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George Clarke explores what King Charles could mean for the environment

I feel honoured and privileged to have lived at the same time as Queen Elizabeth II.

For me she was the most incredible woman and Monarch who put her duty to serve the United Kingdom and it’s people above all else.

May she rest in peace.

We now have a new King, His Majesty King Charles III.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet King Charles (then HRH The Prince of Wales) on a number of occasions and I always feel very lucky to receive a Christmas Card personally signed by him and Camilla (The Queen Consort) every year. My Mam and Dad would proudly tell all their friends about it!

I’ve always found his conversations fascinating and staggeringly well-informed. (He also has a wonderful sense of humour).

The Royal Family generates £2.5 billion of income to the UK economy every year. That’s a big return on investment

George Clarke George Clarke Architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador

A powerful ‘brand’

Now, I can understand that when there is such a significant change in the Monarchy in an era of ‘modernisation’, people question whether we should have a Monarch or Royal Family at all.

That debate has resurfaced with the passing of Her Majesty the Queen.

All I’ll say on the matter is that, in my humble view, we have the most amazing benefit of having a King as Head of State (who has a major effect on the country’s image across the globe) while also having an elected parliament and Prime Minister that is accountable to us at every general election.

Regular, short-term democratic elections combined with a long-term and long-serving Head of State. Isn’t that the best of both worlds?

Remember, Britain is often the envy of the world when it comes to our history and our traditions.

To lose our greatest tradition would have a significant, negative impact on ‘Brand Britain’ as well as negatively impacting on our GDP.

The Royal Family is a powerful brand. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

The value of the Monarchy

By association (via The Monarch’s Royal Warrants) it adds considerable value to many products we export overseas.

Companies, brands and many overseas country’s like to be associated with our Monarchy.

I also appreciate that there are those who don’t.

But, it is worth thinking about value. We all pay just over 1p per day (less than £4.50 each per year), towards the Royal Family for them to perform their duties on behalf of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

However the Royal Family generates £2.5 billion of income to the UK economy every year. That is a big return on investment.

The Royal Family are also a significant employer. There are over 1,000 people employed at Buckingham Palace alone, never mind many more at Clarence House, Balmoral and many other households.

Lose the monarchy and job losses will run into thousands.

It’s not my opinion, it’s simply a fact.

The value of fame

And we cannot underestimate their fame.

We live in a world of celebrity. They are without any shadow of doubt the most famous family in the world and, like it or not, that fame has a positive impact on so many people they meet.

I’ve seen first-hand how happy organisations and people are after they have been paid a visit by a senior member of the Royal Family. It is a moment they treasure and talk about for years.

HRH King Charles (then HRH Prince of Wales) wrote me a personal letter in 2010 and my parents still show people it today!

Power to the charities

Also, let’s not forget the incredible charities the Royal Family have set up and the support they have given to millions of people over the years.

The Prince of Wales raised OVER £100 million pounds a year, every single year for his charities.

Do you think he could raise this amount of cash if he were just another ordinary rich bloke?

No. He raised it because his unique position gives him the power and influence to do so.

It was revealed during the Queen’s Jubilee that the Queen being a Patron of 510 charities has helped then raise nearly £1.5 Billion. That is phenomenal!

It would be bad business for the country and devastating for so many charities if were to abolish the Monarchy and The Royal Family at a time when those organisations need as much help and support as they can get right now after the pandemic and what is about to become a devastating energy and cost of living crisis.

The grass isn’t always greener when abandoning tradition and going ‘modern’.

A monstrous carbuncle

I’ve seen this with architecture.

King Charles (the then Prince of Wales) made his famous “monstrous carbuncle” speech in 1984 condemning a modern extension that was proposed on the old National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

The Royal Institute of British Architects went nuts that the Prince had intervened and influenced the modern design being thrown in the bin.

I don’t often get involved in ‘the battle of the architectural styles’.

I love the very best in modern architecture and I love the very best in traditional architecture too.

But, I have to say looking back, in the case of the National Gallery Extension the Prince was right. It was a crap scheme on a much-loved building.

A Foundation for change

Following this, The Prince then went onto to set up his own School of Architecture, which then became The Prince’s Foundation.

It is a brilliant foundation pushing for well-designed homes and communities for a more sustainable world.

The foundation is inspired by the Prince’s passion and philosophy for ‘Harmony’ in understanding the balance, the order and the relationships between ourselves and the natural world.

He has written a wonderful book titled ‘Harmony’ in which he makes “a call to revolution” for us to become a more ecological economy.

And this is where I believe King Charles III can be the most powerful ECO-KING.

Ahead of his time

In his 20’s he was banging the drum to stop the pollution of our rivers and seas across the globe and he was pushing to prevent the damaging affects of plastics.

HRH was pushing for green sustainable buildings way before the architectural profession made the climate emergency a priority.

He has passionately developed an organic food business supplying the likes of Waitrose.

He has campaigned for better housing, for affordable housing and for homes to be as green and well-insulated as they can be.

He has campaigned for good architecture and design to create better communities that push the boundaries of ecological innovation.

Many of the things he was calling for 30 years ago to help protect Planet Earth (and for which he often got an enormous amount of stick for), have now become the popular ecological consensus.

In my view, as an environmentalist, he was ahead of his time and right about most of the problems we face today in regard to the natural environment and the built environment.

He could have sat back, said nothing, and done nothing.

But, instead he spoke out in the face of enormous criticism.

He even managed to get solar panels on the roof of Clarence House. I’ve no idea how he got planning permission for that! But, well done!

Influential eco-Royality

It is also worth remembering that over the years HRH has had the influence to attract an audience with some of the most brilliant and highly educated ecological minds in the world, who he diligently listens to and gains considerable knowledge from.

Unfortunately, now he is King, some believe he needs to remain silent on climate change, sustainability and the built environment.

I hope he doesn’t. King Charles III could be the first Eco-King the world has ever had.

And his son William, who I’m sure will make a fantastic King after Charles III, will be following in his father’s same ecological footsteps.

Just look at Prince William’s EARTHSHOT prize he set up with Sir David Attenborough. What a fantastic global initiative that is.

And I’m proud to say a few of my friends were some of the first prize winners, which has given their Coral Reef Restoration project an enormous boost.

Would the EARTHSHOT prize have been such a success without the new Prince of Wales’ being behind it? I very much doubt it.

The young Prince was also instrumental in helping support the Queen with her ‘Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy’ – an initiative launched in 2015 to begin substantial forest conservation programmes across the globe.

We have an Eco-King and an Eco-Prince who are both very much on the same page.

We need long-term thinking

Remember, Governments and Prime Ministers come and go with their short-term policies and short-term political agendas.

There is no long-term thinking.

Queens and Kings perform their duties and dedicate themselves to serve US for a lifetime.

They don’t think from one Government to the next.

They think from one long lifetime to the next.

If we carry on on our current unsustainable course, the conclusion of Earth’s life story is frighteningly predictable.

It’s not looking good.

Let’s change the ending of that story while we still have a chance.

Also, let’s not rush too quickly to try and abolish an institution that, with our combined support, can be a powerful force for good; one that will definitely benefit people and charities across the world, while making a massive difference to our collective, global fight against climate change.

Long-live the Eco-King!

George Clarke is an Architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador