Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Prince Charles: pampered aristocrat or rebel prince?

Unflattering biography published weeks before Commonwealth meeting to decide Queen’s successor

Prince Charles at The Holy Trinity Church in Tattershall, Lincolnshire. Photo Eamonn M. McCormack / WPA Pool/Getty Images
Prince Charles at The Holy Trinity Church in Tattershall, Lincolnshire. Photo Eamonn M. McCormack / WPA Pool/Getty Images

A new biography of Prince Charles paints the future king as a pampered eccentric who travels with his own bedroom furniture - not just his orthopaedic bed and linen, but two landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and his royal lavatory seat.

In the eyes of Tom Bower, author of Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles, the future king is cosseted and temperamental, flitting between six residences and enjoying a staff that includes four valets, a butler, chef, private secretary and gardeners who hand-pluck weeds from his Highgrove residence to avoid using pesticides.

"Those who know him have often asked themselves why Prince Charles is so extraordinarily self-indulgent. Why can’t he be more like his mother, who lives without complaint under leaky roofs and in rooms that haven’t been repainted since her Coronation?" Mr Bower writes in his book, released on Thursday.

Mr Bower is certainly not the first author to criticise Prince Charles, 69, England's future king and the man who hopes to succeed Queen Elizabeth as head of the Commonwealth. But the timing of his book has raised questions about whether Mr Bower set out paint Prince Charles in an unflattering light. Commonwealth members are to hold a meeting on April 16 to discuss the Queen’s successor - and the prince is by no means guaranteed to inherit the role.

“From what I’ve read the intention is sensational,” royal commentator and former editor of International Who’s Who, Richard Fitzwilliams, said.Undoubtedly it will cause a good deal of upset.”

The author of Royally Suited: Harry and Meghan, Phil Dampier, called much of Mr Bower’s material “old” and agreed that it paints Prince Charles in an unflattering light.

“It’s a shame because I think the Prince is well meaning but his biggest problem is that he doesn’t practise what he preaches,” Mr Dampier said. “I remember 25 years ago he made a speech about how cars were ruining cities and then had his gas-guzzling Bentley shipped out to Prague for a two-day visit.”

Mr Dampier said the future king “undoubtedly has a profligate and extravagant lifestyle, although the palace has denied that he takes a toilet seat with him wherever he goes.”

Clarence House and Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Thursday.


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Evening Standard royal editor Robert Jobson considered Mr Bowers’ biography a missed opportunity.

"Bower's book has a passion and power but it is largely negative and ignores the good in the man. Charles, who raises £175 million every year for charity, is a philosopher and philanthropist," Mr Jobson told The National.

"I have travelled extensively with the prince on foreign assignments and the portrait Bower paints is of the same man but of a different time. Charles is more relaxed and accomplished in public and ready to serve in whatever way his country and people want," Mr Jobson said.

Mr Bower relied on 120 sources from Prince Charles’ “inner circle” to establish a picture of the Prince of Wales, but admitted on Thursday that Prince Charles will likely “hate” the biography and may be waiting around for years to ascend the throne.

"He wants to have a legacy, he wants there to be an era of Charles. But of course, he's going to be frustrated, because the Queen is going to live hopefully for many, many more years and there won't be that legacy that he wants.”

Updated: March 22, 2018 11:02 PM