By David Derbyshire
He has a reputation as one of England’s most brutal tyrants, but Henry VIII, according to Prince Charles, was actually an environmental crusader with a keen interest in architecture.
Giving the annual Dimbleby Lecture last night, the Prince of Wales invited comparisons between himself and Henry VIII.
He praised his ancestor for ‘exhibiting an interest in architecture that may possibly be hereditary’ and he highlighted Henry’s awareness of green issues.
‘Towards the end of his reign, he also showed an interest in sustainability,’ the Prince said.
‘Perhaps it is not so well known that Henry instigated the very first piece of green legislation in this country.’
In 1543 Henry passed laws that prevented shipbuilders felling too many immature oak trees. The move was designed to protect forests.
‘What was instinctively understood by many in King Henry’s time was the importance of working with the grain of nature to maintain the balance between keeping the earth’s natural capital intact, and sustaining humanity on its renewable income,’ the Prince said.
He warned that consumerism was threatening mankind’s future. Since the 1950s, rainforests have shrunk by a third – robbing the world of plants that may be essential for mankind’s survival, he said.
He said: ‘Our consumerist society comes at an enormous cost to the Earth and we must face up to the facet that the Earth cannot afford to support it,’ he said.
‘Just as our banking sector is struggling with its debts – and paradoxically also facing calls for a return to so- called oldfashioned traditional thinking, so Nature’s life-support systems are failing to cope with the debts with have built up there too.
‘If we don’t face up to this, then Nature, the biggest bank of all, could go bust too. And no amount of quantitative easing will revive it.’