He’s spent six decades waiting in the royal wings in the shadow of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, to fulfill his destiny (the throne). And, during that time, Prince Charles has remained a largely unknowable figure. His life has been dictated by protocol, but his fierce independent streak has sometimes put him at odds with the crown. He was vilified over his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles during his disastrous marriage to Princess Diana, but now, more than two decades after Diana’s death, a very different picture of the prince has begun to replace the one of callous, unfaithful husband and absent father.
In the wake of Diana’s death, he grew closer to his sons Princes William and Harry and finally married his true love, Camilla (now Duchess of Cornwall). Earlier this year, at Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, he saved the day when he stepped in at the last minute to escort his future daughter-in-law half way down the aisle and into the welcoming arms of the British royal family. He also showed great compassion for Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, when he looked after her at the wedding and linked arms with her as they left the church. Just a few days later, Harry spoke glowingly of his father at a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in honor of Charles’ upcoming birthday telling the crowd, “His enthusiasm and energy are truly infectious; it has certainly inspired William and I to get involved in issues we care passionately about and to do whatever we can to make a difference.”
Next week, royalty from around the world are expected to travel to Buckingham Palace on November 14th for a glittering banquet held in honor of Charles 70th birthday. To mark the occasion, we give you 15 facts you likely haven’t heard about the Prince of Wales. And for more on Prince Charles and the royal family, Here’s the Secret Story Behind Diana’s Famous “Revenge Dress.”
He is definitely going to become king.
The countless stories about the possibility of Charles being passed over so that Prince William can become king when Queen Elizabeth II dies are pure fiction. He been preparing for this is entire adult life and will ascend the throne. Nothing short of an act of parliament would change that—and that’s not going to happen. And if you’re keen to know more about why, here is The Truth About Why Prince Charles Will Be the Next King.
He once had a very embarrassing nickname.
Believe it or not, Prince Charles was considered quite the heartthrob back in the day. The countless photographs of him on the polo field, running on the beach and windsurfing help to create an almost James Bond-like (really!) image for the heir apparent. The press dubbed him “Action Man” because the photos of him that appeared in the tabloids showed him in perpetual motion.
He (maybe) had a fling with Barbra Streisand.
According to his book, Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne, Christopher Anderson reports that Charles had a huge crush on the Oscar winning actress during his college years and later, after a visit to the set of Funny Girl in 1974, had a brief affair with her. Streisand has never publicly commented on the rumors. But if you’re curious to learn about A-listers who have publicly flaunted their royal paramours, here are 15 Celebrities Who Married Royalty.
He is the most opinionated royal in the family.
Charles is famous in certain circles for firing off letters to members of Parliament and other British officials about his positions on the issues of the day. While the royal rule book calls for members of “The Firm” to remain politically impartial, Charles has spoken out on a number of issues, including the environment and the preservation of landmark architecture.
He knows when he becomes king that this is something that he’ll need to curtail, but royal insiders have told me they expect Charles to still find a way to make his opinions on the topics he cares most about known.
His calendar is busier than William’s and Harry’s.
While you might think Princes William and Harry and their better halves have the busiest diaries, Charles logs more official appearances then the both of his sons combined, and has for many years. He averages about 600 official engagements a year.
He refuses to fly commercial.
Queen Elizabeth has flown with the British Airways during her reign and prefers to take the Royal Train when she can, as she did earlier this year when she invited Meghan Markle along for the ride. Harry and Meghan have flown coach (gasp!) to jet off for vacations and William and Kate have flown economy on British Airways (which once employed her mother, Carole Middleton, as a flight attendant).
Prince Charles prefers flying private whenever he can. (He’s not a fan of first class travel, either.) According to Express, Charles’ trip to Romania, Italy, and Austria in 2017 cost the British taxpayers approximately £154,000, making it the most expensive trip of the Royal Family last year. And for more stars you wouldn’t expect to spot in an economy-plus seat, here are 17 A-List Celebs Who (Almost) Always Fly Coach.
He has something in common with Bruce Springsteen.
Charles is known as “The Boss” among his staff, though we’re sure he can’t carry a tune like Springsteen can.
He’s a champion at small talk.
Having spent decades on royal walkabouts shaking thousands of hands, Charles is reportedly very good at making brief but memorable conversation with the hoi polloi. According to my royal sources, he can talk to anyone about anything—for about five minutes. Sometimes, he even makes some self-deprecating remark about himself that leaves people thoroughly charmed (“I’m sorry you’re stuck talking with me”) when doing meet-and-greets with other members of the family.
Camilla actually saved his public image.
Many people close to the prince have told me that Camilla has had a hugely positive impact on Charles. While married to Princess Diana, he was often caught on camera sulking or looking glum while she basked in the limelight. After her death, he often appeared too serious and unable to relax during appearances. “Camilla was able to get him to understand the importance of smiling and playing to the camera.” As a result, the public’s impression of a more informal Charles has improved considerably.
He hates doing television interviews.
You’d think he would have picked up a thing or two having been married to the most media savvy royal of all time, but no. While the prince comes off as warm and genuine in person, he often freezes up while being interviewed and has never overcome his feelings of being uncomfortable on camera. “It’s a shame,” said my source. “In person, he is really the most charming person. Most people have no idea.”
His list of charities outnumbered Princess Diana’s.
According to British GQ, Charles was once the president of 14 charitable organizations (13 of which he founded himself), including the British Asian Trust, which supports charities in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. He has now centralized his philanthropic work into four organizations, including The Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation, which raises over £100 million annually. What’s more, Charles is also the patron of 400 additional charities.
He was one of the earliest adopters of sustainability.
Years before it was fashionable to do so, Charles was a great champion of sustainable farming and other environmental initiatives. Regarding his outspokenness about our need to take better care of the planet he told British GQ, “We have over-exploited [our natural resources] to a degree you would not believe possible. That’s why I have gone on about these things.”
Joan Rivers was a close friend.
Years ago, Rivers once mentioned to me that she was going to Highgrove, Charles’ country retreat for the weekend. It turns out the prince adored the late comedian’s caustic wit and bawdy sense of humor. As for Camilla, Rivers told me: “I love her. She’s a great old broad. She just gets it.”
He gave Meghan Markle an affectionate nickname after she married Harry.
Charles was so impressed by Meghan’s grace under pressure after the pre-wedding debacle involving the revelations that her father, Thomas Markle, had staged paparazzi photos that he gave his new daughter-in-law the nickname of “Tungsten” because, an insider told me, he thought she was “strong and unbending.”
He doesn’t travel light.
In REBEL Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles, published earlier this year, author Tom Bower reports that Charles, on a visit to a friend’s home in the North of England for the weekend, once sent his staff ahead a day early with a truck carrying furniture to replace the perfectly appropriate pieces in the guest rooms.
The truck contained all of Charles and Camilla’s bedroom furniture, including the Prince’s orthopedic bed and linens. His staff also was instructed to pack Charles’ own toilet seat as well as “rolls of Kleenex Premium Comfort lavatory paper, Laphroaig … plus two landscapes of the Scottish Highlands.” And for more ridiculous pampering, here are the 30 Most Hilarious Celebrity Riders.
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