EXCLUSIVE: Prince Charles, Born to Be King but Aiming Higher

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TIME Magazine Cover, November 4, 2013
Photograph by Nadav Kander for TIME

This is how we imagine royalty lives. On Sept. 12, at one of Scotland’s loveliest stately homes, the Prince of Wales and his 22 guests, more than a few of them stonkingly wealthy, have just finished dinner — risotto, sea bass and the stickiest of plum crumbles that generous belts of Puligny-Montrachet, Sarget de Gruaud Larose and pink Champagne only partially dislodge. Before the table rises, to be served digestifs and coffee amid a rare collection of Chippendale furniture under the gaze of long dead aristocratic beauties, there’s a musical interlude. A piper, in full ceremonial uniform — kilt, tunic, sporran, full plaid and a feather hat so tall its wearer dusts the doorframe as he enters — marches twice around the table, playing a medley of traditional Scottish music. One melody is easily recognizable: “The Skye Boat Song,” the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie, “the lad that’s born to be King.”

How I came to be a guest at that table — and to profile the modern-day Prince Charlie that’s born to be King for TIME’s latest cover story — is relevant to any understanding of the Queen’s eldest son and heir apparent. The picture that emerges in the cover story, through exclusive conversation and after extensive access to the Prince and his friends and associates, may startle. Much of what you think you know about the Prince is wrong. Much of what I thought I knew about the Prince was wrong. This applies both to the big picture and the small details. Who knew the secret of how he stays awake during speeches? Or what he’s like on the dance floor?

His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, PC, ADC, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, might have led a dull, dutiful life of ribbon cutting and rite. Or he could have developed into a playboy or taken an interest in the arts or both. “There’s a long history of relationships between Princes of Wales and actors — not just actresses, not just the rude relationships as [Charles] would say, though God knows I’ve tried,” jokes the actress Emma Thompson, one of his close friends. “He wasn’t having any of it.”

(MORE: Behind the Cover: Prince Charles Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before)

Instead the Prince embarked on a quest. “I feel more than anything else it’s my duty to worry about everybody and their lives in this country, to try to find a way of improving things if I possibly can,” he said on Sept. 26, in conversation at another Scottish retreat, Birkhall on the Balmoral estate. Research for this piece took me to three of his official residences in England, Scotland and Wales, to Dumfries House, and trailing around with him to meetings and visits. I’ve discussed him in more than 50 interviews with his inner circle and his critics; plowed through biographies, his own writing and reams of articles and documentary footage. And I’ve thought about him. But then, I’ve been thinking about him for 28 years.

In 1985, the Prince invited himself to lunch at the newsweekly the Economist, where I then worked, to meet “people his own age” and discuss what he had already begun doing and might yet do to leverage his position to make the right sort of difference. I was far too junior to merit invitation to the lunch, but briefly chatted with the Prince and afterward heard accounts from those present. They were struck by the Prince’s earnestness, but it’s fair to say they were skeptical that he could understand enough of the real world to be effective. For much of his life, the Prince has struggled to convince the skeptics.

(Click here to join TIME for as little as $2.99 to read Catherine Mayer’s full cover story on Prince Charles.)

He’s easier to doubt. He’s a Windsor, a member of a family that has always seemed faintly comical, surrounded by funny folk who mistake pomp for pomposity. His mannerisms have proved a gift to impressionists; his turns of phrase a boon to satirists. Born with a megaphone in his hand, he may have stumbled into some debates without appreciating the backlash he could expect. But he has also united in unlikely alliance three strands of his opponents who have their own reasons for depicting him as a figure of derision: republicans, often of the left; traditionalists, often of the right and enraged by his radicalism on issues like climate change; and a smaller number who never forgave him for failing to cherish Diana, the late Princess of Wales, as they did.

In the decades after meeting him, I watched with interest as the gap between the person he had seemed to want to be and the petulant Prince of press reports widened. As those years passed and the green concerns he had espoused so early passed into mainstream thought, there seemed to be little acknowledgement of his role in promoting those ideas. His Prince’s Trust won plaudits for helping young people to find work or start businesses, but the Prince more rarely drew praise as a philanthropist. Eventually I approached his press handlers with a novel idea: they should let me inside the bubble to make my own assessment. To my surprise — and theirs — they agreed.

I found a man not, as caricatured, itching to ascend the throne, but impatient to get as much done as possible before, in the words of one member of his household, “the prison shades” close. The Queen, at 87, is scaling back her work, and the Prince is taking up the slack, to the potential detriment of his network of charities, initiatives and causes. “We’re busily wrecking the chances for future generations at a rapid rate of knots by not recognizing the damage we’re doing to the natural environment, bearing in mind that this is the only planet that we know has any life on it,” he said at Birkhall. Those future generations were well represented that day, as his son William, daughter-in-law Kate and their baby George paid him and his wife Camilla a visit. Isolated for much of his life, he now takes joy in his “wonderful wife. And of course now a grandson, which is what this is all about. It’s everybody else’s grandchildren I’ve been bothering about, but the trouble is if you take that long a view people don’t always know what you’re on about.”

