Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith is set to reveal new facets of the heir to the throne in Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, publishing this Thursday, 6 April.
After four years interviewing 300 of the prince’s family members, friends, acquaintances and officials Bedell Smith’s tome focuses on the man behind the public persona, with special attention on his marriage to Diana and his personality.
Sunday Times royal correspondent Royah Nikkhah got a sneak peek at the book and in an interview with ABC News said that ‘this book really explores the fact that they were deeply unhappy, or at least Diana was, from literally Day One of their marriage’.
Nikkhah said that the Bedell Smith’s book suggests that Charles got cold feet before proposing to the then 19-year-old Diana Spencer and it was Prince Philip who urged him to make up his mind.
‘Prince Philip wanted to be fair to Diana because he didn’t want her reputation as this young 19-year-old in British society ruined. He spelled this out to Charles in a letter, saying, “Look, you know, the time has come. You need to either marry her or cut her loose”.’
Nikkhah added: ‘Going into something like this, I think, he felt that was it for life, and as he wasn’t sure of the relationship, and I think he felt incredibly trapped, probably, on the eve of his wedding.’
The book also explores Charles’s relationship with Camilla, who he married in 2005. According to Nikkhah, ‘the key thing with this book, it just heightens the fact that for Charles, there was never anybody else. There was never anyone else who was going to fit all his needs…it was always Camilla.’
The book also paints an interesting, sometimes contradictory view of Charles in relation to family and business. Though Bedell Smith asserts that Prince Charles has always been a loving and devoted father to William and Harry, arranging his royal engagements so he could return home for bath and bedtime, she also suggests that Charles has been an absentee grandfather, missing birthdays and important moments in Prince George’s life.
Bedell Smith’s extensive interviews with people close to Charles have provided extensive insight into the mind of the man who will be king. In an exclusive preview of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, Bedell Smith has written a series of columns for Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
One of the columns has focused on the strong headed nature of Charles’s approach to things, saying that he does not like to be challenged and has gathered around him a group of people who agree with his thoughts and ideas.
A large number of sources are quoted in the piece, including Miranda Somerset, wife of the 11th Duke of Beaufort, who said: ‘He is so hostile to unwelcome advice…A friend who contradicted him was likely to be dropped and never spoken to again.’
Similarly, art historian John Richardson recalls a conversation in the late eighties in which he tried to persuade Prince Charles in an argument about classical versus contemporary buildings – ‘He didn’t want to discuss it. He doesn’t want to be questioned or be bothered. You can’t budge him.’
The stubbornness and resistance to engage in debate is markedly different from the prince’s parents as his father welcomes robust, intelligent argument and his mother is known for listening patiently to contrary opinions.
Bedell Smith argues that all of this is the result of the insecure and unhappy childhood Charles had. In order to regain control of his world he has sought to make his mark in his adult life, diving into controversial issues like climate change. The problem is that it is sometimes without proper preparation meaning his ironclad positions are often based solely on his intuition.
In a letter dated March 1987, Charles admitted that ‘unless I rush about doing things and trying to help furiously, I will not (and the monarchy will not) be seen to be relevant and I will be considered a mere playboy!’
Bedell Smith spoke with a man who has long been close to the Prince who said ‘He hasn’t changed really much at all…‘here is exactly the same uncertainty and lack of confidence. But he affects confidence a lot. He can be pig-headed. He knows he needs to be more confident, and will stick to something, come hell or high water.’
What one takes away from these interviews is that there is no denying that Charles is his own man and will be a very different ruler than his mother. The exact type of ruler he will be, however, will only be revealed in time.