'Decades-long connection': What links does the Royal Family have with Qatar?

File photo dated 13/3/2013 of the Prince of Wales shakes hands with the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al Thani, at his residence outside Doha, Qatar. The Prince accepted large cash donations totalling three million euros from the former Qatari prime minister, the Sunday Times has reported. The newspaper claimed the prince personally accepted the cash donations for his charity the Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) between 2011 and 2015 from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim who was prime minister of Qatar between 2007 and 2013. Issue date: Sunday June 26, 2022.
The then-Prince of Wales shakes hands with then-Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani at his residence outside Doha, Qatar, in March 2013. (Getty Images)

Qatar has attracted significant controversy over its hosting of 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 – was alleged to have accepted cash donations totalling €3m (nearly £2.6m) for his Prince of Wales Charitable Fund from a former Qatari prime minister.

While the newspaper reported "there is no suggestion the payments were illegal", Charles was said to have received three lots of cash in person from Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, Qatar's PM between 2011 and 2005.

On one occasion, the Times said, Sheikh Hamad handed Charles €1m in notes stored inside paper bags from Fortnum & Mason, the London luxury store that has a royal charter, raising "serious questions about the personal judgement" of the new monarch.

TOPSHOT - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during an audience at Windsor Castle, west of London on May 24, 2022. (Photo by Steve Parsons / POOL / AFP) (Photo by STEVE PARSONS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani at Windsor Castle in May. (Getty Images)

Charles was subsequently widely reported to have said that donations of bags of cash going to his charities will "not happen again". A month later, the Charity Commission declined to launch an investigation saying it had "no concerns".

Charles's longstanding relationship with the former Qatari prime minister has been reportedly close, with Sheikh Hamad gifting the British royal a £147,000 horse and reportedly "contributing to the upkeep of one of his castles in Scotland".

The UK and Qatar have a longstanding relationship, with the BBC saying that "at the core" of the UK's relationship with the Gulf state "is gas".

The small state is one of the biggest exporters of liquified natural gas globally, and the second biggest provider to the UK.

However, the links between the two countries go beyond energy.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Thani at a desert picnic held in a Bedouin tent made of camel skins in Qatar, 27th February 1979. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Thani at a desert picnic in Qatar in February 1979. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during a visit to Qatar, February 1979. (Photo by Serge Lemoine/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the same 1979 visit to Qatar. (Getty Images)

The ruling family of Qatar and the sovereign wealth fund – the Qatar Investment Authority – own swathes of London, including Harrods, 20% of Heathrow Airport and the Shard.

Elsewhere in its portfolio is 6% of Barclays Bank, 7% of the London Stock Exchange and 15% of Sainsbury's.

In 2018, the late MP Sir David Amess called the state "a valued ally of the United Kingdom", and highlighted the cooperation on defence between the two countries that "contributes significantly to the UK's economy".

But it is the Royal Family that is said to have helped play a major role in maintaining strong relations with the Qatari ruling family.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 22:  The Queen And Prince Philip With The Emir Of Qatar, Sheikh Hamed Ibn Khalifa Al-thani, At Buckingham Palace  (Photo by Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani at Buckingham Palace in July 1997. (Getty Images)

According to CNN, "much of Britain's traditional control in the region had been rooted in monarchies that had either been imposed or backed by it through close ties to its royal family".

It quoted an academic, Kristian Ulrichson, as saying: "The Royal Family has provided a means for Britain to forge and maintain decades-long connections with ruling elites... in ways that would be difficult for elected political leaders to replicate."

The late Queen Elizabeth shared a good relationship with the House of Al-Thani – Qatar's ruling family – as well as an interest in horse racing.

The Qatar Investments & Projects Development Holding Company (QIPCO) became the first-ever sponsor of Royal Ascot in 2014.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani and Queen Elizabeth II make their way to Windsor Castle, on October 26, 2010 in Windsor, England. The Sheikh is on a two day State visit to the UK, the first since his last in 1985, which is seen as important in strengthening already strongly established business links with one of the Gulf States most financially powerful nations.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani ride through Windsor during a state visit in October 2010. (Getty Images)

Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani attended the Queen's funeral in September and, according to The Guardian, "his cousin, horse racing enthusiast Hamad Bin Abdullah, was among the even more select group at her committal 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 final engagements as her health declined.

Queen Elizabeth visited Qatar in 1979 and in 2010 hosted 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 the UK 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 touch with each other for a long time", noting that her "two sons, Charles and Andrew, have come to know Qatar well".

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (C), Britain's Prince Andrew (L), the Duke of York, and Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar's deputy premier and minister of energy and industry, attend the inauguration ceremony of the Qatargas 2 plant in the northern Ras Laffan industrial zone on April 6, 2009. The Qatargas 2 project provides a production capacity of 15 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year.   AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince Andrew, pictured with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah, officially acted as a trade envoy until 2011. (Getty Images)

Until 2011, Prince Andrew acted as special representative for trade for the UK, a role he relinquished in July of that year following an increase in criticism of his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

However, despite officially giving up his trade envoy position, Andrew continued to undertake meetings across the globe relating to British trade, with "meetings with 15 ministers from foreign governments in Qatar, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia" taking place in the six months after relinquishing his role.

Initially, Buckingham Palace defended Andrew continuing this work, as did the government.

Its UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) government department was quoted as saying at the time that Andrew "is particularly valuable in some parts of the world where continuity is valued over continually changing personnel".