Imagine this scenario. In the course of your normal working life, you happen to disagree, politely, with the views expressed by a Very Important Person, views which, incidentally, are not taken seriously by anyone else with any professional knowledge of the subject.
Said VIP writes to your boss to complain. Your boss warns you to keep your mouth shut in future, or else. Funds for your job gradually dry up, and six years later you are out of a job.
Soviet Russia? A corrupt Latin American banana republic? This actually happened here, and the VIP is the Prince of Wales, who is being criticised this week for the letters he has been sending for years, in black, spidery handwriting, to politicians in an attempt to convince them of the validity of his often cranky views.
I offer a link to the whole affair, from the respected US online current affairs magazine Slate and therefore presumably free of any pro- or anti-monarchy bias.
The story, broadly, is that of Edzard Ernst, a respected German academic, emeritus professor at Exeter University and, ironically in view of what subsequently happened, at one time a practitioner of “alternative” medicine.
Ernst wrote a memoir, A Scientist in Wonderland. In it, he detailed his experiences at the hands of the Prince and his entourage. He had earlier begun to wonder about the scientific basis of alternative therapies such as homeopathy.
This has no support whatsoever among proper scientists. Studies have shown it does not work, beyond the inevitable placebo effect. There is no reason, based on our knowledge of physics, chemistry or biology, why it should work, either. It is quackery, pure and simple. The marketing of so-called “compounds” based on homeopathy takes great care not to claim it works, because this would be in breach of advertising standards legislation. Needless to say, Charles believes in it implicitly.
Ernst published many papers and two books, all of which concluded all the above. In 2005 he criticised a draft report commissioned by Charles which claimed alternative medicines were cost-effective. A letter arrived at Exeter University from one of Charles’s staff on official stationery claiming he was in “breach of confidence”.
Ernst says he was personally warned not to express an opinion in the future. Support for his department at Exeter dried up, and in 2011 it was disbanded.
We only have his word on much of this – Exeter, as far as I know, has not commented, and the body he worked for appears to have operated with a degree of independence.
We know from this week’s revelations that Charles has used his influence to attempt, successfully, to alter government policy on alternative medicine. It is hard to escape the conclusion that this embittered, obsessive, spoilt man used the accident of his birth to end the career of someone who disagreed, with the backing of all the scientific evidence, with one of his cranky views.
God Save The Queen. For as long as humanly possible, please. And then perhaps we could all grow up and do something about this ridiculous royal charade.