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Prince Charles' letters to government officials released to the public

Letters written by Prince Charles to government officials have been published. It follows a decade-long court battle, with concerns that publishing the messages could harm Charles' reputation as future king.

The 27 letters were written during 2004 and 2005 to members of the incumbent Labour government.

They have been referred to as the "black spider" memos because of Charles' handwriting.

These include messages sent to then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, on topics such as the army, agriculture and redevelopment in Northern Ireland.

One such letter questions delays in the delivery of military helicopters, worrying it was another example of the British Armed Forces "being asked to do an extremely challenging job…without the necessary resources."

The Prince of Wales also addressed subjects including the fate of the Patagonian Toothfish, the farming industry and the culling of badgers - a hot button topic among Britons.

Scans of the correspondence were published online by the Cabinet Office, with partial redactions supposedly to remove names.

As heir to the throne, Prince Charles is obliged to remain neutral on political topics, and defer to the government. The British government has been fighting for years to keep the letters out of the public eye, worried they might cast doubt on the future king's objectivity.

While Queen Elizabeth II has kept relatively out of the spotlight during her more than six decades-long reign, Charles has been involved in several royal scandals.

A statement released on Wednesday by the prince's press office said Charles was just "expressing concern over issues that he has raised in public," and "trying to find practical ways to address" them.

It also argued that he "should have a right to communicate privately."

Hard-fought battle

The Guardian newspaper first asked to access the letters in 2005, but was blocked by successive governments.

The government was originally ordered to release the communications in 2012, a decision which was vetoed by the attorney general. This gag order was then overturned in 2014 and

supported by Britain's supreme court in March this year

, in a decision Prime Minister David Cameron called "disappointing."

Graham Smith, the head of Republic, a group that advocates for the abolition of the monarchy, said the messages were proof the royal family was not doing its job properly.

"These letters are only a small indication of widespread lobbying that's been going on for years," he said.

"We can't have a situation where we don't know what influence Charles is having on government policy."

The current administration has hinted it may seek to tighten rules around royal communications in the future.

There was no direct comment from the prince himself, although a press officer angrily ripped the cover off a reporter's microphone after he asked a question relating to the letters.

an/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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