Prince Charles' Reported Immigration Remark Triggers Fears for His Kingship

Prince Charles has reportedly privately described a U.K. government immigration policy as "appalling," rekindling a long-standing debate about his prospects as king.

The Prince of Wales was said to be "more than disappointed" at plans by the British Home Office to deport asylum seekers who enter the U.K. illegally more than 4,000 miles to Rwanda to apply for asylum there, according to London's The Times.

Charles is not the first to criticize the scheme, which is being fought in the courts by human rights lawyers, to the consternation of right-wing newspapers, including the Daily Mail.

In fact, polling by YouGov in April suggested that 42 percent opposed the policy compared to 35 percent who supported it. However, while more may oppose the policy than support it, those numbers speak of a nation divided on the subject, not united.

Charles drew criticism from both left and right due to the convention that members of the royal family should not engage with controversial, politically charged subjects.

And attention quickly turned to whether the comments could compromise his future as King Charles III.

On the right of British politics, Nigel Farage, GB News host and former U.K. Independence Party leader, wrote on Twitter: "Unless Prince Charles wants to destroy the monarchy he had better shut up fast."

And Julia Hartley-Brewer, a Talk TV host, wrote: "Prince Charles is entitled to his own opinions. But he is not entitled to allow those opinions to be known if he wants to be king. That's the deal."

Prince Charles at Royal Cornwall Show
Prince Charles, seen at the Royal Cornwall Show, on June 10, 2022, reportedly said the U.K. Government policy of flying asylum seekers to Rwanda was "appalling." Charles has previously said he would not be a meddling king. Hugh Hastings - WPA Pool/Getty Images

On the left of British politics, Sean O'Grady, a columnist for The Independent, wrote: "Whether he's right or wrong, a period of silence, private and public, from the heir to the throne would be welcome.

"For his own good, and that of the House of Windsor, he needs to stay out of controversy, and, unless those he is speaking to are completely trustworthy, then his lips must be sealed, and especially as the era of Charles III nears."

The debate about Charles' strongly held political views and his tendency to make them known, one way or another, to those in power is long-standing.

Charles famously wrote letters to government ministers during Tony Blair's era as British Prime Minister, including on such niche concerns as the fate of the Patagonian toothfish.

More controversially The Mail on Sunday reported in 2017 that he had urged Blair to scrap a ban on fox hunting because he felt opposition to the sport was motivated by class hate.

During an interview for his 70th birthday, Charles said he would take a back seat once he became king.

On the BBC documentary Prince, Son & Heir: Charles at 70 in 2018, Charles said: "I'm not that stupid, I do realize that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So of course, you know I understand entirely how that should operate."

However, his reign may be closer on the horizon now as the queen, aged 96, has pulled out of numerous public visits, including during her Platinum Jubilee.

In fact, Charles read her speech at the State Opening of Parliament as he takes on more and more of the formal duties of Britain's head of state.

Prince Charles at State Opening
Prince Charles reads the Queen's speech during the State Opening of Parliament on May 10, 2022. Queen Elizabeth II pulled out due to episodic mobility problems. Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Elizabeth's recent episodic mobility problems have left the monarchy in a grey area between reigns, with Charles and William frequently put up as the face of the monarchy on a global stage.

Charles' comments on his birthday may have seemed simple to him at the time—it would be "stupid" to think he would continue with his political interventions once formally on the throne.

What Charles did not know when he spoke to the BBC for the 2018 documentary, is that there may be a lengthy period when he is neither king nor strictly speaking an ordinary heir to the throne, something that is becoming clear as the queen's health issues cause Charles to take on more of her duties.

The prince and the palace may have to decide for themselves when they believe the mood has changed and the prince will take a more cautious approach.

A spokesperson for Clarence House, which represents Charles, said: "We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral. Matters of policy are decisions for government."

According to The Guardian, a government spokesperson said: "Our world-leading partnership with Rwanda will see those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK relocated there to have their claims considered and rebuild their lives.

"We are confident the agreement is fully compliant with all national and international law."

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast: