Qatar has attracted significant controversy over hosting the World Cup – but it’s not the only time the country has found itself in the spotlight this year.
In June, The Sunday Times reported that King Charles – then a prince – had accepted cash donations totaling €3m (nearly £2.6m) for his Prince of Wales Charitable Fund from a former prime minister of Qatar.
While the newspaper reported that there was “no suggestion that the payments were illegal”, Charles was said to have received three batches of cash in person from Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister from 2011 to 2005.
On one occasion, the Times said, Sheikh Hamad handed Charles €1m in notes stored in paper bags from Fortnum & Mason, the luxury London store that has a royal charter, raising “serious questions about personal judgement”. of the new monarch.
It was later widely reported that Charles said the money bag donations going to his charities “will not happen again”. A month later, the Charity Commission refused to launch an investigation, saying it had “no concerns”.
Charles’ long-standing relationship with the former Qatari prime minister has been strained, with Sheikh Hamad giving the British royal a £147,000 horse and “contributing to the maintenance of one of his castles in Scotland”.
The UK and Qatar have a long-standing relationship, with the BBC saying that “at the heart” of the UK’s relationship with the Gulf state “is gas”.
The small state is one of the largest exporters of liquefied natural gas globally and the second largest supplier to the UK.
However, the ties between the two countries go beyond energy.
Qatar’s ruling family and sovereign wealth fund – the Qatar Investment Authority – own areas of London, including Harrods, 20% of Heathrow Airport and the Shard.
Elsewhere in the portfolio are 6% of Barclays Bank, 7% of the London Stock Exchange and 15% of Sainsbury’s.
In 2018, the late Sir David Amess MP called the state “a valued ally of the UK” and highlighted the defense cooperation between the two countries which “contributes significantly to the UK economy”.
But the Royal Family is said to have played a major role in maintaining strong relations with Qatar’s ruling family.
According to CNN, “Much of Britain’s traditional control of the region was rooted in monarchies that were either imposed or supported by it through close ties to its royal family.”
It quoted an academic, Kristian Ulrichson, who said: “The royal family has provided Britain with a means to build and maintain decades-long links with ruling elites … in ways that would be difficult for elected political leaders to replicate “.
The late Elizabeth shared a good relationship with the House of Al-Thani – Qatar’s ruling family – as well as an interest in horse racing.
Qatar Investments & Projects Development Holding Company (QIPCO) became the first sponsor of Royal Ascot in 2014.
Sheikh Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani attended the Queen’s funeral in September and, according to The Guardian, “his cousin, the horse racing enthusiast Hamad Bin Abdullah, was among the even more select group at her sentencing at Windsor Castle.”
The sheikh was also one of the last foreign rulers to visit the queen in May, in what would be one of her last engagements as her health deteriorated.
Queen Elizabeth visited Qatar in 1979 and in 2010 hosted the then Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani during a state visit.
In her speech at the state banquet, the Queen called the Qatari people “old and valued friends” and expressed her hope that Britain would be a “home from home” for them.
She also said that “the State of Qatar and the United Kingdom, as well as our two families, have been in close contact with each other for a long time,” noting that “her two sons, Charles and Andrew, have come to know Qatar good”.
Until 2011, Prince Andrew acted as Britain’s special trade representative, a role he stepped down from in July of that year after growing criticism of his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
However, despite officially stepping down as trade envoy, Andrew continued to undertake meetings around the globe relating to British trade, with “meetings with 15 ministers from foreign governments in Qatar, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia” taking place within six months of quitting. his role.
Initially, Buckingham Palace defended Andrew by continuing this work, as did the government.
His government department for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) was quoted at the time as saying that Andrew “is particularly valuable in some parts of the world where continuity is valued over constantly changing staff”.