Prince Charles 'campaigned for SNP' as teenager in mock school elections, new book claims

Dan Sanderson
·4-min read
The heir to the throne is said to have backed the nationalists in a mock school election - JACOB KING /AFP
The heir to the throne is said to have backed the nationalists in a mock school election - JACOB KING /AFP

For the heir to the throne, convention dictates that it is unconstitutional to even vote in an election, far less to campaign for a political party.

But according to new claims, Prince Charles once threw himself enthusiastically into a mock general election during his school days - when the man set to reign over the United Kingdom backed a party intent on breaking the nation up.

During his schooling at Gordonstoun, in the north of Scotland, the 15-year-old prince even marched around the grounds shouting ‘freedom for the Scots’, 'Scotland forever' and ‘down with rule from Whitehall’, according to a newly-published book.

A Clarence House source said  on Sunday that they did not believe the story of the Prince’s support for the SNP in the school election, detailed in Simon and Schuster title Prince Philip Revealed, was true.

However, the Royal author behind the book, Ingrid Seward, said she was told about the 1960s incident by her late husband Ross Benson, a classmate of Charles at Gordonstoun, which the prince once famously dubbed “Colditz in kilts”.

Prince Charles is known for his affection for Scotland - Pool/Reuters
Prince Charles is known for his affection for Scotland - Pool/Reuters

“Normally Charles had middle-of-the-road views and was never extreme about anything,” Ms Seward, also the editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, told a Sunday newspaper.

“But one of those rare occasions when Charles blossomed occurred during the mock elections at school. Charles became a vociferous supporter of the nationalists.

“Wearing his Stewart kilt, he marched up and down the grounds during the 'campaign', shouting ‘Scotland for ever’, ‘freedom for the Scots’ and “down with the rule from Whitehall”. Together with his other political supporters, he held aloft a banner saying, ‘Vote for the Scottish Nationalists”.

The Prince was enrolled at the school in 1962. His time at Gordonstoun, which Prince Philip also attended and is famous for its focus on tough outdoor pursuits, was portrayed as miserable in the Netflix series The Crown. 

The £38,250 per year boarding school has hit back at how his time there was presented, highlighting a speech he gave in 1975 in which he said it had “taught me a great deal about myself and my own abilities and disabilities”. 

Ms Seward also said Charles, known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, had a warm relationship with Alex Salmond, saying he would “often share a dram” with the former First Minister. 

He wrote to Mr Salmond several times with his ‘black spider’ memos - a reference to Charles’s hand writing - between 2007 and 2010, largely about rural affairs.

The author said he has a “polite and civil” relationship with Mr Salmond’s successor, Nicola Sturgeon, although it is not as warm.

While many grassroots SNP activists would favour the abolition of the monarchy in an independent Scotland, the party’s official position remains to retain the Queen as head of state, should the country ever break away from the UK.

“Mr Salmond, who also got on well with the Queen because of a shared love of horse racing, took a shine to Charles because he felt that anybody who loved Scotland was OK with him,” Ms Seward said.

“And through what Charles was doing at Dumfries House [a stately home saved by the Prince in 2007], he saw that he really did love Scotland.

“But Charles never had the same relationship with Nicola Sturgeon. It is polite and civil but more professional. Maybe if she knew Charles once campaigned for independence the relationship would be warmer.

“Given the current climate for independence, it is very amusing and a little embarrassing.”

Prince Charles with his family at Balmoral as a child - The Times/The Times
Prince Charles with his family at Balmoral as a child - The Times/The Times

While duty-bound to stay out of politics, the Queen was accused of meddling in the 2014 independence referendum. She told a well-wisher after she attended a church service at Balmoral, days before the vote, that she hoped voters "think very carefully about the future".

David Cameron, then Prime Minister, embarrassed the monarch when he was overheard saying she had “purred” with pleasure when he informed her Scots had voted against separation.

He admitted last year that he had asked whether the Queen could "raise an eyebrow" about the prospect of Scotland voting for independence.

However, in 1964, when Charles is said to have campaigned in the mock election, the SNP was not the dominant political force north of the border that it is today. A recent opinion poll showed 58 per cent in Scotland back independence.

The party was then led by Arthur Donaldson, a journalist investigated for “subversive” activities during World War II. According to an MI5 file on Mr Donaldson, he conspired to set up a Vichy-style puppet government in Scotland in the wake of Hitler's widely-anticipated invasion.

The SNP failed to win a single seat at the real 1964 election, which was won by a Harold Wilson-led Labour Party.