A warm welcome to everyone. Thank you very much indeed for finding time to join this video call as we present our Annual Review for 2019 and 2020. I am only sorry that COVID restrictions mean that, I think for probably the first time ever, we cannot meet together here in person in Clarence House.
Of course, this year our hospitality is going to rely on whatever is in your kitchen rather than ours, so I am sorry for that too (although your kitchen may be better than ours of course.) This remote format, it is probably worth recalling, is of course, rather emblematic of the extraordinary challenges which Coronavirus has brought to all of us in the first months of 2020 and with which, as we know, we are all still living. I want to talk a bit today about how that has played out here, but also to recognise that the majority of the financial year’s activity that we are discussing today, took place before the COVID restrictions changed everything.
As you will have seen from the film and from the information you have been given this morning, the figures are actually pretty level with last year. Income from the Duchy of Cornwall is slightly up, though as the Duchy has said publicly, we are expecting a reduction next year due to COVID. Tax is also slightly up and travel is slightly down, all pretty much as you would expect.
Let’s just cast back to the beginning of this period because if you recall and some of you were with us, Their Royal Highnesses had just returned from a series of visits to Caribbean countries, followed by a historic first ever Royal visit to Cuba. That pace continued throughout the year with 580 public engagements to 90 UK towns and cities, with 14 overseas visits on behalf of the UK and the Realm governments. This year’s visits also included some which, I think, were of a genuinely historic nature, including The Prince of Wales’ visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with significant speeches in Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the next day in Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Their Royal Highnesses, as we all saw, also supported The Queen in welcoming The President and Mrs. Trump to the UK, at the request of the United Kingdom Government. In addition to these duties in support of The Queen, there remained a clear focus on the issues that Their Royal Highnesses have championed for many years and of course support for Their Royal Highnesses own Patronages.
Casting back to January, we saw the 50th, yes you heard that right, the 50th anniversary of The Prince of Wales’ first major speech on the environment. His Royal Highness also took this opportunity to launch at Davos a couple of weeks later, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, a new global initiative called the Sustainable Markets Council. Avid followers of the Court Circular, as I’m sure you all are, will have seen that that is still taking up a great deal of time now. This initiative is bringing together international leaders and investors with world class innovators to put sustainability at the heart of global industries, in order to reduce the damage being done to the environment. You may have heard a bit about this over the past few days, as The Prince of Wales has given speeches to launch Climate Week in New York and also for the UN General Assembly.
Meanwhile, The Duchess of Cornwall has continued to support causes close to her heart, including for SafeLives, an organisation which supports men, women and children, who are subjects of domestic abuse and violence. Her Royal Highness also retained, as usual, a very clear focus on literacy, engaging with the joint winners of the Booker Prize, and at the other end of the age spectrum, Children’s Laureates. Her Royal Highness joined The Queen at Westminster Abbey to mark its 750th anniversary and, as Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, presented The Princess Royal with an Honorary Doctorate.
There were also plenty of anniversaries and other special moments to celebrate this year: The Prince of Wales marked 50 years since his investiture as Prince of Wales and also 50 years since taking on full responsibility of the Duchy of Cornwall.
I know many of you have been down to Highgrove and it is worth just mentioning that the Highgrove garden tours celebrated their own silver anniversary having alone raised more than £7 million for charitable causes over the years.
As we all know, added to these public facing activities, there was cause for family celebration in 2019 when The Prince of Wales became a Grandfather for the fourth time, as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed their son Archie to the world.
Now sitting here as we are, there is something rather extraordinary about recalling how normal everything seemed during that part of the year because as we all know in March everything stopped as Coronavirus took hold, including I should say, taking hold of The Prince of Wales himself. As the world went into lockdown, Their Royal Highnesses adapted literally overnight to a new ‘digital first’ way of working. For a family that is used to having to be “seen to be believed”, this was a new challenge. But the films they made using little more than a smartphone propped up on a pile of books, reached millions covering topics ranging from isolation, domestic violence, to booklists to keep the mind active. The Prince of course gave a video message offering his personal reflections on his own experience and recovery from COVID-19. It is just worth recalling that that was at a time when there was palpable concern among those in his own age group relating to the virus.
The Royal Family may be steeped in tradition, but I would say it is not unusual to find them in this way at the cutting edge, adapting literally overnight to new challenges and circumstances. In the first few months of lockdown, The Prince of Wales alone had telephone discussions with 21 Heads of State and Government and corresponded with a further 38 Heads of State and Government.
In summary and looking ahead, we clearly remain in a time of acute uncertainty, I can only say that Their Royal Highnesses will continue to do everything they can to be visible champions of the human spirit, both here and around the Commonwealth.
Lastly, before I hand over to questions, let me just repeat as I do every year that the Royal activity we are talking about and the financial information we are placing in the public domain including taxes paid, are all from The Prince of Wales’ private income from the Duchy of Cornwall, with the exception of a small number of costs including travel, this is not public or taxpayers money, but The Prince of Wales publishes this information entirely voluntarily in the interests of transparency. Once again, The Prince of Wales is using his private income to support himself, The Duchess of Cornwall, his children and their own families.
I’m sure that’s quite enough from me. I hope you’ve all seen our short film that we’ve produced to illustrate some of the points I’ve been talking about. As usual I am very happy to take any questions, to help you understand things in a little more detail. Though let me just recall again, the year we’re discussing is 2019/20 and we should try to keep our focus on that if we possibly can.
Thank you for listening.