It’s been nearly two months since Prince Charles tested positive for the coronavirus. So, what has the 71-year-old been up to since self-isolating for a mere week? He has commended nurses and other essential workers. He has benevolently shared his favorite cheesy baked eggs recipe. And as of this week, he has taken to urging his fellow Britons to drive tractors and pick vegetables and fruit.
“Food does not happen by magic,” Charles said in a video posted to Clarence House’s official Twitter account on Tuesday. “If we are to harvest British fruit and vegetables this year, we need an army of people to help.” Which is to say the government needs “many thousands” of people to enroll in Pick for Britain, its campaign to help furloughed workers “seize an opportunity for a very different kind of work.” (As well as replace migrant workers currently unable to travel to the U.K.)
Charles, Clarence House noted, is “a farmer himself.” But you wouldn’t know it from the video. While Charles is standing in a garden, he’s also wearing a tie and a blazer—and notably not wearing a mask. Perhaps that’s why the 71-year-old is separated from the cameraman by a wire fence.
Still, Charles is familiar enough with plant husbandry to know it involves quite a bit of dirt. “I do not doubt that the work will be unglamorous and at times challenging,” he said. “It will be hard graft but is hugely important if we are to avoid the growing crops going to waste.”
But on Twitter, many of the royal’s fellow Britons aren’t so sure. A significant number of replies to the video fall along the lines of “hi charles, i would love to pick blueberries but sadly, i hate you and will therefore not” and “pick your own damn fruit, binch.”
To be fair, Pick for Britain’s website says that all workers will at least receive minimum wage, which is roughly $10 per hour for those 25 and over. (Though for those under 19, that rate could be cut in half.) Farms that allow room and board will charge a maximum of roughly $65 per week. But the number of people receiving and paying those amounts may be negligible at best. In late April, the charity Concordia reported that only 6,000 of the 50,000 people who applied for fruit-picking jobs accepted an interview, and only 150 went on to become employed.
Perhaps Charles wasn’t aware, but the country’s environmental secretary had just issued a similar plea, causing the initiative’s website to crash. Fortunately, it’s once again up and running, with job postings such as “runner beans and Helda beans grower” and “grower of cherries, apples, pears, arable and sheep.” There are also some informational, pre-social distancing videos of “life on a farm.”
The idea that Charles would do the work himself, as some have suggested, isn't as outlandish as it sounds. Bella Hadid has spent the past few weeks toiling away in the dirt, planting no less than 1,500 lavender herbs. (All while wearing gloves and a mask.)