Title: Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
Author: Sally Bedell Smith
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Pages: 624 pages
About the Book:
Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This vivid, eye-opening biography—the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for the first time—is the first authoritative treatment of Charles’s life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day.
Prince Charles brings to life the real man, with all of his ambitions, insecurities, and convictions. It begins with his lonely childhood, in which he struggled to live up to his father’s expectations and sought companionship from the Queen Mother and his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten. It follows him through difficult years at school, his early love affairs, his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his intense search for spiritual meaning. It tells of the tragedy of his marriage to Diana; his eventual reunion with his true love, Camilla; and his relationships with William, Kate, Harry, and his grandchildren.
Ranging from his glamorous palaces to his country homes, from his globe-trotting travels to his local initiatives, Smith shows how Prince Charles possesses a fiercely independent spirit and yet has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role, living a life dictated by protocols he often struggles to obey. With keen insight and the discovery of unexpected new details, Smith lays bare the contradictions of a man who is more complicated, tragic, and compelling than we knew, until now.
I was more than a bit daunted by the size of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. If you are also a little intimidated by the prospect of 624 pages of biography, let me ease your mind. First, only the first 75% of the book is the actual biography. The remaining 25% is mostly bibliography.
Secondly, Prince Charles is nearly 69. That’s a lot of years to write about. It’s hard to condense that much life (including Diana, Camilla, Harry, William, etc.) into less than 500 pages.
One of the things that struck me the hardest, as I was reading, was how difficult it must be to grow up and live under the weight of so much attention and responsibility. And while, as the heir, Charles could basically get away with saying whatever he wanted politically, spiritually, or otherwise, do any of us really want that kind of freedom? Personally, I like knowing that there are people who will tell me when they think I’m wrong (like my husband, 😉
In addition, after 69 years “of doing what he pleased as an individual within the royal family,” once Charles takes the throne, “he would be transformed into a national institution, obliged to do as he was told.” How does one make that kind of transition? It’s mind-boggling.
In addition to reading about Charles’ quirks (shuns computers, “new-agey behaviors”, lives by an antiquated code of dressing and behavior), the juiciest parts of the book are the stories about Princess Diana and the Prince’s current wife, Camilla.
I have been enamored of Diana since she and Charles declared their engagement. I remember watching the wedding live on TV, in Germany, where I was staying as an exchange student. All I gathered from what I saw on the US news, leading up to and after the divorce, was that Diana was an innocent victim. Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life paints a much more realistic portrayal of the dissolution of a marriage that probably never should have happened in the first place.
Whatever your feelings about the Royals, Prince Charles is a fascinating read into the private (and not-so-private life) of the potential future king of England.
I give Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life five scepters!! A must read!!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.
About the Author:
Sally Bedell Smith’s seven biographies, including New York Times bestsellers “Diana in Search of Herself,” “Grace and Power,” and “Elizabeth the Queen,” have all been about significant figures on the world stage. Her latest book, “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life,” published on April 4, 2017, was an immediate New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestseller. The first major biography of Prince Charles in more than two decades, it brings to life the real man, with all of his contradictions, complexities, and ambitions–a man with a fiercely independent spirit, yet who has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role. Smith’s biography of Queen Elizabeth II won the 2012 Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, and the 2012 Goodreads Choice Award for best book in history and biography. That year, Smith was also the consultant to playwright Peter Morgan on “The Audience,” his award-winning drama about Queen Elizabeth II starring Helen Mirren that led to his hit Netflix series, “The Crown.” She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Stephen Smith.