Prince Charles has defended writing his infamous 'Black Spider Memos' to government ministers, after they were published despite claims his opinions could damage his ability to become monarch.
The memos were published by the Cabinet Office this afternoon after a 10-year legal battle to keep them secret, as the government feared the letters, written in 2004 and 2005, showing Charles disagreeing with government policies would damage his ability to be a neutral king.
Charles wrote to Tony Blair and his ministers to discuss British forces' lack of adequate equipment in Iraq, beef farming and badger culling.
They were dubbed the 'Black Spider Memos' because of Charles' distinctive signature and handwriting.
In one of the letters, Charles even shows he is aware the letters could be released under the Freedom of Information Act, saying to Blair: "You kindly suggested it would be helpful if I put [my views] in writing, despite the Freedom of Information Act!"
Charles also condemns the "badger lobby" for opposing the culling of the animals, calling their position "intellectually dishonest".
Here's what the letters say:
The reaction to letters, after such a long wait, was called a damp squib on Twitter, with people struggling to see how the relatively pedestrian opinions could jeopardise his future.
The Prince Charles letters I have read sugest he is an amiable member of National Farmers Union, rather than a constiutional menace.— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) May 13, 2015
Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger called "shocking" that the government "wasted" public money in trying to block the publication of Charles' letters.
He said: "We fought this case because we believed - and the most senior judges in the country agreed - that the Royal Family should operate to the same degrees of transparency as anyone else trying to make their influence felt in public life.
"The attorney general, in trying to block the letters, said their contents could 'seriously damage' perceptions of the prince's political neutrality.
"Whatever the rights and wrongs of that assessment, it is shocking that the Government wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money trying to prevent their publication.
"Now, after 10 years, we are pleased to be able to share the contents of his correspondence and let people draw their own conclusions."
As of March last year, the government had spent £274,481.16 on legal fees to try to block the publication of the letters.
The money was spent by eight government departments as former attorney general Dominic Grieve tried to block their publication, claiming it would undermine the principle of the heir to the throne being politically neutral.
The real cost is likely to be much higher due to ongoing legal wrangling over the letters in the last year.
In a statement, Clarence House defended Charles' letters. It said: "The publication of private letters can only inhibit his ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him in the course of his travels and meetings."
A spokesman added: "Sometimes this leads him to communicate his experience or, indeed, his concerns or suggestions to ministers, from all Governments, of whatever party, either in meetings or in writing.
"Government ministers have often encouraged him to do so, and many have welcomed the Prince's views and ideas on a range of subjects. There are examples of this in the correspondence that has been made public."
Earlier today, Charles' sensitivities about the imminent publication were revealed when Channel 4 News' Michael Crick tried to ask about the letters.
As Charles arrived at Marks and Spencer's flagship store near Marble Arch on Oxford Street in London, Crick asked if he was "worried" about the letters and if he was still writing to ministers - and whether he thought he was behaving "unconstitutionally" in doing so.
Crick tried to accost him as he walked with his entourage into Marks and Spencer's flagship store near Marble Arch on Oxford Street in London but his aide forcefully held him back and ripped the muffler from his microphone.
The heir to the throne, who was at the store to highlight the Make Your Mark four-week work placement scheme between M&S and his Prince's Trust, did not reply to the questions but said "very predictable" as he entered the store.Suggest a correction