."

After Prince William announced his upcoming wedding last month, two major polls suggested the public would prefer him to Charles as king. Courtiers quickly poured cold water on this – and a disparaging statement from an aide to William seemed to rule the possibility out.

Now, writing in the Daily Mail that "the best hope for Britain’s monarchy lies with William and Kate", Hastings deals a serious blow to the resurgent King Charles camp. What makes the diatribe so surprising is that it comes from an establishment figure like Sir Max.

Hastings is a former Daily Telegraph editor famed for his support of the Falklands war - even if he has taken in recent years to writing for the Guardian and is on record as being a Labour voter in 1997. He was knighted in the Queen's birthday honours of 2002 and it's not clear whether Charles as king would have the power to reverse that honour or demand: "Off with his head."

The Mail article betrays the unselfconscious pomposity which has made Hastings the delight of Private Eye and other satirists. "When the Queen dies – as, like all of us, she eventually must…" he intones, breaking the sad news to any of his readers who had believed themselves immortal.

But it is also authoritative. Hastings makes it clear he has spoken to senior royal aides within the inner circle: Charles has been briefed against and the piece will come as a major blow to those implacably opposed to the idea of William taking over from his grandmother.

For all his rejection of Charles, Hastings is careful to make it clear he has every respect for the institution of monarchy. If his prose were not so dignified, he might even be accused of toadying.

"At the heart of the Queen’s brilliant success for almost 60 years is that we have been denied the slightest clue as to what she thinks about anything but dogs and horses," he writes. Elsewhere he makes the claim that Prince Philip's "achievement is often underrated".

Charles, meanwhile, is guilty of "financial profligacy", publishing "ravings" and being "messianic" as he spreads the word about organic farming, homeopathy and kitsch retro architecture. He is "not a bad man, but … a very dangerous one for the monarchy". · 

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