Were you on the edge of your seat for the Netflix series “The Crown”? Do you still have the Charles and Diana coffee mug you badgered a London friend to send you 36 years ago?
If so, you’ll have a jolly good time reading Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, billed as the first major biography of the Prince of Wales in over 20 years. If not, you’ll still enjoy it as a psychological case study of a man who’s spent almost his entire life waiting for a role that might never be his. (For one thing, Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, remains active in her 90s.)
Charles, 68, has lived a life in the spotlight, with some of his most intimate secrets exposed thanks to those pesky intercepted phone conversations. So author Sally Bedell Smith doesn’t claim to expose any great secrets, concentrating instead on writing a highly readable account of Charles’ life, with emphasis on what makes him tick. In this she succeeds admirably.
As for the passions mentioned in the title, rest assured that Charles’ disastrous marriage to Lady Diana Spencer is recounted along with his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, whom he married eight years after Diana’s death. But—you must eat your broccoli, you know—Smith devotes equal weight to Charles’ more prosaic passions, such as alternative medicine and environmental sustainability.
And the paradoxes? That’s where the psychology comes in, and Smith makes it clear that Charles could provide full employment for a team of psychoanalysts. And that’s with many more chapters of his life still to be written, kingship or not.