William the last Prince of Wales? It has never been more likely
VIPs don’t all get special treatment in the Senedd. When the heir apparent visited this month there was no red carpet or regalia. Instead the only hallmarks of a significant event were the security detail in tow. Just as you’d expect when a foreign dignitary – be it royalty, ambassadors, government ministers – step into land unfamiliar to them.
For some that is fitting for a title with a shallow depth as the Prince of Wales.
Prince William’s appearance at the Senedd did little to suggest otherwise. The engagement fed the ever-consumable debate about what the nature of his relationship with Wales was altogether. Polarised by a prince and much else the Welsh will never agree.
On one side, Michael Sheen stirs republicanism to sympathetic social media audiences. Meanwhile Andrew RT Davies heaps praise on bended knee for the monarchy no matter the context. Neither are students of realpolitik.
Unlike Charles, when Prince of Wales, who came to understand the complexity of his family’s relationship with the Welsh. Though the majority were – and still are – dedicated subjects, the title conferred to the heir to the throne created an imbalance with this part of Britain.
The shrewd operator that was the late Queen implemented a clear philosophy of being visible and respectable in a Welsh context. At no better time was this on show recently than when she opened parliament, giving credibility to a new political institution via the weight of the constitutional monarchy.
Also significant was the political space Charles had to operate. As prince, he was successful in projecting an image of a Cymrophile, hosting events at his Llwynywermod cottage while championing the language and rural communities.
Helped by his Welsh-speaking advisors, he came to recognise the power of history. “I am mindful of how the title of Prince of Wales goes back to those great Welsh rulers, such as Llywelyn ap Gruffudd,” he said in 2018 when opening a bridge renamed in his honour. “Whose memory is still rightly honoured by all who value a true understanding of our past.”
This is one way to confront the ghosts of medieval times: if you can beat the Welsh princes, join them too.
It will not be so easy for William, which may explain the King’s haste to appoint him as Tywysog Cymru.
Finding a role for an English-born prince in a newly politically devolved, increasingly left-wing, bilingual, communitarian (yet still royalist) country is one of the Royal Family’s greatest challenges this decade. And there is urgency to address it.
Charles had decades from a young age to slowly assimilate into a part-time Welshness; William must look relevant as a middle-aged non-native prince.
Today’s Welsh leaders, Tywysogion modern Cymru, have already made up their minds: there can be no repeat of the past.
From the day he was given the title, Labour and Plaid Cymru figures boxed in Kensington Palace into what (minimal) role William should have in Welsh society. A “national conversation” should take place about the future of the Prince of Wales title, Mark Drakeford and Adam Price agreed, perhaps irked by the unwise decision not to consult the Welsh Government on the King’s decision.
Backbenchers from both parties said a re-run of a Caernarfon investiture was impossible. Prominent republicans continue to dominate the media with arguments about the absurdity of a prince in modern day Wales.
Royals can breathe a sigh of relief that this group is in the minority – for now.
Pressure from the Welsh political establishment has been effective. When the Prince and Princess of Wales visited the country on their first official engagement, a statement by their office clarified that there were no plans for an investiture “anything like” over half a century ago.
Barely six weeks later, William told members of the Senedd that no ceremony would take place.
What irony that politicians (as in 1911 and 1969) influenced the outcome of the investiture. The difference this time is that there won’t be one at all.
For the Royal Family there have been other considerations to shelve any extravagance, particularly during economic recession. Yet ultimately the decision to abandon investiture plans — the most visible manifestation of the modern day Prince of Wales — is an admission of the risk. There was little to be gained by any formal ceremony: the public, but most importantly Welsh politicians, had no overwhelming desire for pomp and pageantry in a country where national institutions now stretch across sport, government and culture.
The Prince of Wales is focused instead on “deepening the trust and respect of the people of Wales.” Engagements in ‘safe’ areas where the Waleses can expect support, such as their former home in Ynys Môn, will help achieve this. So too will the perpetual romantic allure of their royal institution itself, as well as the celebrity appeal of the Princess of Wales to younger audiences who are crucial to secure the future of the monarchy.
But complacency and lethargy have crept into public display. The embarrassing scenes of William supporting both England and Wales in the football World Cup was easily avoidable, had careful consideration been given to his future patronages upon becoming Prince of Wales. Meaningful sympathy would have been won if William had bothered to learn the Welsh language over his life, rather than heartily remark he needs to “brush up” on Cymraeg. There are few clues as to what he will focus on as Prince of Wales as well. He visited the Senedd to understand the “key issues facing people” — he must show that he understands what they are.
If William fails to do so, it will create a potentially devastating cocktail. An emboldened political leadership has substantially reduced the political space to operate as a royal in Wales.
