Heir to throne sparks row with Ladybird book

Against the tide: Prince Charles is famous for his ‘black spider’ memos to ministers. © PA

The UK’s future king yesterday published a picture book about the risks of climate change. He says it explains the science. Others say it is deeply slanted — and undermines the monarchy.

A rescue boat makes its way down a flooded English high street towards people stranded on a rooftop. A farmer stands in a barren field full of dead crops. A ship makes its way through melting sea ice in the Arctic.

These are illustrations from a new book co-authored by Prince Charles about climate change and calling for action to stop it. The book is the first in a new series of Ladybird books for adults on topics from evolution to quantum mechanics.

The Prince says climate change is the most important issue facing the world. ‘I hope this little book will enable a few more people to see the troubling situation that we find ourselves in,’ he told Sky News. It is the very first Ladybird book to be peer-reviewed by scientists.

But the Prince’s intervention is controversial. Although the vast majority of scientists agree that man-made climate change is causing rapid global warming, many sceptics disagree.

Some question whether global warming is real while others doubt that carbon dioxide emissions can be linked to extreme weather. Prince Charles dismisses them as ‘the headless chicken brigade’.

Long ago when kings and queens decreed the law, he could quite literally have chopped off their heads. But modern monarchs are expected to remain silent on contentious issues. The Netflix series The Crown shows a young Queen Elizabeth II struggling to contain her strong opinions on a range of topics from her sister’s marriage to the Suez Crisis.

More recently, Buckingham Palace reacted furiously at The Sun’s story ‘Queen backs Brexit’ in the run-up to last year’s EU referendum. ‘The Queen remains politically neutral, as she has for 63 years,’ said the Palace in its complaint to the press regulator IPSO.

Although British monarchs once had absolute power, they have been gradually losing authority since the signing of Magna Carta in 1215, which established legal restraints on the king’s power. Now the monarch is a largely ceremonial figure who sits ‘above’ politics.

So if Prince Charles infringes this convention when he takes the throne, will he have right on his side?

Royal mess

The royals are unelected and do not have any business sticking their noses into public debates, say both traditionalists and anti-monarchists. Republicans argue, for example, that Prince Charles’s famous handwritten letters (the ‘black spider’ memos) to ministers on public policy should never have been sent.

But his friends say Charles is just pointing out the facts. He is making use of the platform he has through an accident of birth to act in the best interests of the country and the world. Not to do so would be a betrayal of his responsibilities as a human being — and future monarch.

You Decide

  1. Is Prince Charles right to speak out on climate change? What about other topics?
  2. Should the royal family should be abolished in favour of an elected president as in the USA?


  1. Ladybird books are famous for their illustrations. Draw a cartoon showing how you think climate change will affect life in the future.
  2. Imagine you are the king or queen and are only allowed to speak out about one topic. Write a side of A4 explaining what you would choose and why.

Some People Say...

“Coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the global warming hoax?”

Donald Trump

What do you think?

Q & A

Why does it matter what Prince Charles thinks? He doesn’t have any power to do anything about it.
The British monarch is the head of state, and hosts other world leaders on state visits. There have been rumours that Donald Trump could come for a royal banquet later this year. The monarch also technically has the power of veto over laws passed by Parliament. A recent play, Charles III, explored what would happen if Prince Charles refused to sign a law once he became king, triggering a constitutional crisis.
Why does Prince Charles care about climate change so much?
The Prince has a longstanding interest in farming and ecology. He has said that he thinks climate change is the biggest threat to the planet that could cause ‘potentially devastating consequences later on’.

Word Watch

Ladybird books
Educational hardback titles for children, in series such as Adventures from History, were published with great success in the 1950s and 1960s. Charles’s book begins a new series from Penguin for adults, explaining concepts such as evolution and quantum mechanics.
When scientists submit a paper to a journal, their work is reviewed by other scientists to make sure it is sound before it is officially published.
Suez Crisis
Britain invaded Egypt in 1956 after it seized control of the Suez Canal, but withdrew under international pressure. The episode was seen as a major embarrassment for the government.
63 years
Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch on September 9th 2015, surpassing the record set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation was set up after the Leveson Inquiry into the conduct of the media. It ruled that the ‘Queen backs Brexit’ headline was inaccurate.
In the UK this refers to people who would prefer to have a political system without a monarchy, known as a republic.

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