CHARLES, THE PEACE PROCESS AND WHY HE PUT ASIDE HIS GRIEF OVER MOUNT­BAT­TEN

A new bi­og­ra­phy of the Prince of Wales, pub­lished to mark his 70th birth­day, re­veals Charles’ ab­sorp­tion in Ir­ish af­fairs, north and south. Its au­thor, vet­eran royal-watcher Robert Job­son, tells Laurence White why the Prince con­sid­ers the Queen’s visit to

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Af­ter his beloved great un­cle Lord Louis Mount­bat­ten was mur­dered by the IRA — he and three oth­ers died when a bomb was ex­ploded by re­mote con­trol on their plea­sure boat off the Sligo coast on Au­gust 27, 1979 — Prince Charles was heard to re­mark: “It made me want to die, too.”

Mount­bat­ten was much more than just a rel­a­tive. Charles de­scribed him as “the grand­fa­ther I never had” and through­out his life the pair were ex­tremely close.

As well as a friend, Mount­bat­ten was a men­tor and one of the first peo­ple Charles went to for ad­vice.

Yet, in spite of the hor­ror of that Au­gust day Prince Charles, who turns 70 next week, has a deep af­fec­tion for both parts of Ire­land and, ac­cord­ing to a new book pub­lished to mark his sev­enth decade, is hugely in­ter­ested in what goes on here.

Au­thor Robert Job­son says: “Many peo­ple re­gard the Com­mon­wealth as the Queen’s great­est achieve­ment dur­ing her lengthy reign, but Charles sees her mood-chang­ing visit to Dublin in 2011 as her most im­por­tant legacy.

“Both are fix­ated by Ir­ish pol­i­tics. He has been de­scribed to me by some­one very close to him as a ‘po­lit­i­cal anorak’.

When it comes to the minu­tiae of Ir­ish pol­i­tics, the Queen is un­touch­able. Af­ter all, she was able to see, on a weekly ba­sis, all kinds of top se­cret ma­te­rial about Ire­land dur­ing the Seven­ties, Eight­ies and Nineties, when she met the var­i­ous Prime Min­is­ters dur­ing their terms of of­fice.

“The Queen and Prince Charles have very long, de­tailed and to­tally pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions about Ire­land. Many peo­ple be­lieve that the two only meet when royal du­ties have to be dis­cussed, but that is not the case. They meet reg­u­larly and dis­cuss all sorts of things.”

Ac­cord­ing to Job­son — a for­mer royal cor­re­spon­dent, now au­thor and broad­caster, who has spent nearly 30 years as a royal watcher — the in­ter­est in Ire­land pre-dated Mount­bat­ten’s death.

“While that dread­ful mur­der ob­vi­ously had a huge im­pact on the royal fam­ily, for the Queen and Prince Charles the cre­ation of bet­ter po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ships be­tween Ire­land and the UK was more im­por­tant than the per­son­al­i­ties in­volved.”

Job­son in his book (it is not an of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­phy, but Prince Charles’ of­fice, Clarence House, co-op­er­ated with the au­thor, who also in­ter­viewed past and present mem­bers of the royal house­hold) re­calls how the Prince made an emo­tional jour­ney to Mount­bat­ten’s hol­i­day home in Sligo in May 2015, pass­ing the spot where a ter­ror­ist pressed the re­mote con­trol switch that blew up the boat sail­ing in the bay be­low.

A small cross marks the spot and, as the cav­al­cade passed, it slowed al­most to a halt be­fore con­tin­u­ing to the cas­tle. There, Charles whis­pered to a lo­cal vil­lager: “It’s been a long time.

I never thought it would hap­pen” — a ref­er­ence to the length of time he had been wait­ing to make that pil­grim­age.

But Job­son (right) re­veals it was also a cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, with Charles later say­ing: “At the time, I could not imag­ine how we would come to terms with the an­guish of such a deep loss.

“Through this dread­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, I now un­der­stand, in a pro­found way, the ag­o­nies borne by oth­ers on these is­lands, of what­ever faith or po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion.”

