UK Prince Charles' letters to ministers finally made public

Reuters News
Posted: May 13, 2015 11:18 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Charles said British troops were under-resourced during the war in Iraq, according to letters from him published on Wednesday which the government had tried to keep secret in case they cast doubt over the future king's political neutrality.

The comment about the armed forces came in a letter from the 66-year-old prince to former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004, one of 27 letters he wrote to former ministers in 2004 and 2005 which were released to the public after a decade of government attempts to block publication.

"I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources," the prince wrote in the letter to Blair.

The Guardian newspaper first requested access to the letters in 2005, but successive governments blocked disclosure. Under Britain's unwritten constitution, the monarch should remain politically neutral, and ministers had feared publication could damage the heir-to-the-throne.

However, in March the Supreme Court agreed a gagging order imposed by the country's former Attorney General was unlawful and allowed the publication of the letters, nicknamed "black-spider memos" because of Charles's scrawled handwriting, a decision Prime Minister David Cameron called "disappointing".

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)