Over the weekend, Prince Charles drew attention for a report in The Times that told the story of a 2015 meeting. According to the newspaper, Qatar’s former prime minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani visited the prince at Clarence House where they had a private one-on-one conversation. It’s not too unusual for Charles to host foreign dignitaries in his London home, though it seems that this time his guest had one very strange gift. The Times reports that Sheik Hamad showed up to the meeting with 1 million euros worth of cash in a suitcase, and that it was used as a donation to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, which makes grants to support sustainability and helped fund the preservation of Dumfries House. Ultimately, Sheik Hamad reportedly gave the charity 3 million euros, all of it in cash, from the years 2011 to 2015, putting one of his deliveries in bags from tea purveyor Fortnum & Mason.
According to The Times, royal sources did accept that donations were received in cash but denied that it was carried in Fortnum & Mason bags, among other details. When reached by The Times, a spokesperson at Clarence House confirmed that Sheik Hamad did give at least one donation to Charles, adding that the money was “passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were filed.” (Ian Cheshire, chairman of the charitable fund, confirmed that the most recent donation was in cash.) The Times pointed out that the exchange was not illegal and added that the royal gift policy makes no mention of accepting cash donations on behalf of a charity.
Still, a source present for at least one of the cash exchanges told the newspaper that the transaction was odd. First, two royal advisers hand-counted the money, and then London private bank Coutts was called to pick up the cash, which was deposited into the account of the charitable fund. “Everyone felt very uncomfortable about the situation,” said one former adviser who handled some of the cash. The “only thing we could do was to count the money and make a mutual record of what we’d done. And then call the bank.” One official said that Sheik Hamad’s team was at one point told not to give the charity cash, but the message appears to have been disregarded.
On Monday, The Times reported that the Charity Commission will look into the situation in order to make sure the charity did its due diligence before accepting Sheik Hamad’s cash donation. Another one of Charles’s charitable organizations, the Prince’s Foundation, is already under investigation by the commission and the Metropolitan Police after facing allegations that a chief executive tried to help a Saudi businessman get an award in the British honors system. When that story broke in The Times in September 2021, Clarence House said that Charles was not aware of the alleged scheme. Later, his longtime assistant Michael Fawcett resigned from his role as the chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation.
Over the weekend, Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, continued their trip to Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where they were joined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie for a black-tie dinner with politicians from around the Commonwealth. Charles, who has already been confirmed as the next head of the Commonwealth, gave a speech where he discussed the association’s roots in a painful part of history.
“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact,” he said. “If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find new ways to acknowledge our past. Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”
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