MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The death of our Queen is a sad event, even for those who are far from being Royalists. It is the end of an era; she was unique and symbolized the UK both nationally and abroad. I met her once (in fact, she expressed the wish to meet me when she visited Exeter University [full story here]). She was charming and very well-informed; we talked longer than the protocol allowed and, eventually, she was urged to move on by the officials.

In the last 24 hours, many people have written to me and asked whether I will now change the title of my recent biography of Charles. Others have asked whether Charles will continue to promote so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Some journalists inquired about what sort of monarch Charles will become.

To all these questions, I have answered: “I DON’T KNOW”. All I can offer regarding my predictions about the future of the monarchy is a short passage from the final chapter of my biography of Charles that briefly touches upon some of these issues. Here it is:

It is clear to many observers that Charles has the urge to make a positive contribution to the future of his country. Most agree that he is full of goodwill. In some areas, for example, the Prince’s Trust [1], he was highly successful in his endeavor. In the field of alternative medicine, however, success has evaded him. One might ask, therefore, how he could have channeled his enthusiasm, influence, and hard work in a more productive direction. In my view, this would not have been difficult and could have been achieved by operating along the following lines:

Charles, The Alternative Prince: An Unauthorised Biography

  • Work not against but alongside the medical and scientific establishment.
  • Involve some of the country’s top scientists.
  • Raise sufficient funds for rigorous research projects conducted at leading universities.
  • Encourage his team of science advisers to defend unpopular views and, if necessary, contradict Charles’ views.
  • Focus on treatments that are biologically plausible and supported by encouraging evidence, e.g. rational phytotherapy (chapter 15).
  • Make sure that the potential harm of alternative medicine is fully investigated and that the findings are adequately publicized.
  • Become a defender of science and reason.

Some of these principles are not all that dissimilar to those of the US Bravewell Collaborative (chapter 20). Charles would only have needed to follow their example. It seems that he and his advisers did not consider this to be viable.

As he becomes king, Charles could have looked back at his activities around alternative medicine in the knowledge that – like with some of his other ‘good causes’ – he has provided tangible benefits to the people. Many of the negative headlines that Charles had to endure about his involvement in alternative medicine could have been different, his reputation within the world of science would be intact, and the alternative medicine community might respect him even more.

According to his own statement, Charles will stop his lobbying once he is king. When asked if his campaigning would carry on when he is king, Charles replied: “No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid.” [2] If that happens, alternative medicine will have lost one of its most enthusiastic supporters. In this case, I will look back on this period with a degree of sadness.

Despite everything, I still believe that alternative medicine has a few hidden gems to discover. To find them, we foremost need good science. To conduct the research, we need people with influence to support it. Charles could have so easily been that person. Instead, he took consistently poor advice and chose to follow a different path. He pursued a largely anti-science agenda and promoted the uncritical integration of unproven treatments into the NHS. In this way, I am afraid, he became an obstacle to progress in healthcare and generated more harm than good. My predominant feeling about that is sadness over a missed opportunity.

[1] https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/

[2] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/news/a24839545/prince-charles-role-monarch/

13 Responses to Charles, the alternative King?

  • Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II provided inspiring leadership to her nation and touched the lives of millions around the world. When I got the news on television, I could not stop thinking about her. Really pained by her death, my heart felt condolences to her family members and people of her nation. May her soul RIP.

    When King Charles came to Mumbai in November 2019, I wish I had got an opportunity to see him.

  • Well said Edzard

  • Societies are complex mechanisms.

    I can’t imagine any better monarch for her time than Queen Elizabeth II.

    One would be inhuman not to sympathise for King Charles’ loss.

    I have no doubt he means to do his best to follow her example of devoted service to the nation.

    The physical sciences are our best understanding of how nature works.

    “Complementary” climate science?

    What is this thing called “complementary medicine”?

    If it is better than well meaning wishful thinking, it is simply medicine.

  • I’m interested in your comment about alternative medicine having some hidden gems to discover – it’s unexpected. Given the many scams and delusions you expose I wonder what makes you think that?

    Obviously being hidden is somewhat in the nature of a hidden gem but do you have any thoughts on where such gems might lurk?

  • The concept of an “invisible college” is mentioned in German Rosicrucian pamphlets in the early 17th century. In England, Ben Jonson referenced the idea, related in meaning to Francis Bacon’s House of Solomon.

    In letters in 1646 and 1647, Robert Boyle refers to “our invisible college” or “our philosophical college”. The society’s principle was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation. (Note!)

    The Royal Society started from groups of physicians and natural philosophers, meeting at a variety of locations, including Gresham College in London. They were influenced by the “new science”, as promoted by Francis Bacon in his New Atlantis, from approximately 1645 onwards. Note again.

    On 28 November 1660, a committee of 12 announced the formation of a “College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning”, which would meet weekly to discuss science and run experiments. At the second meeting, Sir Robert Moray announced that King Charles II approved of the gatherings, and a royal charter was signed on 15 July 1662 which created the “Royal Society of London”.

    A second royal charter was signed on 23 April 1663, with the king noted as the founder and with the name of “the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge”; Robert Hooke was appointed as Curator of Experiments in November. This initial royal favour has continued and, since then, every monarch has been the patron of the society.

    Today, The Royal Society, (formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge), is a learned society and the United Kingdom’s national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, education and public engagement and fostering international and global co-operation.

    The members of Council and the President are elected from and by its Fellows, the basic members of the society, who are themselves elected by existing Fellows. As of 2020, there are about 1,700 fellows, allowed to use the postnominal title FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), plus ‘Royal Fellows’ whose scientific credentials apparently do not have to be tested.

    HM Charles III is a Fellow!
    IMHO he should behave like one.

  • I’m particularly pleased to see how the colour of the steam engine’s flywheel in the background was perfectly matched to HRH’s choice of wardrobe, and how EE’s choice of tie provided the perfect finishing touch in this photographic composition. My compliments!

    Anyway, it would appear that King Charles III is at least convinced of the very real problems of global warming, and I consider that a major plus on his behalf. Maybe wisdom does indeed come with age. We’ll just have to see about his sentiments with regard to SCAM, but this would be a good opportunity to make a clean break with the past.

  • I totally agree and I congratulate you for the excellent text.
    Data venia, wouldn’t the term “scientific phytotherapy” be a more appropriate expression, in line with the fields of pharmacognosy and pharmacobotany? Medicines of plant origin have always been present in medical books until recently. Therefore, I do not believe that scientifically oriented herbal medicine belongs in the scope of SCAM.

  • Complementing:
    Scientific rationality is distinguished from other forms of rationality. It rests on the demand for evidence and skepticism about it. Unlike other rationalities that accept evidence that confirms a preconception as proof of its veracity, science questions it. From this it follows that “rational herbal medicine”, therefore, is an expression lacking specification, with the meaning you want to imprint on it. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Now that HRH has become King, King Charles will not get the time for all this alternative medicine.

    I would like to thank Proff. Ernst for this blog which gave me an opportunity to be indirectly contacted. That is why I said tab is being kept on this site.

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