Speeches and Articles 1968-2012: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales edited by Edited by David Cadman and Suheil Bushrui
Reviewed by David Lorimer
Members of the Royal family are brought up in a tradition of public service and duty perhaps most directly expressed in their patronage for many charitable causes – the Prince of Wales’s motto above simply means ‘I serve’, which he has done for nearly 50 years, and in his case by setting up many charities of his own and becoming the largest charitable entrepreneur in the country. Some readers will know that I published a volume about the relationship between the Prince’s philosophy and his work, Radical Prince, in 2003. An abridged paperback came out in 2004, and has been translated into French, Dutch and Spanish. Then, in 2011, the Prince published his own work Harmony, with Ian Skelly and Tony Juniper. This book sets out the underlying principles of the Prince’s work. Now, David Cadman and Suheil Bushrui have brought together a major collection of the Prince’s speeches and articles, a project that emerged from the publication by the University of Maryland of two collections of speeches and articles for use by students on Professor Suheil Bushrui’s course, The Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race. These were translated into Arabic and an editor described the book as a perfect example of a universal message by a great world leader. The editors have added extensive introductions to each of the sections and the book is illustrated with a few fine watercolours by the Prince himself.
As the Prince observes in his own foreword, he is asked to give a great many speeches, some of which call for considerable thought and reflection, giving him the opportunity to expound ‘the set of principles and outlook that guide and shape all my work’ – at the heart of which is harmony. One can appreciate in the development over more than 30 years how the Prince has proved prescient in many areas: ‘warning of environmental degradation and resource depletion, highlighting the importance of helping young people achieve their true potential, encouraging businesses to care for their communities, supporting planning, architecture and design of a human scale and local identity, exploring the proper relationship between orthodox and complementary healthcare, and encouraging understanding and respect between religions and cultures.’ All these, as he says, ‘have proved to be real problems requiring attention and action.’ It is important to note that the speeches and articles appear in the original form, often as spoken.
Although the primary purpose of these volumes is as an archive, they do tell the story of our generation through the integrated perspective of the Prince and enable readers to realise for themselves the importance of his central principle of harmony. Readers will also be aware of ‘expert’ criticism of many aspects of his work, but the Prince has not shrunk from engaging in important and substantial matters of principle and going against the materialistic and utilitarian spirit of the age, standing up for timeless wisdom in an epoch of information overload. The book is divided into eight parts: harmony; farming, fisheries and forestry; climate change; architecture and the built environment; medicine and health; society, religion and tradition; education; the Prince’s Trust and business in the community. Within these headings is a vast range of topics addressed in different contexts, sometimes named lectures such as the Dimbleby Lecture, the Shakespeare Birthday Lecture, The Sir Albert Howard Lecture, and various anniversary occasions provide a platform for the Prince to give a more detailed account of his views.
One of his fundamental points is that we suffer from a crisis of perception, thinking of ourselves as separate from nature, each other and the Divine. The way we perceive things shapes our values and in turn our behaviour. If we feel disconnected from the Earth, then we feel more justified in manipulating it for our own ends. It makes a great deal of difference if we regard nature as fundamentally sacred. Many people have criticised the Prince for what they regard as one-sided views, without realising the one-sidedness of their own viewpoint, which they take for granted. The Prince is always about bringing together rather than excluding, about a both-and rather than in either-or approach. His underlying philosophy embraces holistic science, integrative medicine and the agro-ecological approach to farming. Hence his criticism of a purely reductionist approach in science and medicine and an exclusively industrial approach to farming.
I was struck by a speech given by the Prince in 1969 at the age of 21, celebrating the life of Gandhi, ‘who took tea with my great-grandfather wearing just a loin cloth and sandals, and who succeeded where no one else had in helping to replace my great-grandfather’s title of Emperor of India with that of Head of the Commonwealth.’ He observes that ‘I myself have discovered in a small way that it is perseverance that counts, even if you are frustrated 10 or 20 times over.’ He has been able to confirm the truth of his own words in his subsequent experience and the sustained need for, as he put it, ‘effort, willpower and self-discipline.’
In the epilogue, the editors observe the strong vein of service running through the Prince’s work, with a special emphasis on the individual in community. This is by no means abstract, but is always driven by ‘specific concerns for particular people in particular places at particular times’ involving the real issues they face, whether this is young people and their potential, hill farmers, stricken pubs, disappearing breeds or broken communities. He is driven by a passion to do what he can to help and especially for education in the broadest sense, which he has supported in many different ways, recently through his Teaching Institute with its summer schools designed to ask fundamental questions and rekindle the passion of teachers. The reader comes away from the volume with a strong sense of the Prince of Wales’s vision and commitment towards a better world for our children not only in terms of environment and communities, but also a richer inner life informed by beauty, compassion and wisdom. Given that the book is an expensive purchase for the individual, I would encourage readers to order it through their local library.