There was, according to one of the Prince of Wales’s most trusted former aides, a time when the heir to the throne would never publicly discuss his future as king. Even privately, the sensitive subject got Charles’s back up.
“For him, that meant having to think about the death of his mother, and that was something he didn’t want to contemplate,” the impeccable source said years ago. But now, on the eve of Prince Charles’s 70th birthday, it’s a very different story. For the first time, Charles has addressed the matter of becoming sovereign in a groundbreaking interview with the BBC that will be broadcast in the U.K. Thursday evening. Speaking to TV producer John Bridcut, Charles opens up for the first time about being king and says that he won’t be a meddling monarch.
In the documentary Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70, Charles says that he recognizes that the role of sovereign is quite different to being the Prince of Wales, and he vows to stop campaigning on the environment, architecture, and homeopathy when he is on the throne. “I’m not that stupid,” he says. “I do realize it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So, of course I understand entirely how that should operate. I’ve tried to make sure whatever I’ve done has been non-party political, but I think it’s vital to remember there’s only room for one sovereign at a time, not two.”
He continues, “You can’t be the same as the sovereign if you’re the Prince of Wales or the heir. But the idea somehow that I’m going to go on exactly the same way, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense because the two situations are completely different.”
Drawing comparisons to one of his favorite playwrights he says, “You only have to look at the Shakespeare plays, Henry V or Henry IV parts 1 and 2, to see the change that can take place. Because if you become the sovereign, then you play the role in the way that it is expected. So, clearly I won’t be able to do the same things I’ve done as heir. Of course, you operate within the constitutional parameters. But it’s a different function. I think people have forgotten that the two are very different.”
Charles is the longest-serving Prince of Wales in history and is known for being a campaigning prince and even a meddling one, with controversial views on farming, the environment and architecture, and a habit of sending “black spider memos” to politicians.
“I always wonder what meddling is?” Charles says in the documentary, in response to those critics. “I mean, I always thought it was motivating. But I’ve always been intrigued, if it’s meddling to worry about the inner cities as I did 40 years ago and what was happening or not happening there—the conditions in which people were living—if that’s meddling I’m very proud of it.”
Bridcut was given access to Charles over the past year and the documentary is intimate and revealing. Charles is revealed as a workaholic who is at his desk until the early hours and often falls asleep with a memo stuck to his forehead.
Camilla and Princes William and Harry were also interviewed for the program, in which Prince William says he wishes his father could spend more time with his grandchildren, Prince George, five, Princess Charlotte, three, and Prince Louis, six months.
Appealing to Charles to slow down, William says, “I would like him to have more time with the children. . . . Having more time with him at home would be lovely, and being able to play around with the grandchildren. Because when he’s there, he’s brilliant. But we need him there as much as possible.”
The Duchess of Cornwall says her husband knows and understands his destiny and describes him as a hands-on grandfather saying her grandchildren “absolutely adore” it when he reads the Harry Potter books in the voices of the characters.
Finally, Charles describes himself as a “risk-taker” when it comes to some of his public work. The prince bought Dumfries House, the Scottish stately home with a £20 million loan, and the project has since turned into a thriving charity hub. “Having taken the risks,” Charles says, “I believe in living dangerously.”
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