Strategic miscalculations have put Kensington Palace on the backfoot when it comes to the investiture, language and sport.
After barely three months, the relationship that the Prince of Wales has with the country whose title he bears has been reduced to something scaled-down, business-like and professional.
Ifs and buts remain. Though if the winds of change in Wales continue, crystallizing as they often do in political and cultural terms each generation, the hassle of the title may not be worth it for the royals. Yet that’s the key.
Politicians may shape the role of the Prince of Wales but they cannot banish him. British Kings and Queens decide if Wales has a prince. Not its people.
This is an edited extract from Theo Davies-Lewis’ lecture, William: The Last Prince of Wales?, delivered in Llanelli
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If Charles “understood the complexity of his family’s relationship with the Welsh” WHY ON EARTH, did he parachute Willy Winsock on us with no discussion whatsoever? “…Though the majority were – and still are – dedicated subjects” You REALLY don’t get the Welsh. This is about inertia. Apathy to the cause of a free and independent Cymru, not a slavish adherence to the questionable Union (At any public event which isn’t a royal visit, count the number of “dedicated subjects” singing GSTK. Hint. You should only need the one hand, not including thumbs). These are the ones who merely accept… Read more »
I will drink to that the last ENGLISH/GERMAN PRINCE OF WALES
This talk of what the Royals bring to Wales is a joke, Princess Diana is probably the most famous Princess of Wales in our country’s history, completely adored in the USA and yet during the world cup how many yanks knew that Wales was a country? Royalty brings nothing of intrinsic value to anything that they do #abolishthemonarchy
please somebody argue about what they do for charities, I dare you.
Exactly, name another nation that allows another to use an Historical title from theirs. A title mind you that has no Authority or Legal function thanks to the Legitimate one disappearing with Owain Glyndwr. It’s Absolutely Abhorrent. They get away with it because just as many Welsh don’t know their Nations History.
The argument about whether Cymru should have a POW or not is pointless in Cymru as what we think matters little to the royal family and UK government – they’ve already proven that by not consulting us at all before Charles’ very first televised speech. We will only have a say – when we are finally independent. Let us get on and gain it, ignore this cuckoo prince.
Yes I mostly agree but political pressure does have an effect. There will be no investiture fuss thrust on us because of protest.
So they can do it without pushback! That makes the situation even worse. And shows you exactly what they think of us, and the ego behind knowing they can get away with it.
It just seems to be the most obvious thing to have had him learn Welsh as a kid. It would have been a massive PR victory.
Surely You mean “The last Fake, Prince of Wales”?
What sycophantic drivel. The Royal Family do not respect us. Charles has never been a Cymrophile and was largely tolerated due to affection for the Queen. Don’t be so sure that there will be no investiture. William has said from the outset that before any investiture takes place, it is his intention to “develop” and “deepen” an understanding of Wales and its’ people. An absurd comment given he has had 40 years to do so, and we have only ever been around a 5-hour car journey from Buckingham Palace. Indeed, I don’t believe William and Kate understand how patronising, insulting… Read more »
What a strangely worded piece. Where do you find them?
Before NC he apparently wrote for various right wing organs
We are tainted by association with this title. The so-called ‘Prince of Wales’ locks us into a dying Imperialist edifice. Time for Cymry to wake up and smell the coffee.
The only possible benefit of having a royal figurehead for our nation would be if s/he projected the culture, identity and brand of Wales on an international stage. But Charles failed abysmally in this respect. And William is even less qualified to do this.
On the contrary, the Prince of Wales obscures our culture, identity and brand, because the Prince of Wales is completely identified with England, English culture and Englishness.
Exactly, they take the name Wales and Welsh but they are, and are seen as English. All designed to make it seem that Wales (and in turn Britain) belong to England. However We can’t expect others to know this if our people don’t. WE NEED TO BRING IT UP AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY! Remind the World they aren’t British, and Their family isn’t from Wales.
Charlie did try but his view that his position inherits from Llywelyn ap Gruffudd is a bloody insult. The English murdered Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and stuck his rotting head on a spike at the English Tower. Some inheritance. Also William should not pride himself on his “Welsh cottage” (mansion). Second homes are e touchy topic in Wales. I wonder why this article claims Wales is royalist but fails to give any poll numbers to back that?
The title Prince of Wales should never have been gifted to William by his arrogant entitled father without consulting the people of Wales first. We didn’t want Charles as Prince let alone his England supporting balding son & squeeze imposed on us on the cheap.. Abolish the title Prince of Wales and William & Kate should get off their bloated backsides and experience reality rather than leech off the Welsh taxpayer.