Prince Charles’s biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, has claimed it is “extraordinarily unlikely” the prince knew of the alleged “cash for honours” scandal, saying the idea he could have been aware “frankly beggars belief”.
Dimbleby defended the heir to the throne as the Metropolitan police launched an investigation into claims the Prince’s Foundation offered to support a Saudi billionaire donor’s application for citizenship and upgrade his CBE to a knighthood.
The broadcaster and friend of the prince, who wrote Charles’s authorised biography, criticised claims it was “inconceivable” Charles would not have known of the honours offer. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “That is a very colourful thing to have said. ‘Inconceivable’ suggests that there is no possibility other than that he knew. I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that he knew. I think if he had known, he would immediately have taken action about it.”
Clarence House has said the prince had “no knowledge” of the alleged scandal and was “happy to help if asked” with the police investigation, but had not been. His former close aide Michael Fawcett, who has since resigned as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation, allegedly wrote a letter to the Saudi businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, making the offer apparently in return for a generous donation.
Dimbleby said Charles believed in the honours system, understood it, and had conducted many thousands of investitures. “If there has been some scam, some breaking of the law, you honestly think he would have been party to that? It beggars belief,” he said.
He dismissed as insignificant reports in the Daily Mail that the investiture for the Saudi businessman had taken place in Buckingham Palace’s blue drawing room, which the paper said is usually reserved for world leaders, and accused it of “finding fire where there is not even any smoke”.
Praising Charles’s charity work, Dimbleby said the royal was president, not a trustee or chief executive of the charity. And, though once close to Fawcett, it “does not mean that Michael Fawcett would have said to him: ‘I just want you to know that I’m thinking of offering an honour on behalf of the Foundation to a Saudi businessman.’ I mean, come off it”.
He criticised parts of the media’s ability to “turn a non-bombshell into a bombshell” and compared claims Charles must have known to the smearing of the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, “for allegedly not investigating Jimmy Savile”.
The former home office minister Norman Baker, who along with the campaign group Republic reported the allegations to the Metropolitan police as a possible breach of the Honours Act, believed Clarence House would be thrilled with Dimbleby’s interview.
“Arise Sir Jonathan,” Baker said. He added: “When the going gets tough, Jonathan Dimbleby is rolled out to defend the prince.
“The idea that Dimbleby skates over, is the ‘I know nothing’, kind of Manuel [from Fawlty Towers] response to everything. Fact is, we know Charles and Fawcett are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Charles has said he’s the one man he cannot do without. So the idea that Fawcett would be doing stuff without Charles knowing, it is inconceivable,” Baker said.
Mark Borkowski , an author and PR expert, said it appeared to him that Dimbleby’s interview could demonstrate that Charles, his aides and friends “are up for a fight now”.
“They are wheeling out the big guns. Because that was a peerless interview, defending Charles and attacking the Daily Mail. It shows that they are not going to take this lying down. They are not going to go back to ‘never complain, never explain’.”