Job­son adds: “He recog­nises that rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is a dif­fi­cult process. He be­lieves that you have to for­give, even if you can­not for­get, oth­er­wise noth­ing will be achieved. What hap­pened hap­pened, and noth­ing will bring back those whose lives were lost.”

Job­son also gives an il­lu­mi­nat­ing in­sight into the Prince’s feel­ings. In quiet mo­ments of re­flec­tion Charles talks to his de­parted loved ones, in­clud­ing Mount­bat­ten, and in that way keeps their spir­its alive in his heart.

Mount­bat­ten had ig­nored Garda ad­vice when he went on that fate­ful fish­ing trip. Ac­cord­ing to Job­son, Charles has a some­what fa­tal­is­tic ap­proach to his own mor­tal­ity. “He once told me: ‘There is noth­ing you can do if your name is on the bul­let’. How­ever, he heeds the ad­vice of those charged with en­sur­ing his safety, but does not be­lieve that he should take any ad­di­tional pre­cau­tions. He be­lieves the pro­fes­sion­als know their job and that en­ables him to get on with his job. Oth­er­wise, he would never go out the door.”

Five years af­ter the Mount­bat­ten mur­der the IRA also tried to kill Charles and Di­ana as they were at­tend­ing a Du­ran Du­ran con­cert at the Do­min­ion The­atre in Lon­don. A bomb was planted near where they were sit­ting, but the plot was foiled be­cause the de­vice was never primed.

Sean O’Cal­laghan, the IRA man-turned-in­former, claimed the cou­ple owed their lives to him, as he had been charged with plant­ing the de­vice and en­sured that it would not go off.

Per­haps one of the most as­ton­ish­ing im­ages to emerge from his vis­its to the Repub­lic was in Co Kerry, where he and Camilla walked on Der­ry­nane Strand. She kicked off her shoes and walked bare­foot on the sand, a “can­did” mo­ment that pro­duced that dif­fer­ent pho­to­graph that lo­cal pho­tog­ra­phers were hop­ing for.

In a way it showed how both the lo­cals and the roy­als viewed the now fairly fre­quent vis­its with a warmth re­flect­ing

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is hard... he be­lieves you must for­give, even if you can­not for­get, oth­er­wise noth­ing will be achieved

the changed po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere. But his most fre­quent vis­its to this is­land have been north of the bor­der. He and Princess Di­ana came to En­niskillen to visit sur­vivors of the Re­mem­brance Day bomb­ing 10 days af­ter that hor­ror. Although Di­ana car­ried out sev­eral royal en­gage­ments in North­ern Ire­land, that was the only time they ap­peared as a cou­ple.

Charles, as Job­son says in his book, is en­chanted by the land, cul­ture, po­etry and Celtic his­tory. While most peo­ple can re­call the as­ton­ish­ment that fol­lowed the Queen speak­ing in Ir­ish in her his­toric ad­dress dur­ing her ini­tial Dublin visit, Charles also ad­dressed an au­di­ence in the Repub­lic with a few words of Ir­ish in May last year.

But he showed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the con­tro­ver­sies over lan­guage dur­ing a visit to the Sea­mus Heaney HomePlace, when he re­vealed he had com­mis­sioned a new mu­si­cal piece set to words by po­ets in English, Ir­ish and Ul­ster-Scots. The Prince also recorded a read­ing of the Heaney poem The Ship­ping Fore­cast as one of the ex­hibits at the cen­tre.

Ac­cord­ing to Job­son, Charles is frus­trated by the pub­lic per­cep­tion of his work and that he is some­what flighty in his in­ter­ests.

“He wants to see a bet­ter world and greater con­sid­er­a­tion given to the en­vi­ron­ment and the cur­rent prob­lem with plas­tics in the oceans. He tries his best to get things done, but in a non-par­ti­san way. He can be po­lit­i­cal in a small ‘p’ sense and, as Prince of Wales, he can make a dif­fer­ence. He can con­vene gath­er­ings of peo­ple to get things done.

“There have been only 21 Princes of Wales be­fore him and many of them were blag­gards and drunk­ards and wom­an­is­ers. This Prince of Wales is the most se­ri­ous and po­lit­i­cal that we have ever had and I think he has made a dif­fer­ence.”

