'Touchstone' is an excellent magazine and Mere Comments, its weblog, is a daily stop on my daily digital whirl, so I was surprised to read one of the worst ad hominems I've ever come across on its pages. As a loyal subject of the Crown, I must respond.
Mr Wilfred McClay declares that, since the Prince of Wales was quoted by the BBC saying that he cares about climate change and wants to speak out lest his grandchildren ask him why he kept silent, this 'insufferable and terminably inconsequential playboy' is fair game.
Before I deal with Mr McClay's points, you might like to read the interview that produced such malice (the original BBC link is no longer working, but this one reproduces the same points).
Having mentioned the Prince's concerns, Mr McClay then goes on to suggest, rhetorically, I suspect, some other questions the Prince's grandchildren might ask him:
'Why, they may well ask, did he do so much to undermine the institutions of family and marriage in his society, and the fundamental decencies attached to those institutions, by humiliating those children's paternal grandmother before the world, and carrying on openly with another woman not his wife? Why, they may wonder, did he put the needs of his gonads before the needs of his wife, his children, his family, and the nation? We were just wondering, grandfather....And they may also wonder--just what gives him the right to lecture the world about anything at all?
Hm, well, where to start? (That's rhetorical, too, Mr McClay.)
To start with, the idea that the break up of the marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana contributed in any substantial way to the undermining of the institutions of marriage and the family in my society is so completely and utterly ludicrous that it's almost impossible to know where to begin. Perhaps we should note that Mr McClay is not British, and the fact shows. If one really wants to see the roots of familial breakdown in Britain one has to confront the gradual takeover of the Academy and the media by secularist intellectuals, the passing of a 'no-blame, no-shame' amendment to the divorce laws, the changes to social security policy (under Mrs Thatcher) which granted the same tax privileges to cohabiting couples as to spouses, and so on and so on. To say that anybody, anybody, in Britain decided that, well, because Prince Charles and Princess Diana got divorced then, right, it's all right for me is so ridiculous as to beggar belief.
It may also be worth noting that the national church of which Prince Charles may one day be the head came into existence precisely to allow the sovereign to divorce.
'Why, they may wonder, did he put the needs of his gonads before the needs of his wife, his children, his family, and the nation?'
Sure, he shouldn't have had an affair. I don't think anyone has ever suggested that that was right. But it was hardly unique in royal history, for reasons so obvious that I hope even Mr McClay might understand them. Heirs to the throne marry for reasons of state. If God is gracious they might learn to get along tolerably with their spouse, if God is particularly kind they might even like them, but love is rare indeed. One of the greatest kings in British history, Charles II (obviously, it's the name that does it, Mr McClay), who restored the monarchy after the long puritan nightmare of Cromwell's Protectorate, was as well-known for his amours as for his statesmanship. In Prince Charles's case, we all knew that royal protocol demanded he marry a virgin. Frankly, there aren't that many around these days, and Lady Diana Spencer was the best available.
In days past the couple would quickly have realised their incompatibility, produced the necessary heirs, and then gone quietly on their separate, but still married, ways, making sure no scandal was produced. Unfortunately, Princess Diana and our modern tabloid press conspired together to ensure that was impossible. Of course, the affair and the divorce was wrong, Mr McClay, but I envy you your impregnable moral rectitude. No doubt you would have made a much better fist of it. It is indeed a tragedy for the nation that you are not the heir to the throne.
'And they may also wonder--just what gives him the right to lecture the world about anything at all?'
From reading the article, Mr McClay, I venture that Prince Charles is not lecturing the world about anything. He's suggesting some things, many of which I agree with, others I do not. As to his qualfications for speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation about this. Er, well, heir to the throne? Doesn't that count? Don't Presidents Elect utter the odd word to the media?
Finally, Mr McClay, I would like to ask you a question. When you say of the 'morally stigmatized', in whose company you apparently place the Prince, that instead of:
'repenting for their sins and living a more humble and chastened life, they seek to subsume their sins under the rubric of some infinitely vaster... cause.'
How do you know Prince Charles has not repented of his sins?