Prince Charles Airs Plans to Modernize Britain's Monarchy
A TV documentary says the heir to the throne would make Buckingham Palace a museum as one way to save tax money.
LONDON — Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, is developing a strategy to modernize his country's monarchy.
A claim that Charles would like his mother to abdicate the throne was jointly denied by the prince and Queen Elizabeth II ahead of a TV documentary, "Charles at 50," in which the claim was made.
But there was no denial of the program's central assertion that the prince wants the monarchy to pay its own way and no longer have to rely on taxes to support it. His reported idea is that revenues from real estate owned by the royal family should be used to finance the monarchy in the 21st century. This arrangement would have the effect of making the monarchy financially independent of government.
The plan envisages closing London's Buckingham Palace as a royal residence and turning it into a museum to house the royal art collection. Charles would live at Windsor Castle in the countryside 15 miles from the British capital.
The program claimed that Charles, as king, would invite Princess Anne, his sister, to act as consort on royal occasions. For, even if he decides to marry his longtime friend Camilla Parker-Bowles, the prince accepts that she could not be his queen because she is a divorce.
The hour-long film also asserted that Charles would like his two brothers - Prince Andrew and Prince Edward - to bow out of high-profile public life. Both princes currently receive salaries that are intended to pay for their activities as "working royals."
Since the death last year of Diana, Princess of Wales, Charles and his advisers have worked hard to improve his popularity. "Charles at 50" was made in cooperation with his team. Throughout this year, and in the aftermath of the death of Diana, opinion polls have consistently shown that the public wants a less formal monarchy and resents using taxpayers' money to support it.
Currently the royal family costs taxpayers about $75 million a year.
"Charles at 50" was televised nationwide last Sunday, a week ahead of the prince's birthday. London Weekend Television, which produced the program, said it was based on detailed briefings by Charles's personal advisers.
There is "no doubt that 'Charles at 50' was an authentic reflection of the prince's thinking," says Anthony Holden, author of a newly published biography of Prince Charles.
He says Charles's advisers have spent the past year "building up his image" and are now "relaying his ideas about the monarchy and what kind of king he wants to be" to the British public.
Mr. Holden points out that some of those ideas are "not necessarily in line with what Queen Elizabeth or Prince Philip, her husband, are thinking about the monarchy's future."
Charles has been widely seen as distancing himself from the queen. One example: the personal Web site he launched this week. The queen had made her foray into cyberspace last year.