The profile I’ve written I hope goes some way to explaining what the Prince is on about and serves up more than a few revelations about his life and his motivations. Because little in the Prince’s world is quite what it might appear from the outside.

The sumptuous dinner I attended at Dumfries House, for example: that wasn’t an occasion for the Prince to kick back and enjoy his unearned status.

Six years ago he heard that the 18th century mansion in Scotland was to be sold and its collection of Chippendale furniture dispersed. Sight unseen, he formed a consortium and bought building and contents for £45 million, about $72 million, part-financed by a £20 million, $32 million, loan taken out by his charitable foundation. As property prices declined globally, his critics suggested he had been as imprudent as the issuers of the subprime mortgages that triggered the slump, risking the financial health of his established charities on a self-indulgent whim.

But in securing Dumfries House, the Prince not only preserved a slice of heritage but also created in one of the most deprived corners of the U.K. a new hub for employment and for training courses run by his charities, and a potential magnet for tourism. His rich dinner guests are donors and potential donors, lured by his royal convening power to a place that needs their help and that would never have drawn their attention without Prince power. “When you get the Prince, you don’t just get him; you get all his charities as well. You get this huge force for good,” says Fiona Lees, since 2004 chief executive of East Ayrshire Council and keenly aware of the challenges to an area once buoyed by the mining industry. Its deep mines are shuttered and many opencast mines lie abandoned, filling with contaminated water. Local towns are leaching their populations; in New Cumnock, where the head count has fallen from 9,000 to 2,800, a staircase leads nowhere, the homes it once served torn down after they fell into dereliction. For communities without much hope, Dumfries House marks a rare investment.

As its 26 clocks strike 10 p.m., the Prince begins the task of extracting his sociable wife from a clutch of talkative guests. He’ll spend another two hours preparing for the next day’s early start and typically packed schedule of meetings, including one with Lees at which they brainstorm ways to stimulate the East Ayrshire economy and to deal with the blight of disused and dangerous mines. “We need people to help us think about this,” says Lees. The Prince promises to deliver. For most of his life, he has done so.

Click here to join TIME for as little as $2.99 to read Catherine Mayer’s full cover story on Prince Charles.

325 comments
GiannisLambadarios
GiannisLambadarios

You spent all that time with HRH, and you have nothing to report on him, other than background information?

Bang Toyib
Bang Toyib

no more time................what a loooonngg llooongngg...time to wait...hflasdkhflksdhflksdahfkl

Marla Kojima
Marla Kojima

I think, in the end, he will be passed over and William will be king.

陈嵘
陈嵘

你快来腐国看看他

quatra
quatra

Aiming higher? Maybe he's aiming for Emperor or Anglican pope. But I guess his mother is way to smart for that allowing to happen.



Yumna Naqvi
Yumna Naqvi

you Murdered The *Princess Diana* ...... u Suppose not 2 b a king :@

Ruthere
Ruthere

Prince Charles obviously has been a figure in the media for decades and undoubtedly already holds a prominent position in a significant country. What he does and says is on the news and in other media. So I find this teaser of the article interesting, particularly as I first knew of him because of his engagement & marriage to Princess Diana. I've known vaguely about his charitable work but am now interested enough in a profile of the whole man that I will buy this issue. As for the insane, hateful comments below, you all scare me. I wish there was a way to spot you on the street so I could give you a wide berth.

Clair-ity
Clair-ity

Despite the title, there is little surprise in this  article to invite to read the full article., which reads as propaganda ("a huge force of good" sound for snobbish than accurate - sorry for the cliché but mother theresa in her simplicity seems a huge force of good). Bridging the gat between real life and pampered life is not the only challenge for Price Charles, how can someone who never got his hands dirty properly discern how to help people? He is a big supporter of Graemen bank - a good cause, but his support has not prevented some financial scandals associated with micro finance and the banks founder- so how good are his charities?  Dropping names  does not increase the appeal - why would Emma Thomsons' opinion on her "friend" be reliable, even less appropriate- it looks more like a convenient arrangement to boost each others popularity. Does his friendship with another entitled person make Prince Charles a better man? Good that his busy life keeps him from feeling bored- which he may be anyway. He sounds boring- the only thing he has to say about the environment is that we have to care for the earth for our grandchildren - ground breaking insight. You got to do better than this fluffy self-promoting piece by HRH and his entourage.

