Wales is being softened up for another investiture – the time to say no is now

Picture by Frankie Fouganthin (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Caernarfon was adorned in Union Flags and royal standards over the weekend. No, this most republican of towns hadn’t turned royalist.

The town was being turned into a film set for Netflix series The Crown, which was recreating the Investiture of the Prince of Wales which took place Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

Luckily this was just a historical reenactment.  But it has been clear for some time that Wales is being softened up for another investiture in the next decade or so.

William worked at RAF Valley on Anglesey for a reason. Charles similarly spent time at Aberystwyth University before his investiture.

William even dropped a hint earlier this month that he would “do things differently as Prince of Wales”. Anyone who has spent any time studying the Royal Family’s PR operation will know that these things are never said accidentally.

The ground is being laid for a big change in the Royal Family. Elizabeth II is 92 years old and will, presumably, pass away sometime in the next decade or be unable to continue her day to day work.

After her death, or perhaps before it, Charles will become head of state and William will need to be formally invested as the Prince of Wales. At least, that is the plan.

Although the tradition of giving the heir to the English throne the title Prince of Wales goes back to Edward I, it’s worth noting that the idea of an investiture at Caernarfon was only dreamt up in 1911 by local MP and then Chancellor David Lloyd George as a propaganda exercise.

Rather than a conquered colony, Lloyd George wanted the Welsh people to think of themselves as equal partners in the British Empire. Investing Prince Edward in a castle dressed up with Welsh dragons, leeks and daffodils was the way to demonstrate that.

He also wanted to send a message to other colonies of the British Empire that if they – like Wales – reconciled themselves to life within the Empire they would be similarly rewarded.

A protest against the investiture, March 6th, 1969. Picture by Geoff Charles (1909-2002)

Anachronism

But despite a Brexit-led revival in nostalgia for the days when Britain rules the waves, this colonial way of seeing the world has thankfully gone.

Wales now has its own government and legislature. Greater independence, not knowing its place, is the way forward.

The submissive attitude was fading even in the 1960s and it’s worth reminding ourselves how horribly divisive Charles’ investiture was. Large parts of Wales considered the investiture an insult – their subjugation rubbed in their faces,

There were protests, and two people were killed attempting to place a bomb outside government offices. The ill-feeling lasted for decades and is still felt by many.

Royalists may well enjoy an investiture but we need to appreciate and understand that not everyone has the same love for the Royal Family as some do.

There are many who think they are an anachronism – celebrities living on the public purse at best, a reminder of an unequal feudal system at worst – and their opinions must be respected as well.

To force a divisive investiture on Wales, with all the political ructions that would cause, would be selfish at a time when we need to listen to each other and heal political divisions.

There is no need to invest the Prince of Wales, beyond a PR exercise. The tradition can remain a quirk of the 20th century.

The time to make it clear that Wales doesn’t want another investiture is now. Because once Clarence House announces it, it will be almost impossible for them to row back no matter how unpopular it proves to be.

The mess over the Prince of Wales Bridge proves this. Despite only 17% approving of the plan it went ahead, because it would be too embarrassing for the Royal Household to back down.

By taking a strong stand against any suggestion of another investiture now, these divisive plans could be scrubbed out before they get off the drawing board.

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