Prince Charles and Camilla visited the Scottish mansion at the centre of the ‘cash for Knighthood’ storm yesterday.
The couple were at Dumfries House in Ayrshire where they unfurled the huge patchwork mosaic made up of more than 9,000 handmade squares and weighing a staggering 130 kilos from the historic Adam Bridge.
The Palladian mansion is at the centre of the ‘cash for favours’ scandal as questions arise over how donations for Charles’s cherished scheme to renovate Dumfries House were solicited and what may have been promised in return.
Former fixer William Bortrick said the Royal was ‘100 per cent’ behind an offer to help Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz get UK citizenship.
The allegation by William Bortrick – a paid advisor to Dr bin Mahfouz, who is a major donor to Charles’s charities – came as the Prince’s former valet Michael Fawcett was forced to step down as chief of the Prince’s Foundation.
A string of claims about 58-year-old Mr Fawcett’s conduct while running the charity included the allegation he had offered to ‘support’ Dr bin Mahfouz in his efforts to secure both a knighthood and British citizenship.
One of Mr Fawcett’s main tasks was securing donations for Dumfries House, which Charles saved for the nation in 2007 – in part through a £20million loan from his then charitable trust.
Despite the storm, Prince Charles, 71, and Camilla, 72, appeared in good spirits on the visit to Dumfries House together yesterday, where they unveiled a giant knitted art installation over a bridge.
Prince Charles and Camilla visited the Scottish mansion at the centre of the ‘cash for Knighthood’ storm yesterday
The Palladian mansion is at the centre of the ‘cash for favours’ scandal as questions arise over how donations for Charles’s cherished scheme to renovate Dumfries House were solicited and what may have been promised in return
New allegations about Charles’s apparent involvement emerged earlier this week in a draft letter from Mr Bortrick to Dr bin Mahfouz, who donated more than £1.5million to Charles’s charities.
The letter by Burke’s Peerage publisher Mr Bortrick, which was drafted in May 2014 and revealed by The Times on Monday, said Dr bin Mahfouz’s application for citizenship would ‘now take the highest priority’.
It added: ‘His Royal Highness supports these applications 100 per cent, as there is no greater example of contribution [than] yours, therefore this should be rewarded and recognised accordingly.’
A spokesman for the Prince said: ‘The Prince of Wales has no knowledge of the alleged offer of honours or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charities and fully supports the investigation now under way by The Prince’s Foundation.’
Prince Charles is pictured with his former valet Michael Fawcett, 58, at the Castle of Mey in Caithness, Scotland, in May 2019
Mr Bortrick also suggested in the draft letter that Dr bin Mahfouz would get the opportunity to meet the Queen ‘in the next few months’, and receive the ‘special honours’ of a knighthood before full House of Lords membership.
But the newspaper reported that there was no evidence of whether the letter was sent or agreed by Charles’s advisers – and MailOnline has contacted a Clarence House spokesman for comment.
Mr Bortrick also denied any wrongdoing and that the proposed arrangement, revealed in an email written by Mr Wynne-Parker and published last weekend by The Mail on Sunday, was ever discussed with him.
Last week the Prince’s Foundation launched an investigation following other ‘cash for access’ claims.
Society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker was accused of offering a dinner with Charles and an overnight stay at Dumfries House for £100,000.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were all smiles yesterday as they unveiled a giant knitted art installation ~(pictured) in Scotland as part of a project to ‘get the world knitting’
Prince Charles (pictured left) personally came up with the idea for the patchwork mosaic, which features squares contributed by individuals and knitting groups from all over the world – as far afield as Australia and America
Mr Wynne-Parker, an adviser to Dr bin Mahfouz, allegedly wrote an email saying fixers would pocket up to 25 per cent of the fees.
Former fixer claims Royal was ‘100 per cent’ behind an offer to help Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz get UK citizenship
Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz
Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, pictured meeting Prince Charles, is one of Britain’s most generous benefactors
Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz is one of Britain’s most generous benefactors who holds a string of titles in the UK. The millionaire Saudi businessman’s family made their fortune in the Middle East through hotels, property and manufacturing.
In 2012 Dr Mahfouz, 51, set up the Mahfouz Foundation, a charity that aims to ‘advance the education of the public in the United Kingdom in the culture, history, language, literature and institutions of the Middle East’.
