Britain is famous for many things – fish and chips, grey and gloomy weather, our previous penchant for colonialism, and of course the Royal Family with Queen Elizabeth II ruling over us since taking the throne in 1953. The political system here is a little confusing as we have a ‘constitutional monarchy’, where the supreme power held by the monarch is largely ceremonial with actual political power exercised by others. Traditionally the modern British monarch remains politically neutral, with the Queen reluctant to share her views on anything that might be deemed inappropriate. However, over the years a handful of Her Majesty’s opinions have been slipped to her loyal subjects including her views on Margret Thatcher, the reluctance of some world leaders to tackle climate change, and her experiences of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. In comparison, her eldest child and heir to the throne Charles, Prince of Wales, has been unusually public in expressing his views and in the past has come under scrutiny amidst claims that he regularly writes to Government Ministers.
In 2015, his letters to government officials including the former Prime Minister Tony Blair were revealed to the public despite an attempt to amend the Freedom of Information Act to block their release. The letters, later named the “black spider memos” due to the princes distinctive handwriting, were sent by Prince Charles in a private capacity, however some believe them to be evidence of his undue influence over British government policy. For example, in the late 90s, the prince of Wales wrote to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, criticising the development of genetically modified foods. He praised Mr Blair for agreeing to meet the opponents of genetic modification, defending them from the charge that they were “hysterical, extreme and anti-progressive”. The former Prime Minister was not impressed and felt the heir to the throne overstepped the constitutional boundaries and was immorally trying to influence Government policy. His concerns grew so great that he even raised them with the Queen which did little to deter the Prince.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Prince of Wales strongly denounced the development of GM crops, accusing biotech companies of conducing a “gigantic experiment I think with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong”. The Prince, who once accused genetic engineers of taking us into “realms that belong to God and God alone”, based his anti-GM views on the “widespread environmental damage in India” caused by the Green Revolution and Western Australia’s “huge salinisation problems”. However at the time of publication, no GM crops were grown in Australia and his concerns regarding India’s Green Revolution – specifically the huge demand for water -was an issue well before GM cotton arrived on the scene.
The Green Revolution, sometimes known as the Third Agricultural Revolution, refers to a period of time when the productivity of global agriculture increased dramatically as a result of new technologies. During this period, high-yielding crops were developed, and new chemical fertilisers, synthetic herbicides and pesticides were created. When combined with a controlled water supply and new methods of cultivation, we were able to prevent famine and helped India move from a state of dependence to a state of independence in terms of food production. However, like so many well-meaning environmentalists, Prince Charles romanticises archaic food production in the developing world, believing that villages in rural India should remain as they are as showpiece to be observed by the well-fed elite. Whilst it is true that multinationals don’t exist to feed the poor but to generate profit for investors, the Indian people are in favour of the best technology and the best seeds. Who are we to discourage or flat out deny them of the means to feed their population? As American scientist Norman Borlaug, who became famous for his involvement in the Green Revolution and who is credited with saving over a billion lives, said…
“Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things” – Norman Borlaug
The heir to the throne’s belief that GM technology will cause the “biggest disaster environment of all time” has put him at odds with the scientific community, British government, and even his own sister Princess Anne who strongly backed GM crops, saying she would grow them on her own land and that GM livestock would be a “bonus”.
Whilst is easy to dismiss Prince Charles as a lingering relic of an archaic hierarchical class structure with no real clout other than being a talking head for people who fear a technology they don’t understand, the truth is that for decades he has exploited his privileged position to attempt to influence Government policy and nowhere is this more apparent than his promotion of alternative medicine within the NHS.
The origins of Prince Charles’ love affair with quackery are not difficult to trace. The Royal Family is famous for using questionable treatments while they are healthy, yet employing the very best conventional medicine money can buy as soon as they are ill. Avogadro’s constant defying homeopathy is a family favourite with the Queen’s father, George VI, relaying on it as much as he did on conventional medicine. He even went as far as to name one of his racehorses Hypericum after a homeopathic remedy. The Queen herself travelled with a small leather case that contained a plethora of homeopathic remedies including arsnicum album for food poisoning, cocculus for travel sickness, nux vomica for indigestion and arnica, for jetlag and bruising.
Prince Charles’ personal foray into the world of alternative medicine started whilst on a journey of “spiritual discovery” into the wilderness of northern Kenya in 1974. His guru and guide was the late Laurens van der Post – a man who after his death was described by a biographer as “a fraud, a fantasist, a liar, a serial adulterer and a paternalist”. Someone who falsified his Army records and inflated his own importance at every possible opportunity and fathered a child with a 14-year-old girl entrusted to him during a sea voyage. Van der Post, who would later become Prince William’s Godfather, introduced Prince Charles to Carl Jugs’ idea of ‘collective unconscious’ -a form of vitalism which is the belief that living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain a non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things. Many believe this is the moment Prince Charles drank the Cool Aid as virtually every form of the otherwise hight diverse range of alternative therapies is based on the assumption that some sort of vital force (also sometimes called “life force” and “life energy,” as well as qi or prana in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, respectively) or energy exists.