Zahra Ghaznawi
Zahra Ghaznawi

he should be forgotten and million dislike him, people cant forget what he did to princess Diana

Dharrmesh Patel
Dharrmesh Patel

दल बदलते बदलते दिल भी बदलते जा रहे हैं देश की जनता को हंसकर लोग छलते जा रहे हैं अब ना कोई नीति है ना अब कोई आदर्श है सिर्फ सत्ता की चमक में मन पिघलते जा रहे हैं कल के दुश्मन आज बांहों में लिये हैं बांह को रास्ते तो हैं अलग पर साथ चलते जा रहे हैं राजनीति में न कोई दुश्मनी ना दोस्ती एक छत के साये में सब लोग पलते जा रहे हैं जो ना समझे उनको जनता एक दिन समझायेगी याद रक्खो लोग अब घर से निकलते जा रहे हैं आम आदमी पार्टी लाओ देश बचाओ। #Vote4Change#Vote4AAP #Vote4 झाड़ू

Igor M. Shamardin
Igor M. Shamardin

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RichardBaker1
RichardBaker1

Bonnie Prince Charlie will be the last English monarch and will prove to be the foppish character he has seemed all along.

CharbelRamos
CharbelRamos

The British monarchy is pathetic.

Sooner tan later it has to go.

Vardan  Sargisyan
Vardan Sargisyan

People in view sometimes are judged more than the others.

terryge83
terryge83

My Uncle Daniel just got a nearly new green Toyota Matrix by working online from home. >>>>>>>>>  Jobs60.ℂom

Parker1227
Parker1227

Prince Charles is an insanely delusional, extreme far left enviro-fanatic just like Al Gore.  That is why he will never be King.  

He is a liar, and a hugely misinformed embarrassment to the world - just like Al Gore.

Thriess Kwan YP
Thriess Kwan YP

Prince Charles the forgotten Prince would not be forgotten had he not been ill treating his official wife Diana Spencer so Cruelly Tragic With So Little Respect And Love Which He Was Obligated To Give From The Beginning Of Their Union Of Marriage! He should Know better when He Is Suppose To Be King Of England! Then to be Behaving in and Displaying such a BAD example to the people - being disloyal, and wicked in his dealing with his God given wife Lady Diana Spencer(Princess Diana)! One would wonder, IF there is or was a moment that he would regret with his own actions? As the chinese idom goes, "He tried to step on two boats with a pair of legs!" - Friday, 25th October 2013 4:31pm

Borderstorm
Borderstorm

Charles will NEVER be king and this article is the first of many that will prepare everyone for that fact. We don't forget how he treated Diana and how he showed his discomfort with William and Harry as young men when their mother had gone. He is spineless and no way will the Queen want Camilla anywhere near the crown and I think that was decided and part of a deal on him marrying her. It is patently obvious to all except those who care not to see or cover up for Charles, that William will be our next king.

AkiladeAyotunde
AkiladeAyotunde

Wonderful British- knowing the value of things not just their cost by maintaining INSTITUTIONS....

louis.emery
louis.emery

If he wants to increase the welfare of his countrymen, he should be promoting education,  individual freedom and reduction from government interference  

tcp5353
tcp5353

He's like Al Gore with a better pedigree and schooling....

Tara St Wood
Tara St Wood

he was miserable with Diana. he so much more comfortable with Camilla. he's chilled out quite a lot and has a sense of humour

Edith Fitch
Edith Fitch

Oh, put your trusty little computer away!

TeeEss
TeeEss

Charles' problem isn't that he has been forgotten.  It is that he has been remembered, and all who care are hoping the crown passes him by.

Edith Fitch
Edith Fitch

Britain does not "rule the waves" anymore. It "waves the rules."

GunnyGAlz
GunnyGAlz

Back in 1776, we threw the Brits out on their ....

Debbie Bush
Debbie Bush

I have not forgotten him I waiting for the day he will be crowned king\

wayne.vanscoyoc
wayne.vanscoyoc

All climate change nonsense is directed by him over the entire world.  Everybody it seems wants to please the big boss. 

LookupFalseFlag
LookupFalseFlag

The elite and ultra wealthy Royals are able to pay for this kind of pure propaganda. They must get YOU to like them, otherwise they cannot maintain their superior position in society.  They are also very intelligent and masters of social manipulation and deception.  That's why they live in huge homes with servants and many of us cannot afford to heat our homes. If you think they care anything about YOU, then their tricks of mind manipulation are clearly successful.  They hate the "unwashed masses" and would love to see us dead (look up depopulation / Rockefeller and hear it for yourself).

AnonamousGuy
AnonamousGuy

Another boob born with a silver spoon in his mouth. If you think for 1 minute any of them care about the "little" people, I have a bridge to Candyland for sale. Anyone who follows these clowns deserves what they get.

