Lifestyles of the rich and hypocritical

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Prince Charles thinks people should consume less. Other people, that is …

Is any group of people more hypocritical than the British royal family?

Last year, Prince Charles told a public meeting in Oxford:

“wherever you look, the world’s population is increasing fast. It goes up by the equivalent of the entire population of the United Kingdom every year. Which means that this poor planet of ours, which already struggles to sustain 6.8billion people, will somehow have to support over 9 billion people within 50 years.”

“It would certainly help if the acceleration slowed down, but it would also help if the world reduced its desire to consume.”

Now, an advance report on a new book about his family tells us how this royal Malthusian goes about setting a low-consumption example for the rest of us:

“Prince Charles employs 133 staff to look after him and Camilla, more than 60 of them domestics: chefs, cooks, footmen, housemaids, gardeners, chauffeurs, cleaners, and his three personal valets—gentleman’s gentlemen—whose sole responsibility is the care of their royal master’s extensive wardrobe and choosing what he is to wear on any particular day.

“A serving soldier polishes the prince’s boots and shoes every day—he has 50 handmade pairs each costing over £800 by Lobb of St James’s—and a housemaid washes his underwear as soon as it is discarded.

“Nothing Charles or Camilla wears is ever allowed near a washing machine. Particular attention is paid to handkerchiefs, which are monogrammed and again all hand-washed, as it was found that when they were sent to a laundry, some would go missing—as souvenirs.

HRH’s suits, of which he has 60, cost more than £3,000 each, and his shirts, all handmade, cost £350 a time (he has more than 200), while his collar stiffeners are solid gold or silver.

“Charles’s valets also iron the laces of his shoes whenever they are taken off.”

Question: has anyone ever seen a statement by any populationist organization, in Britain or anywhere else, that says the world would be better off with fewer royals?

We didn’t think so.

Related reading: Royal wedding accelerates global warming


  • Nobody can accuse Ian of “ignoring” the population issue. He’s just co-authored a book about it. You could learn a lot by reading it.

  • We accept the principles of social justice and contraction and convergence (see website for details). Will you accept that the human impact on the environment would be lower if there were fewer of us: 1960 3 billion; 2011 7 billion; 2085 10 billion?

    Do please think about attacking the “real environmental criminals” rather more and those concerned about rising human numbers rather less. Population might not be the only, or even the most important, issue: that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

  • Of course Royal hypocrisy about consumption doesn’t disprove populationism. That’s disproven by a host of other facts and analyses. See the book Too Many People?, as well as many articles posted on Climate and Capitalism.

    The hypocrisy identified in this article refers not only to the blatant hypocrisy of the royals, but to the more subtle, but still appalling, hypocrisy of populationist groups that blame environmental destruction on the capitalism’s victims, while remaining silent about the real environmental criminals.

  • The Royal Family is hypocritical about consumption. No news there. But does that make concerns about overpopulation–which is trashing the planet and making poverty worse throughout the world–wrong? One need not follow Malthus to see that reducing the world’s human population is good for humans and other earthlings as well.

  • Charles’ comments just mirrors the disconnect most people in the developed world feel about their lifestyles. We wring our hands, but few are inclined to change much voluntarily!

  • The profligate life style of current Royals is nothing new. They have set the standard to which many ordinary people have aspired for centuries. I think the point that should be made really is that this standard was always inappropriate from the point of view of humankind as a whole living in a sustainable fashion. This Royal standard is therefore not actually something to which human beings should now, or ever, have been aspiring to emulate.