Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life

by Sally Bedell Smith


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The life and loves of Prince Charles are illuminated in a major new biography from the New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen—perfect for fans of The Crown.

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.

Praise for Prince Charles

“[Smith] understands the British upper classes and aristocracy (including the royals) very well indeed. . . . [She] makes many telling, shrewd points in pursuit of realigning the popular image of Prince Charles.”—William Boyd, The New York Times Book Review

“[A] masterly account.”The Wall Street Journal

“Thoroughly researched and insightful . . . In this profile, it is clear [Smith] got inside the circular barriers that protect the man and his position. The Charles that emerges is, as the subtitle suggests, both a paradox and a creature of his passions.”The Washington Times

“[A] compellingly juicy bio . . . Windsor-philes will be mesmerized.”People

Prince Charles paints an affectingly human portrait. . . . Smith writes about [Charles’s life] with a skill and sympathy she perfected in her 2012 biography of Charles’s mother.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Comprehensive and admirably fair . . . Until his accession to the throne, Smith’s portrait will stand as the definitive study.”—Booklist (starred review)

“[A] fascinating book that is not just about a man who would be king, but also about the duties that come with privilege.”—Walter Isaacson

“Sally Bedell Smith has given us a complete and compelling portrait of the man in the shadow of the throne. It’s all here, from the back stairs of the palaces to the front pages of the tabs.”—Tom Brokaw

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400067909
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 371,110
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Sally Bedell Smith is the author of bestselling biographies of Queen Elizabeth II; William S. Paley; Pamela Harriman; Diana, Princess of Wales; John and Jacqueline Kennedy; and Bill and Hillary Clinton. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair since 1996, she previously worked at Time and The New York Times, where she was a cultural news reporter. In 2012, Smith was the recipient of the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence. She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Stephen G. Smith.

Rosalyn Landor is an English-born television, theater, and multiple-award-winning audiobook narrator. Her television credits include Love in a Cold ClimateRumpole of the BaileySherlock Holmes, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She has won numerous Audie awards and AudioFile magazine Earphones awards.

Read an Excerpt


Excerpted from "Prince Charles"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Sally Bedell Smith.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Map xi

