Your Holiness,

We are writing to express our sincere apologies for any offence which may have been given by recent comments about your forthcoming State visit to the United Kingdom. I know that our ambassador to the Holy See will have conveyed to you the apologies of my government, but I want to assure you of our own sincere regret.

I am sure you will agree with me that state visits are never easy. Between ourselves the officials at the Palace went into overdrive with their contingency plans when the President of South Africa was due: how many Mrs Zumas were there likely to be and what was the protocol about sleeping arrangements? It is one thing, however, to face problems of that kind and quite another to discover that a minor official has been gratuitously rude to one’s guest.

They tell me that the person responsible for the foolish memorandum was young and rather given to drink. Why the Foreign Office should think that was an excuse I cannot say. I confess that I was even less amused than my famous predecessor. The problem (and as Supreme Governor of the Church of England I have freely to admit it) is that this is rapidly becoming a society with little or no respect for religion of any kind. Charles wants to be Defender of Faiths, or so he says. I have told him time and again that I think he will have his work cut out. I find the Church of England rather more than I can manage.

We do look forward to your visit. It will be good to talk to someone of our own outlook and vintage. I confess I am tired of this present age, where people pay more attention to young men with a drink problem than they do to things that really matter.

With respect and affection,