Jenny132aaa
Jenny132aaa

Just another completely DECEPTIVE Time (just like the Obama Peace Prize).  Time has lost all credibility so who in their right mind believes them anymore.  The ultra wealthy elite care NOTHING about the rest of us.  As Prince Charles father so aptly put it "If I came back after death, I'd like to return as a deadly virus because there are too many people on the planet."  Look up depopulation agenda and begin to understand that the elite are EVIL war mongering scoundrels.

michaelvbond
michaelvbond

Don't forget to mention his affiliation with the Royal Order of the Water Rats. He has impressed many with his charity and sense of humor. 

mickrussom
mickrussom

Charles is a loser and the House of Windsor is a german usurper.  Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (German: Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha) .

This man is an inbred loser, not a leader, and a mental midget. 

adsevero
adsevero

Reality check...you people spewing all this hate know nothing. He is a stranger to you yet you pass judgment as if you know the man. Let me be clear..I like him more than I like you! At least he doesn't spend his spare time passing judgment on strangers as if he knew them. you all flatter yourselves that your opinions matter! In my opinion I would say you are all jealous that you were born into relative obscurity to live your plain lives. Cheers!

rpearlston
rpearlston

@Yumna Naqvi Your proof?  I do mean proof, the stuff that will hold up in a court of law.  Anything less is proof of nothing except your own highly damaged understand of the term "fact".

RockyRex51
RockyRex51

@Parker1227 really?


2010 appears to have been the warmest year since the 'Ipswichian Interglacial' (the Eemian Stage) - that was between 130,000 and 110,000 years ago.

The current rate of warming is tied into the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere, and this change is unique within the Holocene.

philosophiSal
philosophiSal

@Thriess Kwan YP 

1.Diana had affairs in her marriage.

2. Diana married a man she knew was already in love with another Lady, but he was bound by duty.

3. Although a good mother, she had deep rooted psychological illness.

4. Diana played the press and the media better than any spin doctor around.

5. You need to look at all angles and gain a bit of life experience before you'll finally see the truth....I don't expect that will be any time soon.

Final fact....Charles Will be King and his wife rightful Queen....thank the Lord that will not be Diana

airbag
airbag

@Thriess Kwan YP  Thats the trouble when you`re spineless.

Clair-ity
Clair-ity

@AkiladeAyotunde  No doubt saving landmark buildings is preserving a cultural heritage. It is done all over the world. it is not enough to jump on the bandwagon of British institutions: Slavery was a British institution, the colonies were British institutions.The Belgian still defend their 19th century monarch (an institution) - King Leopold, who maintained amongst other institutions Catholic orphanages  in Congo, while simultaneously actively filling them with kids who lost their parents to his cruel rule to exploit rubber. What is the value of life compared to institutions? How effective are Prince Charles charities per dollar raised? That is the questions this snobbish fluffy article does not answer.

theotheralberthall
theotheralberthall

I thought the reason he was forgotten was the press ban on all his activities, even if they are if the public interest. So he has effectively been kept out of the public eye. Then there's that big elephant in the room, which we are not really supposed to discuss.

sirdenn.a
sirdenn.a

@GunnyGAlz With French and Spanish help. The rebels were defeated when they tried to invade Canada. Britain was more concerned about Caribbean islands than a few rough colonies led by a bunch of smugglers..

Clair-ity
Clair-ity

@adsevero You probably know as much as we do, but reading this article will not bring us closer to the man - it is clearly a propagandistic piece - calling him a force of good goes over the top. He has money to put in charities, by birth he has power to attract people with money to contribute to the charities by sharing nice food and music. He has enough money to pay a professional team to manage the charities and a PR team to manage his affairs, this is neither impressive nor heroic. There are a lot of "small" people that are real heroes whose stories I care to read way more than this person who does not seem to have accomplished significant in his life, despite his advantageous position.

nobodyspecial1958
nobodyspecial1958

@adsevero Whatever relative obscurity we may wish to escape, it still would not be our desire to trade our lot for the one that Charles aspired to ; to be a tampon in his current ladyfriend's,  shall we just say nether reigions, and leave it at that! That he would lead such an existence, should be more than we could hope.

Flayer
Flayer

@adsevero Well  he's forcing his religion on all of us. Global Warming and Overpopulation. Both hoaxes. The world now spends $1 Billion per year to "fight global warming." Not medical, technical innovation, or spreading democracy and capitalism around the world, but a scientific hoax, the followers who seek to enslave us to the high priests who claim they can control climate if only we send them money and give them power over energy production and use.

carol.geiger
carol.geiger

@RockyRex51 @Parker1227 Rubbish, the world is only 6000 years old and the last warming was in the middle age without cars and power stations.Big headed humans think they can control the sun and everything else there is.