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A court rules that Prince Charles’s letters to government ministers won’t go on public record.
LONDON, UK — A court in Britain ruled Tuesday that the public has no right to know the contents of letters Prince Charles wrote to government ministers in an attempt to influence policy decisions.
The ruling keeps the political lobbying efforts by the heir to the throne out of the public record, raising questions over the future monarch’s behind-the-scenes efforts to influence public policy.
Dubbed the “black spider memos” for the prince’s distinctive scratchy handwriting, the 27 letters airing his personal political views were the focus of an eight-year court battle led by the Guardian newspaper.
In September, a tribunal ruled that government must fulfill the Guardian’s freedom of information request and publish the letters. Attorney General Dominic Grieve vetoed the ruling just a month later, arguing that publishing the prince’s "particularly frank" and "most deeply held personal views and beliefs" would damage the future monarch.
"This risk will arise if, through these letters, the Prince of Wales was viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy,” Grieve argued at the time.
“Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king.”
The newspaper plans to appeal the latest decision.
"We are obviously disappointed. We consider the publication of these letters to be squarely in the public interest,” a spokeswoman for the Guardian said Tuesday.
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Critics of the ruling questioned the value of protecting an unelected figure’s ability to influence public policy.
“Absolute disgrace and affront to democratic values,” tweeted Republic, a group campaigning to abolish the monarchy.
“We won a civil war to keep royal noses out of politics so why can't we see what Prince Charles is asking MP's for?” tweeted writer Guy Bailey.