In 1982, Prince Charles, who has a Bachelor of Arts and no formal medical training, was made President of the British Medical Association (BMA). In a speech entitled ‘Complementary Medicine’, he lambasted the medical community’s hostility towards unorthodox and unconventional medical treatments. Stating that science has become estranged from nature and that modern medicine, for all its breathtaking successes, has become like the Tower of Pisa – slightly off-balance.
‘Through the centuries, healing has been practised by folk healers who are guided by traditional wisdom which sees illness as a disorder of the whole person, involving not only the patient’s body, but his mind, his self-image, his dependence on the physical and social environment, as well as his relation to the cosmos.’ – Prince Charles
As the comments were made by Prince Charles in a professional capacity as the President of the BMA, the medics who he lectured commissioned a report investigating the feasibility and potential value in alternative medicine which promptly condemned it as utter nonsense. For example, the report raised several concerns with chiropractic, stating that it was incompatible with scientific knowledge, and should be rejected by anyone who accepted the validity of science. The report’s findings however did not deter PrinceCharles who seems to have continued lobbying for the statutory regulation of chiropractors and in 1993/1994, due in part to his influence it finally became a reality.
In 1993, Prince Charles founded the Foundation for Integrated Health to promote complementary and alternative medicine as well as lobbying for its inclusion in the National Health Service (NHS). The foundation stocked controversy in the public over its campaign encouraging general practitioners to offer herbal and other alternative treatments to NHS patients. It was closed down in 2010 amidst allegations of money laundering and fraud but simply rebranded itself as The College of Medicine after the scandal.
In 2004, Prince Charles publicly supported Gerson Therapy – an alternative cancer cure developed by German-born American doctor named Max Gerson who believed that all disease is caused by the accumulation of unspecified toxins. His therapy recommends patients to consume a predominately vegetarian diet along with enemas of coffee, castor oil and sometimes hydrogen peroxide or ozone. Gerson therapy can lead to several significant health problems and even death, with some relying on the therapy alone while avoiding or delaying conventional medical care. Blogger Jessica Ainscough, better known as “The Wellness Warrior”, was a major proponent of the Gerson diet after her second diagnosis of cancer. To her 1.5. million followers in an article titled “I’m healing myself from cancer naturally”, she wrote “I am ecstatic to report that it has worked for me. I have had no cancer spread, no more lumps pop up (they were popping up rapidly before) and I can actually see some of my tumors coming out through my skin and disappearing’”. Ainscough, who earned a reported “six figures” income form the “Wellness Warrior” brand, later in her final weeks of life returned to conventional medical care to treat a large fumigating tumour that had been non-stop bleeding for ten months prior. Her extremely rare and difficult-to-treat cancer eventually lead to her sad but not unexpected death which happened within the expected time range for patients who do not undergo surgery.
Professor Michal Baum, one of the UK’s most emanated oncologists, was invited to respond in an open letter to the British Medical Journal to Prince Charles regarding his support of Gerson Therapy.
“Over the past 20 years I have treated thousands of patients with cancer and lost some dear friends and relatives to this dreaded disease…The power of my authority comes with knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer research…Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth…I don’t begrudge you that authority and we probably share many opinions about art and architecture, but I do beg you to exercise your power with extreme caution when advising patients with life threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies” – Professor Michal Baum
In 2005, a report commissioned by Prince Charles to examine the possibility of integrating alternative medicine into the health care system as a way for the government to save money we published. The Smallwood-Report, written by economist Christopher Smallwood, stated that £480 million could be saved if family doctors offered homeopathy as alternative to standard drugs and a further £3.5 billion could be clawed back if spinal manipulation was offered to those with back pain.
The report was arguably a danger to public health, leading to the editor of The Lancet Richard Horton to publicly state that it contained “dangerous nonsense”. Alternative medicine academic researcher Edzard Ernst stated that “its conclusions were written before the authors had searched for the evidence that might match them”, which resulted in the Prince’s private secretary filing a complaint to Ernst University. Vice-chancellor Steve Smith instituted disciplinary proceedings against Ernst and although he was eventually exonerated, his department was disbanded due to stoppage of funding and he was forced into early retirement. Steve Smith was rewarded with a knighthood in 2011.
I have no doubt that Prince Charles means well but that does not change the fact that he is a threat to the health of the nation and a threat to global food security. Believe me when I say that I have barley scratched the surface of the damage the heir to the throne has caused to the health of the nation. For decades now, using our own money, he has been eroding away our health care system by opening up the door to quacks and charlatans. Worryingly, one day Prince Charles will be King and will have a weekly audience with the Prime Minister. When that day comes, I hope for our sake the Prime Minister puts him in his place as simply a tourist attraction and relic of the past.