The au­thor points out how the Prince is the sec­ond-big­gest em­ployer in the Dum­fries part of Ayr­shire, fol­low­ing the end­ing of coalmin­ing and the clo­sure of a boot-mak­ing fac­tory. He headed a con­sor­tium which bought Drum­fries House and es­tate and put up a £20m loan from his own char­i­ta­ble trust. It now pro­vides ed­u­ca­tional and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple in the area. He blames “per­ni­cious lies”, in­clud­ing those put about by Princess Di­ana, for his some­times poor pub­lic image, ac­cord­ing to Job­son. A ru­mour that he had smug­gled Camilla on to the royal train be­fore his mar­riage for a night of pas­sion was a fab­ri­ca­tion, as is the sug­ges­tion that he has a flunky to squeeze tooth­paste on to his tooth­brush.

Job­son also re­veals how Charles was deeply hurt when he was vir­tu­ally air­brushed out of the lives of William and Harry in a film Di­ana: Our Mother, Her Life And Legacy, which his sons had en­dorsed.

It was a soul-bear­ing ex­er­cise by the two princes, but some dis­agreed with the omis­sion of Charles. One in­sider told Job­son that it was ac­cepted the film would be largely about Di­ana, “but it would have been nice if they had ac­knowl­edged his con­tri­bu­tion to their up­bring­ing. He was — and tries to be — a jolly good fa­ther, af­ter all”.

Job­son also re­veals that the princes, con­trary to their pub­lic image, can be some­what wil­ful at times.

He cites how William, as sec­ond-in­line to the throne, ex­pects even Harry to bear his sta­tus in mind and how Harry be­came so de­mand­ing of his staff be­fore his re­cent mar­riage to Meghan Markle — “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets”, he said at one stage — that the Queen took him aside and asked him to show more re­spect.

As for the fu­ture, pro­vid­ing Charles out­lives his mother, he will be king, says Job­son, no mat­ter if there is a pub­lic stir­ring that the suc­ces­sion should skip a gen­er­a­tion.

“Al­ready he is the shadow king. He and the Queen see all the pa­pers from the Govern­ment and he and other mem­bers of the royal fam­ily are un­der­tak­ing more and more of her du­ties. He has about 600 en­gage­ments a year and the Queen will never make an­other over­seas trip.

“This is not an X Fac­tor monar­chy. You don’t get the job by pub­lic ac­claim. Al­ready plans are be­ing laid to make Charles Prince Re­gent when the Queen reaches the age of 95; she is cur­rently 92. She will not ab­di­cate, but sim­ply step aside and let Charles ef­fec­tively be­come king. The Re­gency al­lows for that.

“It is likely that Charles will be the old­est-ever per­son to as­cend the throne and have one of the short­est reigns. Re­cently, in Lon­don, the Queen an­nounced that he would be head of the Com­mon­wealth in suc­ces­sion to her, but he is ef­fec­tively that now, as Her Majesty will not be un­der­tak­ing any fur­ther long-dis­tance en­gage­ments.”

So, what is Charles like as a per­son? Job­son says: “Both a very funny man with good comic tim­ing and also a se­ri­ous per­son, but a warm one.

“He is a worka­holic, fre­quently putting in 14-hour days and of­ten fall­ing asleep over his read­ing. No one can tell him to stop.

“Like me, he likes to paint to re­lax, but re­cently he told me he doesn’t have time to do it any­more. In some ways, he feels he is run­ning out of time to get all the things done that he wants to do.”

Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes And Dreams by Robert Job­son, pub­lished by John Blake, £20

The Queen at Aras An Uachtarain in Dublin with Ir­ish Pres­i­dent Mary McAleese in 2011

Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Corn­wall visit Mul­lagh­more in 2015 where his great-un­cle Lord Mount­bat­ten (top) was killed in an IRA ex­plo­sion in 1979. The tiny har­bour(cen­tre), and (above) the re­mains of the boat, Shadow V

Princess Di­ana vis­it­ing En­niskillen with Prince Charles in the wake of the 1987 bomb

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