RJ: Charles is his father’s son, and his mother’s son. I think you’ve got to remember that the media just sees more now. There were issues going on when the Queen and Prince Philip were touring Australia in 1953. In the middle of a row, when they were up in the hills in Melbourne, tennis rackets were being thrown out the door. I refer to it in my book on Philip. And the Queen politely asked the cameraman who was filming the tour if she could have the film back, and they gave it back! So I don’t think that’s necessarily true of Charles; it’s just that we are in a different age of scrutiny. And to be fair to him on the leaking of the pens, I think they probably hadn’t slept for about 48 hours, as well.
Fitz: You’re his biographer. What sort of a man is Charles?
RJ: I think he’s very dedicated, very hard-working. He’s eccentric as well, in a sort of very “Old English” way. But he’s a very clever guy and I think what I would say is that in the world now there are very few statesmen, but he is one and very well qualified. You only have to look at what he’s done with things like global warming and the environment. So, when you’ve got him as head of the Commonwealth, King of big nations like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, I think it’s quite good to have someone with his kudos, who will be around for the time he has on the world stage that can have an impact.
Fitz: What impact?
RJ: As an example, he spoke eloquently in Germany about the situation in Ukraine, and he doesn’t pull his punches with Russia. Personally, I think that was quite good, but he’s got clout as a statesman because he has continuity, he is not a politician and had been on the world stage a long time building relationships. There have been a lot of prime ministers in that time, say in the UK and Australia, that seem to come and go in five minutes, so [the advantage with] a figure like Charles is you’ve got continuity. You know, when you look at what’s going on in America, and what’s going on in China and Russia, it’s quite good to have a cooler head.
Fitz: But the absurdity of it, Robert? The founding principle of the monarchy is that their blood is blue and they’re better than everybody el- …
RJ: That’s an impression that a republican would say! But that’s not what they think. It’s not what they do. Their blood is very red, they are very human. They don’t expect people to bow to them. They’re there for the greater good. I don’t think that they’re in any way trying to say that they are better than anybody else. And if you actually spent a bit of time watching him, when he’s interacting with say, an Indigenous guy up in the Northern Territory or wherever, he’s on the level.
Fitz: We will put you down as a monarchist then?
RJ: I’m probably a monarchist in the sense of, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But I believe in constructive criticism.
Fitz: I take it you don’t think it’s completely ridiculous that Australia should have a foreign head of state?
RJ: I think it is up to the Australian people to decide and I think that’s what the royals think and have said, too. I think there’s an argument both ways, but I can say he wouldn’t regard himself as a foreign head of state.
Fitz: Well, he’s not an Australian, Rob.
RJ: He’s not an Australian. But as you know, the system, and the solution, is very complex.
Fitz: You don’t think the collapse of the Commonwealth Games, within a year of Charles being on the throne, is an indication that the fealty once felt by the Old Boys of the British Empire to the Crown is no more? That’s not just his doing of course, but still …
Rob: No. It’s obviously a shame that the Commonwealth Games have collapsed, and Charles is the head of the Commonwealth, but I don’t think it’s to do with him. There shouldn’t be confusion between the Crown and the Commonwealth. As to the Games, they used to be called the “friendly games”, but maybe now there’s just too many games, too many world cups, world championships, and of course the Olympics, for the Commonwealth Games to be warranted any more. It might just be as simple as that.
Fitz: Despite your steadfast support of King Charles and the whole Royal thing, you were very frank on television earlier this year basically saying that William and Harry needed to grow the hell up, “stop being boys and start being men”. You said unfortunately they are both very confrontational, and that instead of blurting out their woes every five minutes, they should start supporting their father. And if they don’t, you said, “I do fear for the monarchy in the long term. It might not be on the edge of the precipice, but they’re damn close to it.” That seems harsh on William and Harry? I listened to Harry’s audiobook of Spare, and as a father Charles did not come out of it well …
RJ: Charles is a busy guy. Diana used to complain he was too busy. He was a bit of a workaholic. He wouldn’t be the first father like that. I think that we can all complain about our parents. We can all complain about things but is it wise to? I think Harry should have spent more time on the psychiatrist’s couch …
Fitz: Harry implies that it was Charles who put him on the couch.
RJ: It was William who put him on the couch. After he returned from war, William organised for him to see a psychiatrist. I think it’ll take a while to heal.
Fitz: It can surely never heal with Camilla. After Jeremy Clarkson wrote that he dreamt of Meghan Markle one day being “paraded naked through the streets, while people throw excrement at her”, Camilla went and had lunch with Clarkson the very next day! How could Harry ever break bread with her again?
RJ: I am not sure he ever did much, in the first place.
Fitz: Can you ever see Charles and Harry reconciling?
RJ: I personally hope so. I think they probably will. But whether [Harry] and William will reconcile is another matter entirely.
Fitz: The thrust of Harry’s complaint about the royal family is its relationship with the press. He says it’s co-dependent, that the royals were always leaking against him to get favourable coverage for themselves, and as the spare heir, he became royal road-kill. And that meant the only way he could get his side of the story out was to write his book, and do interviews and the like.
RJ: I think the reason he did it was to make as much money as quickly as he could. He’s an army officer and not the sharpest tool in the shed. I would say that his understanding of how Fleet Street and the royal family works is very naive.
Fitz: Well, tell me Rob, how does it work?
RJ: Well, how does it work for you?
Fitz: I get leaks!
RJ: I am not going to talk about my sources, and never have.
Fitz: Thank you for your time.
Quote of the Week
“I know that Australia’s international reputation can be affected by a no vote. I have no doubt that it would be sending a very negative message about the openness, and the empathy, and the respect and responsibility that the Australian people have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” – Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, at a Yes campaign event in Perth.
Parable of the week
A crow is sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day. A rabbit asks him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?” “Sure,” the crow says, “why not?” So the rabbit sits on the ground below the crow and rests … only to be jumped on by a dingo and eaten. Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very high up.
The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.