CHARLES KING IN WAIT­ING

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - PEOPLE - | Reuters

WHEN Prince Charles, who turns 70 next week, be­comes king on the death of his mother Queen El­iz­a­beth, he will have waited longer than any of his pre­de­ces­sors to head a royal fam­ily that dates back 1000 years.

Some monar­chists fear, and repub­li­cans hope, he will be a poor king. His ad­mir­ers be­lieve his wis­dom, thought­ful­ness and con­cerns for con­ser­va­tion and the en­vi­ron­ment will win him the pub­lic sup­port he de­serves.

Over­shad­ow­ing it all is his late first wife, Princes Diana, the ac­ri­mo­nious end to their mar­riage and the hos­til­ity in some quar­ters to his sec­ond wife Camilla, the duchess of Corn­wall.

“You are ac­cused of be­ing con­tro­ver­sial just be­cause you are try­ing to draw at­ten­tion to things that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily part of the con­ven­tional view­point,” Charles said in an in­ter­view with GQ mag­a­zine in Septem­ber.

“My prob­lem is I find there are too many things that need do­ing or bat­tling on be­half of.”

Charles Philip Arthur Ge­orge, prince of Wales, duke of Corn­wall, duke of Rothe­say, earl of Carrick, baron of Ren­frew, earl of Ch­ester, lord of the Isles, and prince and great stew­ard of Scot­land, was born at Buck­ing­ham Palace on November 14, 1948.

He was four when his grand­fa­ther Ge­orge VI died and his mother as­cended to the throne at the age of 25. The fol­low­ing year, Charles watched with his grand­mother and aunt, the late Princess Mar­garet, as El­iz­a­beth was crowned queen of 16 realms.

He de­spised his re­mote Scot­tish school, Gor­don­stoun, which his fa­ther also at­tended, but was the first royal heir to get a de­gree af­ter study­ing at Cam­bridge Univer­sity.

Charles was made prince of Wales at a grand cer­e­mony in 1969.

At 92 his mother re­mains in good health with no plans to ab­di­cate, so his wait goes on.

For his crit­ics, and even some monar­chists who think he will bring dis­as­ter upon the House of Wind­sor, that is no bad thing.

“Frankly we’re very lucky he hasn’t been king, be­cause whereas the queen has been the most ex­em­plary monarch and has kept the monar­chy much in peo­ple’s es­teem, I think Charles would un­der­mine it,” said Tom Bower, au­thor of Rebel Prince, an unau­tho­rised biography.

Such un­flat­ter­ing bi­ogra­phies por­tray Charles as an ar­ro­gant, weak man who en­joys the trap­pings of lux­ury –he has his own royal harpist – is in­tol­er­ant of crit­i­cism and is a devo­tee of odd­ball the­o­ries.

His sup­port­ers say he is an easy quarry, with every ac­tion and ut­ter­ance scru­ti­nised by an of­ten un­sym­pa­thetic me­dia.

Charles de­clined to be in­ter­viewed for this ar­ti­cle.

“When you’re in his very ex­posed pub­lic po­si­tion, loy­alty and dis­loy­alty is a quite com­plex sit­u­a­tion,” said a for­mer se­nior aide who worked with the prince for many years.

He said de­trac­tors sim­ply chose to view Charles in a bad light.

“There’s a whole load of stuff that is just not true,” the for­mer aide, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, told Reuters.

“Bower’s only spo­ken to peo­ple with a griev­ance.”

So what is Charles re­ally like? “He’s com­pli­cated. I’ve rarely met any­one so cu­ri­ous about the world as him and ea­ger to know what’s go­ing on and why. More than any­thing, he’s got this drive, he’s phe­nom­e­nally hard-work­ing,” the ex-aide said.

Si­mon Lewis, the queen’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­re­tary from 1998 to 2001, de­scribed Charles as full of en­thu­si­asm, com­mit­ted, with a “wicked sense of hu­mour”.

“If you are a pub­lic fig­ure... if you put your head above the para­pet, then you get crit­i­cism,” Lewis told Reuters

Friends and foes speak of the prince’s de­vo­tion to duty. His work­ing day starts at break­fast – he doesn’t have lunch – and fin­ishes near mid­night, every day. The ex-aide said he got a work-re­lated call from Charles on Christ­mas Day.

In pri­vate, Charles is pas­sion­ate about arts, cul­ture, the­atre, lit­er­a­ture, opera and pop – he’s also a big fan of Leonard Cohen.

Hap­pi­est in his gar­den, he loves Shake­speare, paints wa­ter­colours and has writ­ten chil­dren’s books. He can be fun, but also short-tem­pered and de­mand­ing, the for­mer aide said.

Official fig­ures show his re­cent over­seas tours were the most ex­pen­sive taken by the roy­als.

“He’s... in­tent on a very, very hy­per-lux­u­ri­ous way of life, fly­ing by pri­vate jet, (us­ing the) royal train,” said Bower, whose says his book was based on in­ter­views with 120 peo­ple, many of whom worked for the roy­als.

Charles re­jects such claims. “Oh, don’t be­lieve all that crap,” he told an Aus­tralian ra­dio sta­tion in April when asked if it was true he trav­elled with his own toi­let seat, as Bower de­scribed.

But he can still put on a re­gal show: If he en­ter­tains, there is beau­ti­ful food, wine and ser­vice.

“He thinks that’s right for the prince of Wales and I think peo­ple would be dis­ap­pointed if it wasn’t,” the ex-aide said.

It is not just his lifestyle that at­tracts um­brage. His cam­paign­ing for causes such as the en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate change has led to ac­cu­sa­tions he is in­ter­fer­ing in mat­ters Bri­tish roy­als should avoid.

How­ever, Charles has said it would be “crim­i­nally neg­li­gent” not to use his po­si­tion to help peo­ple and his role has al­lowed him to ex­press strong views. That would be im­pos­si­ble for a monarch, who must re­main apo­lit­i­cal.

“There’s a whole of lot of things I have tried to fo­cus on over all th­ese years that I felt needed at­ten­tion; not ev­ery­body else did, but maybe now some years later they’re be­gin­ning to re­alise that what I was try­ing to say was not quite as dotty as they thought,” Charles said in an in­ter­view with younger son, Harry, last year.

His sup­port­ers say his causes – such as help­ing dis­ad­van­taged young peo­ple find work and in­ter­faith di­a­logue – are of­ten pre­scient and show con­cern for his fel­low coun­try­men.

He ac­knowl­edges he has chal­lenged or­tho­dox views. He has long railed against a throw­away eco­nomic model that has pol­luted the oceans with plas­tic, now a main­stream con­cern.

But other views, such as his sup­port for com­ple­men­tary medicine, still at­tract scorn.

How­ever, the is­sue that most fas­ci­nates the pub­lic re­mains Charles’s di­vorce from Diana, her early death in a 1997 Paris car crash and his sub­se­quent mar­riage in 2005 to Camilla. Some blame Camilla for the fail­ure of his first mar­riage.

In a TV in­ter­view in 1995, Diana sug­gested Charles did not want to be king and was not cut out for such a “suf­fo­cat­ing” role. Not so, say those who worked with him.

“I think he’ll be a very good king,” Lewis said.

Reuters

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Bri­tain’s Prince Charles, who turns 70 next week, and Camilla, the duchess of Corn­wall.

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