Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Charles' diary lays thoughts bare

Prince Charles, Chris Patten
Charles was in Hong Kong in 1997 to attend the handover to China

The diary which sparked Prince Charles' court fight with the Mail on Sunday has been released by his lawyers amid claims it was not a "private" journal.

The 3,000-word document is said to have been written as the Prince flew back from Hong Kong in 1997 after attending the former colony's handover to China.

He mentioned talks with Tony Blair and the "ridiculous rigmarole" of meeting the then Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

But his surprise at not being seated in first class is also touched upon.

Charles says copies of eight journals were handed to the Mail on Sunday by his ex-employee.

He is suing the paper's owners, Associated Newspapers, for breach of copyright and confidentiality following the publication of an article in November 2005.

The prince's legal team says Charles gave copies of his journals only to family members, friends and advisers and denies the Mail on Sunday's claim that his aim was to influence political opinion.

'Astonishing'

In the diary, the prince also talked of official events on the Royal Yacht Britannia and his "overwhelming sadness" that the vessel was soon to be "ex-commissioned".

747
The prince was "surprised" to find himself in club class

"I stood on the deck gazing at the departing skyline of Hong Kong and telling myself perhaps it is good for the soul to have to say goodbye to the dear yacht in the same year. Perhaps..."

He recounted that Britannia was followed by a Chinese patrol craft during his stay.

"The whole business was drearily reminiscent of the Soviets and their behaviour when I was in the Royal Navy over 20 years previously."

Such is the end of Empire, I sighed to myself
Entry in Prince Charles' journal

The prince said Mr Blair was a "most enjoyable" person to talk to - "perhaps partly due to his being younger than me.

"He also gives the impression of listening to what one says, which I find astonishing."

But he rued the fact that the prime minister was in "such a hurry".

He added: "They then take decisions based on market research and focus groups, on the papers produced by political advisers and civil servants none of whom will have ever experienced what it is they are taking decisions about."

Talking of his outward journey on a British Airways 747, Charles writes: "It took me some time to realise that this was not first class(!) although it puzzled me as to why the seat seemed so uncomfortable."

He then discovered dignitaries, including Edward Heath, Douglas Hurd, "the new Foreign Secretary Robin Cook", and Paddy Ashdown, were all "in First Class immediately below us".

"Such is the end of Empire, I sighed to myself," Charles wrote.

'Propaganda' speech

Charles titled his diary The Handover of Hong Kong or The Great Chinese Takeaway.

The extracts already published in the Mail on Sunday showed the prince described Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks" and one ceremony as an "awful Soviet-style" performance.

In the background was the sneaking worry about creeping corruption and the gradual undermining of Hong Kong's greatest asset - the rule of law
Entry in Prince Charles' journal

Of a banquet during his stay, Charles also wrote of sitting next to the Chinese foreign minister, "who must have had considerable difficulty knowing what to make of me".

The Prince described the Chinese president and "his cronies" at a handover dinner that followed.

The president "gave a kind of propaganda speech which was loudly cheered by the bussed-in party faithful at the suitable moment in the text," Charles wrote.

"At the end of this awful Soviet-style display we had to watch the Chinese soldiers goose-step on to the stage and haul down the Union Jack and raise the ultimate flag."

The journal continued: "Thus we left Hong Kong to her fate and the hope that Martin Lee, the leader of the Democrats, would not be arrested..."

He said everyone at another reception was "thoroughly optimistic" about Hong Kong's future.

"But in the background was the sneaking worry about creeping corruption and the gradual undermining of Hong Kong's greatest asset - the rule of law."

He said the Chinese army was also a concern because soldiers' low pay meant there may be "irresistible temptations to intimidate or threaten local people".



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Hear extracts from Prince Charles' diary



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