The King and the Land Are One
Quizzed about the reason for saving Dumfries House, the Prince of Wales came close to doing the unthinkable and snapping at Alan Titchmarsh. ‘Because I CARE!’ he replied with mock ferocity.
The documentary, ‘Prince Charles: The Royal Restoration’ (ITV, 21:00, 19 May) told the story of Dumfries house, an eighteenth-century Ayrshire mansion saved for the nation through the auspices of Prince Charles. But the prince’s real passion is directed way beyond the house. He believes that the restoration can be made to act as an economic dynamo revitalising the land and the people of the surrounding area and the nearby village of Cumnock.
Titchmarsh did not ask the follow-up question, ‘Why do you care about this project in particular?’. We do not know how HRH would have answered but it seems to me that one reason for his choice of this project is that it is tailor-made for someone whose entire life has been spent in training for the role of king. Denied for the moment the top job, through Dumfries House Charles can act out in microcosm the role of a good and just monarch. Even better, he does not have to be a boring and safe constitutional monarch – we are talking about something much more akin to a king of legend.
In the environs of Cumnock at least he can, like King Arthur, struggle to build a just and happy kingdom for all his subjects. Their prosperity is the ultimate goal. A key feature of the project is that it should touch all sections of society locally: restoration work is planned to support local industry; the excellent tea rooms employ only local folk and, at a fund raising dinner hosted by the prince, the visiting super-rich, lately arrived in their private jets, are served their meal by local lads and lasses who were previously unemployed.
Charles cares because a good king is identified with the people: their prosperity is his prosperity or, as the movie Excalibur succinctly puts it, ‘the king and the land are one’. The practical people of Cumnock probably do not care about mythological models of kingship but, after three decades of depression and unemployment, nobody else is offering them very much. If Charles pulls it off he might yet earn, from them at least, the sought-after soubriquet ‘Charles the Good’. He would be very pleased about that.
James Burge is the author of Dante’s Invention
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