Charles: The heart of a King

Charles: King-in-waiting and a force for change

Our in-house royal watcher reviews an untraditional biography of the Prince of Wales


Charles:  The Heart of a King by Catherine Mayer.  No CreditCHARLES: THE HEART OF A KING

Catherine Mayer

He’s been heir to the throne for 63 years. As king-in-waiting he has two choices: either do the bare minimum expected while waiting for his mother’s death, or seize the opportunities given to him and turn the position of Prince of Wales into a force for change.

He chose the latter, creating the Prince’s Trust to help disadvantaged youth through training, mentoring and financial aid. The widely praised charity helps more than 50,000 young people annually. His disparate passions—ranging from promoting wool and panning much of modern architecture to taking a holistic approach to sustainability—have generated intense reactions. Britain’s former chief rabbi talks of Charles’s “greatness” while critics slam his beliefs as the whims of an entitled dilettante.

Now, in her controversial biography, Mayer writes that even the Queen is worried about the direction he will take the monarchy.

The prince’s principal private secretary shot back against “ill-informed speculation,” stating Charles “understands the necessary and proper limitations” of a sovereign. While delving into the minutiae of the prince’s work, the author also kept an eye out for tasty quotes— an unnamed insider says in the book that on the eve of the wedding to Diana, Charles was desperate, and “didn’t want to go through with it.” These days his household is reportedly as cutthroat as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, though the examples given are more than a decade old.

This isn’t a traditional biography: there is little about his relationship with his sons or his parents, and Mayer doesn’t focus on his second wife, Camilla, until chapter 15, though she shows how relaxed and happy they are together. As for the changes Charles may make to the throne, they are unknown, yet inevitable. After all, Elizabeth II may be held up as a perfect sovereign, yet her throne has changed significantly from the one she inherited from her father in 1952.