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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 00:56 GMT
Prince accused of 'Welsh nationalism'

George Thomas George Thomas accused Prince Charles of helping nationalism


Newly-released Cabinet papers show that during the Investiture in 1969 the then Welsh Secretary accused the Prince of Wales of making speeches which "boosted Welsh nationalism".

George Thomas, Welsh Secretary between 1968 and 1970, wrote to the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to suggest he had "a discreet word" with the Queen about her son's views.

The Investiture came at the end of a decade of growing pressure for greater recognition of Welsh national identity.

Tension over Investiture

Plaid Cymru had won its first Westminster seat in 1966, and there had been a sustained campaign of civil disobedience to try to secure public recognition for the Welsh language.

The Investiture was seen by nationalists as an attempt to use a British royal occasion to stifle emerging Welsh nationalism.

The then Welsh Secretary, George Thomas, was a hardline opponent of attempts to promote devolution and to improve the legal position of the Welsh language, which at that time was denied official status.

'Dangerous situation'

In later life he became Speaker of the House of Commons and entered the House of Lords as Viscount Tonypandy. He treasured his royal connections, and was invited to read the lesson at the Prince of Wales's wedding.


Investiture of Prince at Caernarfon Castle The Investiture took place against a background of political tension
However, it appears from the new evidence that in the tense political climate of 1969, the Prince's positive remarks about Welsh politics and culture proved too much for Mr Thomas.

In a letter written on July 22, 1969, three weeks after the Investiture at Caernarfon Castle, Mr Thomas said he did not know who the Prince's advisers were but he was concerned that a dangerous situation was developing.

'Political implications'

Mr Thomas said: "On two occasions he has made public speeches which have political implications.

"If the Prince is writing his own speeches, he may well be tempted to go further.

"The enthusiasm of youth is a marvellous spur, but it may lead to speeches that cause real difficulty."

Mr Thomas complained that the Prince was talking about "cultural and political awakening in Wales" and that such a statement was "most helpful for the Nationalists".

'Concentrated attention'

Mr Thomas said the Prince's views were influenced by people he had met during the three months he spent learning Welsh at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.

In his letter Mr Thomas said: "He was subjected to concentrated attention by Welsh Nationalists.

"His tutor, his neighbour in the next room, and the Principal were all dedicated Nationalists.

'Influenced'

"It has become quite evident to me that the Aberystwyth experience has influenced the Prince to a considerable extent."

Mr Thomas, who later became Speaker of the Commons and Viscount Tonypandy, handwrote his letter to avoid his office staff knowing about it.

Senior officials in Downing Street agreed to have a "low-key" discussion with their counterparts in Buckingham Palace.

'Concern'

The Cabinet papers show that the Prince was offered ministerial advice on issues which he was interested in.

A Downing Street official noted: "The Prime Minister recognised that the concern which the Secretary of State for Wales had expressed was a matter which was important."

Another internal note to the Prime Minister said that Prince Charles "may perhaps be modelling himself on his father. But he is in a different constitutional position".

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