What Queen Elizabeth Would Prefer We Not Know About Prince Charles
As a mum, Queen Elizabeth no doubt wishes to present her children (and herself as a mother) in the best light possible. As the mother of the next king, the stakes are even higher.
He was Britain’s before he was hers
Mere moments after Prince Charles was born, he was whisked away to be viewed by the royal courtiers who had served his grandfather, King George VI (Elizabeth’s II’s father). This was no ordinary newborn: this was Britain’s next king. Unlike Queen Elizabeth II, who did not become heir to the throne until she was 10 (that was when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated, changing the line of succession forever), Charles was immediately under the public’s intense gaze, with Elizabeth’s mothering under intense scrutiny.
She was “detached”
When Jonathan Dimbleby interviewed friends of Prince Charles for his authorized biography, The Prince of Wales: A Biography, they noted that Queen Elizabeth had been somewhat “detached” as a mother, according to Prince Charles: The Passion and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. While delighted with her firstborn, the 22-year-old Elizabeth spent little time with him during his first year. It wasn’t that she was indifferent to him so much as that royal duty called, and from the moment of his birth, Charles was being groomed for those same duties.
His father had him “cowed”
In his biography of Prince Charles, Dimbleby noted that Charles was often “cowed” by his father’s brusquely critical personality. “Friends who spoke with Charles’s permission described the duke’s ‘belittling’ and even ‘bullying’ his son,” Vanity Fair writes. And while Philip’s intention was to help Charles to “toughen up,” it may well have been one of the reasons he’s been described as extraordinarily sensitive, as well as a people-pleaser.
She wasn’t there for him when he was ill
When Prince Charles was bed-ridden with the Asian flu while at boarding school in 1957, Queen Elizabeth declined to visit him (despite that she had been inoculated), writing him a “farewell” letter instead (she was leaving for a royal tour of Canada). Four years later, when Charles came down with the measles, she declined again to visit him because she and Philip were on tour, in India.
He did have a special bond with his grandmum
When Elizabeth and Philip were reunited with their five-year-old son after a six-month separation, they greeted their boy with a handshake. The Queen Mum (Elizabeth’s mother) was warm and affectionate, never hesitating to shower him with hugs and attention. “My grandmother was the person who taught me to look at things,” Prince Charles told Dimbleby.
Gordonstoun wasn’t his first boarding school
It’s pretty widely known now that Queen Elizabeth wasn’t pleased with The Crown‘s depiction of Prince Charles’ experience at Gordonstoun, his father’s alma mater, but what the show doesn’t address is that Prince Charles had already attended, and hated attending, another boarding school. He was originally enrolled in Cheam School in Hampshire, where he suffered from acute homesickness, “clutching his teddy bear and weeping frequently in private,” according to Vanity Fair.
She knew he hated Cheam
Queen Elizabeth knew that Cheam was “a misery” to her son, according to To Be a King: Biography of H.R.H. Prince Charles, by Dermot Morrah.
She thought Charles to be a “slow developer”
In To Be a King, Morrah observed that Queen Elizabeth thought Charles to be a “slow developer.” Clearly, she no longer thinks this as she has been handing over more and more of her royal duties to Charles.
He’s been on a vision quest
Under the influence of South African author Laurens van der Post and his circle of artsy intellects, Prince Charles experimented with vegetarianism, sacred geometry, horticulture, educational philosophy, architecture, and Sufism, according to The New Yorker. These are not the sort of pursuits favoured by the Queen.
He seems to enjoy stirring the pot
“The stances he takes do not follow predictable political lines but seem perfectly calibrated to annoy everyone,” notes The New Yorker. “Conservatives tend to be upset by his enthusiasm for Islam and his environmentalism; liberals object to his vehement defense of fox hunting and his protectiveness of Britain’s ancient social hierarchies. What unites his disparate positions is a general hostility to secularism, science, and the industrialized world.”
He’s quite fussy
It’s not necessarily the fault of the Queen, but Prince Charles is demanding when it comes to creature comforts, apparently, insisting on travelling with his own linens and toilet paper. It’s been said he also travels with his own toilet seat, but he has vehemently denied this.
She has more in common with her daughter, Anne
One of Queen Elizabeth’s great loves in life is horses; she adores them as sentient creatures and she adores riding. Charles, by contrast, did not take to horses as a young boy. He was timid on horseback, unlike his sister Anne, who was bold. “Anne’s equine prowess pleased her mother, and Philip saw a kindred spirit in her confidence and fearlessness,” The New Yorker reports. But Charles has grown into a lover of horses.
His math skills leave something to be desired
It’s royal family tradition for a prince to serve in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. There was an obstacle where Prince Charles was concerned, however, and that’s his difficulty in mathematics. As a result, he was unable to become a navigator and instead had to settle for becoming a communications officer. In addition, his entry into Cambridge University was permitted because of who he was, not because he had earned it academically.
Next, check out these 50 things you didn’t know about the royal family.