Royal shock: What Prince Charles did that ‘no modern royal’ had attempted before


PRINCE Charles attempted something “no modern royal” has ever attempted before, according to a documentary.

The pioneering plan saw him borrow £20million from his own charitable foundation and quickly raise funds to pay it back, plus another £15m. The Prince of Wales has dedicated himself to an “ambitious” plan to regenerate a deprived area of Scotland – Cumnock in East Ayrshire. The plan centres around an old estate called Dumfries House which he bought back in 2007 for £45million.

He came up with a plan to renovate the house and provide multiple sources of income for upkeep, as well as employing local people and attracting further investment.

Alan Titchmarsh, who was presenting ITV’s 2012 documentary ‘The Royal Renovation’, explained why this was such a tremendous task.

He said: “The prince has set himself a formidable challenge – to use Dumfries House to kickstart the regeneration of the entire area, creating jobs and drawing in much-needed investment, in effect, transforming the community’s economic fortunes.

“It’s safe to say that no modern royal has ever attempted something quite so ambitious.”

Prince Charles attempted something very ambitious Image GETTY
Prince Charles attempted something very ambitious Image GETTY

Prince Charles attempted something very ambitious (Image: GETTY)

Dumfries House Image GETTY
Dumfries House Image GETTY

Dumfries House (Image: GETTY)

The “masterplan” involved building a housing development and selling the homes for initial capital, renovating the house and using it for tours and as a wedding venue.

In addition, there would be on old farm building converted into an up-market guesthouse and other features added, such as a walled garden.

It was an important project for this area, because Cumnock had experienced significant decline in recent years.

There had been a net migration out of the area over the previous decade leaving houses empty and few employment opportunities.

Chief Executive of East Ayrshire Council Fiona Lees explained to the documentary why Charles’ investment was sorely needed.

She said: “We’ve got high unemployment in this area, we’ve got a high level of dependency on incapacity benefit and we’ve got a town that in the past few years has seen a significant decline with the decline of the mining industry.

“It’s a community with a population of about 2,600. It’s a community that’s more than halved in its size.

“In its peak in 1961 there was probably about 7,000 people that lived here.

Fiona Lees Image ITV YouTube UKTelevisionShows
Fiona Lees Image ITV YouTube UKTelevisionShows

Fiona Lees (Image: ITV / YouTube (UKTelevisionShows))

Prince Charles explaining his reasoning Image ITV YouTube UKTelevisionShows
Prince Charles explaining his reasoning Image ITV YouTube UKTelevisionShows

Prince Charles explaining his reasoning (Image: ITV / YouTube (UKTelevisionShows))

“In the last 10 years as a council we’ve demolished about 200 houses that we just couldn’t let. 

“That’s never a decision that you take easily.”

Meanwhile, Prince Charles had initially been interested in the house due to its priceless furniture collection, which was in danger of being auctioned off.

He explained to Mr Titchmarsh how after he realised the house was where it was he realized how the project’s goals could be two-fold – to save the house and its furniture and, at the same time, provide hope for the community with jobs and investment.

He said: “At the beginning when I first heard about this house I had no idea it was here, it was in an area of multiple deprivation.

“It could provide a real opportunity to make a difference by using the focus for wider regeneration and opportunity, trying to raise aspirations and hope again when so much had disappeared.”

The Dumfries House project is now considered a huge success for the Prince of Wales, with Geordie Greig describing it in the Daily Mail as the “best gamble Charles ever took”.