Prince Charles Compared Putin to Hitler in 2014 But 'Got a Lot of Flak'—Biographer

Prince Charles compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler back in 2014, but was criticized for the comment by lawmakers including the Russian president himself, a royal biographer has told Newsweek.

The Prince of Wales made the off-the-cuff remark during a tour of Canada, triggering a debate about the convention of royal impartiality among U.K. politicians and in the press.

Charles' tour was in May 2014, just a few months after Russia had annexed Crimea, and he was talking to a Jewish survivor of the Second World War, Marianne Ferguson, who volunteered at the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax.

Putin himself denounced the remark but, since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the same comparison has been made by many people inside and outside the country.

According to a Daily Mail report in 2014, Charles said: "Now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler."

Robert Jobson, author of Prince Charles at 70, told Newsweek: "He got a lot of flak about it. The Russians criticized him, then there were other people who criticized him.

"That's the whole point of having a free society and free speech. He reads everything and gets all the papers. He understands the world better than a lot of people. It was a fair comment at the time, to be perfectly honest.

"I think people should listen to his comments a lot more than they do. There was a lot of talk about whether it was constitutional this or constitutional that, but his comments are actually very relevant, as has been proven in this case."

Ferguson and her parents had fled to Canada when she was 13, but members of her family died in the Holocaust. The prince's comments to her in 2014 provoked a furious response from Moscow, whose London embassy requested a meeting with the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The BBC quoted Putin himself as saying: "Pass this on both to the prime minister and Prince Charles. He has visited our country many times. I did not hear him say that.

"If that is so, then of course it is unacceptable. I think that he himself understands this. He is a well brought up man. I am acquainted both with him and members of the royal family.

"This is not royal behavior."

In the U.K., the debate about Charles' impartiality prompted one lawmaker—Mike Gapes, then a Labour Party MP—to suggest he should give up the throne if he wanted to get involved in politics.

According to The Guardian, Gapes said: "If Prince Charles wants to make controversial statements on national or international issues, he should abdicate and stand for election."

In an op-ed for the same newspaper, Russia expert Mary Dejevsky wrote: "The last thing anyone needed was an incautious remark wafting in from across the Atlantic that reminds everyone, inside and outside Ukraine, of the age-old divisions that threaten to rip the country apart."

In the week since Moscow's invasion, it has been accused of war crimes and targeting civilian infrastructure. Some have also suggested that the West did not do enough in 2014 to signal to Putin that aggression would not be tolerated.

Jobson said: "That was the beginning in 2014. He was testing the water. That was the whole point. He was clearly wanting to get away with it and he got away with practically everything. The world just let him get on with it."

Penny Junor, author of Camilla biography The Duchess, told Newsweek: "This was Charles being a visionary, as ever. I think he's always been ahead of the curve in everything from organic farming to conservation and the concern about the planet and here about Putin."

Charles spoke out about Russia again on Tuesday while making a speech that discussed freedom and democracy.

He said: "We are seeing those same values under attack today in Ukraine in the most unconscionable way. In the stand we take here, we are in solidarity with all those who are resisting brutal aggression."

Junor said: "I think he's speaking for everybody. He's voicing what people up and down the country are saying. Good on him."

Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin
Prince Charles, pictured in Southend-on-Sea on March 1, where he denounced Russian aggression in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin, who is seen at the National Space Center construction site in Moscow on February 27, previously criticized Charles for comparing him to Hitler. Matthew Childs-WPA Pool and SERGEI GUNEYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images