Three years later Dr Mahfouz donated £370,000 to the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust, which Prince Charles is president of, to help renovate the estate despite the Saudi never having visited it.
He was honoured with the Mahfouz Wood, to the east of the 15th Century castle, and six benches were installed with plaques bearing the names of Dr Mahfouz, his father and four brothers will be placed around the castle’s gardens.
He has also donated a significant sum to Dumfries House, the 18th Century Palladian mansion in Ayrshire, which the Prince’s Foundation had painstakingly being working to restore.
Dr Mahfouz holds the title of Lord and Baron of Abernethy as well as his honorary CBE awarded in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2016.
He has been made a life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts as well as being awarded Knight Grand Cross in the Companionate of Merit of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem.
He has been elected a fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford and has a bust in his honour at Wolfson College, Cambridge.
A spokesman for Dr bin Mahfouz said he had ‘not had personal or direct communication to either request, influence or make any arrangements regarding citizenship or knighthood with Mr Fawcett, or anyone connected to HRH The Prince of Wales or the Prince’s Foundation’.
But the latest disclosures pose far more serious questions about the conduct of those close to the prince.
They will also prompt renewed scrutiny of the honours system and whether it is open to monetary influence.
Earlier this week, the Prince’s Foundation said it had beefed up its investigation by arranging for a senior forensic accountant from a ‘big four’ firm to carry out an independent review.
The bombshell letter was allegedly written by Mr Fawcett on August 18, 2017, to Dr bin Mahfouz’s aide Busief Lamlum.
It says: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency… I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for Citizenship.
‘I can further confirm that we are willing to make [an] application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honours Committee.’
The letter makes no effort to disguise that support for any knighthood and citizenship application depends on Dr bin Mahfouz’s financial support.
Writing in his then capacity as chief executive of the Dumfries House Trust, Mr Fawcett added: ‘I hope that this confirmation is sufficient in allowing us to go forward.’
A year later, Mr Fawcett was put in charge of Charles’s entire charitable empire as chief executive of the Foundation.
Earlier this week, Clarence House said it was taking the matter ‘very seriously’. Mr Fawcett declined to comment.
And yesterday, Charles appeared in good spirits as he unveiled the knitted blanket at Dumfries House.
Prince Charles personally came up with the idea for the patchwork mosaic, which features squares contributed by individuals and knitting groups from all over the world – as far afield as Australia and America – as a way to celebrate knitting as a traditional craft form and highlight the associated mental health benefits that practising the skill can bring.
The installation was organised by The Prince’s Foundation charity and will provide a joyous kaleidoscope of colour and textile for visitors to admire.
On the prompt of a 3-2-1, Charles and Camilla gamely helped to heave the display over the bridge.
‘I do so really want to offer my congratulations. It’s just wonderful,’ the Prince, dressed in a kilt and sporran, said.
Admiring the display from beneath the bridge afterwards Camilla remarked: ‘It’s brilliant. The colours are fantastic.‘
The team at The Prince’s Foundation, whose headquarters are at Dumfries House, received knitted squares from all over the world, including from Italy, Belgium, Tasmania, the United States and Canada.
The age of contributors ranged from nine-year-old Sasha Bolt from Sanquhar to 101-year-old Ethel Carlyle from Troon – who sadly died shortly after contributing her square – reflecting the universal appeal of knitting.
The squares were then sewn together to create the patchwork mosaic by staff from The Prince’s Foundation, participants of the charity’s textiles programmes and prisoners from Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling as part of a rehabilitation initiative.
The project is a way to celebrate knitting as a traditional craft form and highlight the associated mental health benefits that practising the skill can bring. Pictured centre, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland
The installation (pictured) was organised by The Prince’s Foundation charity and will provide a joyous kaleidoscope of colour and textile for visitors to admire
On the prompt of a 3-2-1, Charles (pictured) and Camilla gamely helped to heave the display over the bridge
‘I do so really want to offer my congratulations. It’s just wonderful,’ the Prince (pictured centre-right), dressed in a kilt and sporran, said
The patchwork will eventually be dismantled into smaller blankets and distributed to charities in need.
