Now, there are birthday parties and then there are BIRTHDAY parties. Six months before his actual birthday, celebrations for Prince Charles, the future King of Britain, are already underway and somehow, I found myself in Buckingham Palace enjoying the festivities and avoiding the wafts of delicious food that was being served throughout the day.
It was my fourth time at Buckingham Palace and each time I have to pinch myself when I’m here. It’s a far cry from my familiar haunts in inner-city Wakefield but despite the opulence and majesty of Royal Gardens, the day was a celebration of Prince Charles’ charitable achievements that had brought us together.
I was honoured to be invited on behalf of the British Asian Trust, to whom Prince Charles is a founding patron. As with my previous trips to the palace I was expecting to catch a glimpse of a Royal or two but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in face-to-face with the man himself.
He faced me fully and was genuinely engaged in the brief, but rich conversation we had. We spoke about Ramadan and fasting long summer days, the work of the British Asian Trust and Mosaic, another charity that the Prince has launched and with whom I have had the recent pleasure of working with. He was quite concerned with our iftar plans and made sure all the Muslims in attendance went home with a packet of Buckingham Palace’s finest royal biscuits!
It’s easy to think of the Royal Family as aloof and out of touch but the incredible legacy of the charity work has left me inspired. Prince Charles is responsible for literally hundreds of millions of pounds of charity work, countless number of initiatives that simple wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t take a personal interest.
Being above the politics afford the Prince a unique position to direct the rich and powerful to important causes and campaigns that they might not otherwise be connected to. It may come as a surprise to some, but the Prince has an incredible connection to Muslim communities, personally propelling projects like the Young Muslim Leadership Programme which runs with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Mosaic, which engaged young Muslims from disadvantaged backgrounds and raises their aspirations as well as supporting Muslim prisoners in their re-entry to society.
It’s strange to think this man that I spent a few minutes with will one day be King of our country. As British citizens we will all, technically, be his subjects and it’s reassuring to know that humanitarian work, both home and abroad, is a passion that I share with him and the spirit in which he will shape our country.
There are few people in the world who could get away with a birthday party six months before the big day, but if it’s celebrating the difference we are making for others, then party on I say, cake for iftar anyone?