Preface xiii

Chapter 1 The Lonely Schoolboy 3

Chapter 2 Cold Showers in the Morning 17

Chapter 3 Heir to a Fortune 31

Chapter 4 Nixon Plays Matchmaker 51

Chapter 5 The Shadow of Camilla 67

Chapter 6 Wild Oats 77

Chapter 7 Searching for Meaning 93

Chapter 8 Prince without a Princess 111

Chapter 9 Diana Snares Her Man 123

Chapter 10 Glamour and Heartache 145

Chapter 11 Naming and Shaming 161

Chapter 12 A Marriage in Shambles 173

Chapter 13 Dangerous Liaisons 195

Chapter 14 Butterfly Mind 205

Chapter 15 Midlife Melancholy 217

Chapter 16 Timeless Principles 231

Chapter 17 Love Tape 241

Chapter 18 Diana's Revenge 251

Chapter 19 Wounded Feelings 271

Chapter 20 Scarlet A 283

Chapter 21 Three in a Marriage 295

Chapter 22 Breathing the Same Air 303

Chapter 23 Tragedy in Paris 317

Chapter 24 No Ordinary Pilgrim 329

Chapter 25 Media Makeover 339

Chapter 26 Out of the Shadows 349

Chapter 27 Cracking the Ice 359

Chapter 28 Deaths in the Family 367

Chapter 29 Blackadder's Revenge 377

Chapter 30 Hitched at Last 391

Chapter 31 Camilla Joins the Firm 403

Chapter 32 Royal Infighting 413

Chapter 33 A Prince in Full 427

Chapter 34 Rising Sons 439

Chapter 35 On the Defensive 449

Chapter 36 The Magnificent Seven 459

Chapter 37 Rehearsing New Roles 471

Chapter 38 The Shadow King's Legacy 483

Chapter 39 "Don't Ever Stop" 495

Acknowledgments 509

Source Notes 515

Bibliography 563

Index 571

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Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring. Dull read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As an admitted Britophile, I am fascinated by the Royals. This book entertained, and educated in the best possible way. Sometimes got bogged down in details of charities, but overall terrifically interesting and easy to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of the royal family this book will shed some light on the back story to things you thought you knew
Pocahontas More than 1 year ago
I thought I would be interested in reading about the "real" Prince Charles. He is portrayed as a complex, conflicted character, but I can't make it through the book without falling asleep. Sally Bedell Smith almost chronicles every day of Charles' life, and each day is not that different than the preceding day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, thoroughly researched and very insightful
sandy02 More than 1 year ago
Sally Bedell Smith has an obvious axe to grind against Diana, Princess of Wales. She continues her bashing in this book about Prince Charles and is very biased in Charles' favor, blaming his own shortcomings on others. She practically raises Camilla to sainthood. Charles story is told from his birth as the eldest child of Prince Philip (Duke of Edinburgh) and heiress presumptive Princess Elizabeth. Charles is shown to be someone with an excellent work ethic and founded the Prince's Trust; Charles other interests are in architecture and global warming. When she gets to the story of Princess Diana the knives come out. Diana is made to look like a loon who even "attacks" Charles while he's praying (I wonder who came up with that "gem"). She downplays Charles other lady friends and does not even refer to Janet Jenkins, another mistress of Charles who was with him during the Camilla years. Lady Kanga Tryon another married mistress also gets relatively little mention. Diana is made to look like this determined woman who "snags Charles" and Philip is depicted as someone who "forces" Charles to marry Diana (as if Charles is a baby not age 32). Philip (the letter became public) just urged Charles to drop Diana if he did not want to marry her. But Charles interpreted this as "forcing." She blames Diana instead of Charles and Camilla who was the married mistress of Charles pre-Diana. She even dredges up the Diana exiling Charles dog Harvey because she was jealous. In actuality, Harvey was incontinent and needed to stay in the kennels at Highgrove. Charles did not lose access to Harvey. And Bedell Smith says Diana "had an affair" with her security officer Barry Mannakee because Charles biographer Dimbleby "thinks so." She ignores that Diana when asked by Settelen if there were an affair, says No. That is swept under the rug and ignored by Bedell Smith. Diana even was "diagnosed" by Bedell Smith as having "Borderline Personality Disorder," when she has no proof and just wants to try to whitewash what Charles and Camilla did (label the wife "mad"). And what is appalling is that some reviewers believe the spin! Assuming Diana was "mad" because she complained about Camilla and had "problems." I think Bedell Smith should be ashamed of herself though she is probably dreaming of the rewards Charles and Camilla will bring her. She even said she "researched" the topic by talking to Charles and Camilla and Charles friends (how unbiased can one get. LOL).
SigmundFraud More than 1 year ago
Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith is a comprehensive biography of the Prince and heir to the throne. If he succeeds to the throne he will be the oldest ever to assume it. This biography devotes much coverage to the Prince's charity efforts which I found boring. In fact this Prince Charles comes off as boring. I prefered the parts that talked about Charles' private life much of which we know from the years of news. But it was fun. Would I run out to buy this biography? NO but I did finish it which says something about the book.
MBReader More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly loved this biography of Prince Charles. Not only did it give me an appreciation of Royal traditions, it humanized Queen Elizabeth II and all the other Windsors before and after her ascension to the throne, especially Charles. The insights of Diana's issues and the evolution of William and Harry are quite telling. The monarchy is in good hands for the future.
Mary_F More than 1 year ago
This book is a very comprehensive biography about the life of Prince Charles. There is so much more to him than the average person sees on the surface. Sally Bedell Smith provides the reader with an insight on just who he is – not on the public face that most of us here in the United States see on television or in our newspaper. The Prince is a very complex person. It is interesting to learn how his early life shaped his personality and to see how he can wallow in self-pity one day and throw himself head first into a cause that he feels strongly about on the next. He walks a fine line with his public stance on political issues as that is not in keeping with the role of the monarchy. No book on the monarchy, especially one devoted to the Prince of Wales, would be complete without touching on his marriage to Diana. This book covers the subject well. Of course, his relationship and marriage to Camilla are carefully explored. I appreciate the author’s inclusion of information related to succession to the throne. It explains the chain of hierarchy and the complications if the role is passed through any reason other than the reigning monarch’s death. I received an Advance Reader’s Copy from the publisher in a giveaway. I am not required to write a positive review, or even write a review at all. However, this book is well worth the read for anyone with an interest in Prince Charles or the Royal Family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book as boring as Charles himself
Buecherwurm161 More than 1 year ago
A very extensive look at Prince Charles. I was lucky enough that I got a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange of a review, which I am happy to provide. I have to admit I am a bit obsessed about the Royal Family, but I really did not know very much about Prince Charles other than what I picked up in the news about him, I have always greatly admired Princess Diana, so I thought it was time that I learned a bit more about him. First off this book was a lot bigger than I thought and it took me some time to get through it, though it was never boring, but it went into great detail about each aspect of his life. You get glimpses of his married life with Diana, his point of view of course, and of William, Kate and Harry. There were parts that made me like him more and then parts that did not endear him so much to me, but overall very entertaining and informative. I am glad I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
On November 14, 1948, Prince Charles Philip Arthur George was the first child born to 22-year old Princess Elizabeth. The book explains Charles’s education and the harsh schools his father preferred and had attended himself. One school is Gordonstoun, whose founder, Kurt Hahn, promoted a vision where “philosophers become kings” which some feel is the reason for Charles’s own ideas about life today. Charles lacked the stamina needed to withstand the harsh conditions of this school which made him a target for bullying. After finishing his basic schooling, he was sent through various abbreviated military curricula, most of which he enjoyed. In addition, he was working as a goodwill ambassador for his country. He was introduced to Camilla Shand. They hit it off but she was also seeing Andrew Parker Bowles. Charles knew that he did not want to marry until he was older. Not long after, Camilla and Andrew married leaving Charles depressed and angry. The book covers the various stages of Charles’s life. His schooling and training are first. Next is his marriage to Diana and their problems. I found the book to be somewhat interesting in explaining in detail the things that interest Charles such as his watercolors, organic gardening, architecture and so on. He is passionate about things and, using his “power” often ends up being somewhat of a bully. His ongoing affair with Camilla is smoothed over by the author of this book who also completely writes Diana as a total nutcase. Unfortunately, it is very sad when a biographer chooses to use his or her own prejudices when writing a book. They lose all credibility when they do so. Therefore, I cannot recommend this book to readers. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A dull boring man and family. And a boring book