Jessie Boardman, 92, who is the oldest living person to take part, said: ‘I’ve knitted all my life. I don’t know what I would do without it. ‘
Sasha Bolt, nine, the youngest participant, added: ‘My mum and my family knits and I have always knitted. I really enjoy it. I find it really relaxing. ‘
The knitting project forms part of a wider collaboration between The Prince’s Foundation and The Joseph Ettedgui Charitable Foundation that aims to recreate communities of hand-knitters in the local area with an interest in turning their hobby into a viable business proposition.
Knitwise, which is run fortnightly by The Prince’s Foundation at Dumfries House, Trinity Buoy Wharf in London and in Ballater, Royal Deeside, brings together members of the local community from all walks of life to help them refine their knitting skills while socialising in a friendly, fun and sociable environment.
The objective of the initiative, which began early last year, is to train and develop a small team of locally based hand-knitters to a high standard to help future-proof the industry and create much needed employment and income in a deprived area of Scotland.
Ashleigh Douglas, Future Textiles manager for The Prince’s Foundation, said: ‘We are proud to have finally unveiled our beautiful knitted art installation here at Dumfries House and would like to thank every single person who has contributed to it for their efforts.
The team at The Prince’s Foundation, whose headquarters are at Dumfries House, received knitted squares (pictured) from all over the world, including from Italy, Belgium, Tasmania, the United States and Canada
The age of contributors ranged from nine-year-old Sasha Bolt from Sanquhar to 101-year-old Ethel Carlyle from Troon – who sadly died shortly after contributing her square – reflecting the universal appeal of knitting. Pictured, the royal couple helping to unveil the artwork
The squares were then sewn together to create the patchwork mosaic by staff from The Prince’s Foundation, participants of the charity’s textiles programmes and prisoners from Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling as part of a rehabilitation initiative. Pictured, the royal couple after the unveiling
The patchwork will eventually be dismantled into smaller blankets and distributed to charities in need. Pictured, Camilla and Charles chat with guests to the unveiling
Prince Charles (pictured left with Camilla) is Patron of the Campaign for Wool, which aims to raise public awareness around the benefits of wool as a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre
‘Since we announced the project last year, we have been inundated with colourful contributions from all over the world. It has been wonderful to see so many people come together to celebrate this dynamic craftform.
‘Ayrshire was once home to a booming textile industry but lack of training in traditional techniques such as hand-knitting, sewing, pattern-cutting and weaving has led to a skills shortage in the area.
‘The Prince’s Foundation runs a number of different programmes and initiatives, such as Knitwise, which aim to help revive and revitalise these invaluable skills in a sustainable way.
‘Knitting is known to have multiple benefits for the mind and body including reducing depression and anxiety, relieving stress and helping improve motor functions.’
Prince Charles is Patron of the Campaign for Wool, which aims to raise public awareness around the benefits of wool as a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre.
Later, The Duchess of Cornwall praised a newly-refurbished women’s refuge and said how badly such facilities were needed in the UK.
Camilla was visiting the South Ayrshire Women’s Aid centre which offers information, advice, advocacy and safe refuge accommodation for women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse.
Their refuge accommodation, first taken over in 1997, was built as communal facility.
But thanks to a massive team effort, it has been reconfigured as eight self-contained flats to allow the women – many with children – privacy and dignity.
Speaking assuredly off the cuff – joking she would use ‘any excuse to take off my mask’ – Camilla said she wanted to congratulate them on the ‘brilliant’ work they had done.
‘I know how important these refuges are. I have seen quite a lot all over the country. But to see these separate accommodation, these flats….it’s the first time I have seen those.
‘And talking to some of the ladies here I know what a difference it makes to them to have a bit of privacy,’ she said.
‘Again I would like to ret-iterate what an incredible job you all do for violence against women. It is so important to have all of you on side. Others might take a lead from your book and do the same in other parts of the country. ‘
Earlier Camilla viewed one of the flats, which housed their first clients last month, and met with one woman, who cannot be named for her safety, with two young children who had fled appalling domestic abuse.
‘Thank you for talking to me,’ the duchess said. The young woman told her how much she appreciated the facilities.
‘How long can you stay here?’ Camilla asked. ‘A long as they can have me,’ she laughed.
‘They have eight flats here but there are probably a lot more need,’ Camilla replied. ‘I can understand the importance to you of having somewhere safe to go, but also somewhere that offers you privacy as well as support and advice.’