Charlie Is No Darling
A Highness in Low PlacesQatar is an absolute monarchy. It is classified as “not free” by Freedom House. According to Amnesty International Qatar criminalises “legitimate forms of freedom of expression”. Imprisonment is prescribed “for criticizing the Emir, for writing about the armed forces without permission and for offending divine religions”. Blasphemy and consensual “illicit sexual relations” are also criminal offences. According to the Financial Times in 2014 its labour regulations “create conditions tantamount to slavery”.
Qatar was the main financial backer of the Morsi government in Egypt. This sheikdom has also helped Bahrain violently suppress demands by its people for democratic freedoms.
But none of this seems to have worried Charlie enough to keep his distance from the emirate. He is reported to get on well with the former Emir. And he took advantage of this relationship in an attempt to persuade the Emir to use his influence to stop the use of modern architecture in the redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks site in London. (See following He Knows What He Dislikes)
Windsor also wrote to the prime minister of Qatar with the same purpose.
Draft minutes of a meeting between Windsor's then “private secretary” Michael Peat and the Chief Operating Officer of Qatari Diar, which was financing the Chelsea Barracks development, say that “The Prince of Wales wanted to assist his friends in Qatar and avoid criticism of them which he feared would stem from imposing a scheme which was not popular in London.”
Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, the influential second wife of the former Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani has also been described as a friend of Mr. Windsor. According to the London Evening Standard “He shares an intense interest in charitable activities with the Sheikha, who is well known and highly respected for her good works, and the two have met on several occasions”.
To be fair to Charlie it should be said that he is not the only family member who feels at ease with tyrants. In the Washington Post Anne Applebaum nicely characterised his brother Andrew's habit of dining with “polished thugs”, including some from Libya and Saudi Arabia. The “prince” was acting as a trade ambassador for the British government. The Windsor family also invited the Crown Prince of Bahrain to the Windsor wedding in 2011.