Meet the most modern Monarch: Prince Charles.
Surprised? It’s easy to see why, given how notoriously private the Prince of Wales has been over the years, sometimes in stark contrast to his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, two men who were literally plastered on teenage girls’ bedroom walls growing up (and might still be).
But over the last year, things have started to shift. We’ve slowly started to see more and more of Charles’ much-whispered about sense of humor and sensitivity come through, especially in the last month, which has seen him take the cover of Vanity Fair‘s December 2018 issue and be the subject of an intimate BBC documentary, which celebrated his 70th birthday. Oh, and then there’s that biography, Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes And Dreams, written by royal biographer Robert Jobson who traveled with Charles on his official tours.
And you thought Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were everywhere! (To be fair…they are.)
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In the past month especially, it seems like the low-key PR mission is clear: Prince Charles is ready to be the King of England, a role he’s been preparing for for over 70 years. (And you thought you were overqualified for your job.)
Queen Elizabeth II was just 25 when she took the throne in 1952, and after celebrating her 65th year serving as the Queen in February 2017 she is now the longest-reigning monarch in British history. On the flip side of that, it also makes Charles the longest waiting heir apparent in history.
“I think it’s vital to remember there’s only room for one sovereign at a time, not two,” Charles said in the Vanity Fair profile, “But the idea somehow that I’m going to go on exactly the same way, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense.”
Slow and steady has been the strategy when it comes to Charles’ preparations to one day rule the monarchy, quietly putting in the work. Vanity Fair actually tallied the amount of royal duties attended to by each member of the royal family in 2017 and Charles was at the top of the list with 546 engagements. William, his fellow future king, had the least, with 171.
“Anyone of my age knows that days pass at a far greater speed than when they were young,” a man nearing his 70th birthday recently told me. “But in my case there are so many things that need to be done.”
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Earlier this year, Charles also somewhat unexpectedly became one of the biggest players at Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding in May, stepping in to walk his daughter-in-law down the aisle when her father, Thomas Markle, pulled out of doing the honors after suffering an apparent heart attack. It was a touching move, one that also happened to show how close Charles and Meghan had become, a win-win for both parties. (It was also revealed Charles gave Meghan a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet in the days before the ceremony.)
According to the new BBC documentary, Prince Charles immediately accepted the offer when asked. “I asked him to and I think he knew it was coming,” Prince Harry said, “And he immediately said, ‘Yes, of course, I’ll do whatever Meghan needs and I’m here to support you.”
Harry continued, “For him that’s a fantastic opportunity to step up and be that support, and you know he’s our father so of course he’s going to be there for us.”
And then, of course, there’s the relationship between Charles and William, his first son and future successor. Royal watchers (and fans of Netflix’s The Queen) know Queen Elizabeth has a somewhat complicated relationship with her son, which is understandable considering he was born to replace her. (She was described as “not indifferent so much as detached” as a mother, according to Jonathan Dimbleby‘s 1994 book The Prince of Wales: A Biography.)
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In the BBC documentary, William expressed he would like Charles to spent more time with his grandchildren as he’s getting older, referring to his sons Prince George, 5, and Prince Louis, 6 months, and daughter Princess Charlotte, 3.
“It’s something I’m working on heavily. I think he does have time for it, but I would like him to have more time with the children,” he said. “Having more time with him at home would be lovely—and being able to, you know, play around with the grandchildren. When he is there, he’s brilliant, but we need him there as much as possible.”
He continued, “Now that he’s reached his 70th year, it’s the perfect time to consolidate a little bit. You’re worried about having them around and making sure their health is OK. He’s the fittest man I know, but equally, I want him to be fit until he’s 95.”
Charles’ wife Camilla Parker-Bowles‘ nephew Ben Elliot also made sure to note in the Vanity Fair profile that the future King is “unbelievably physically fit. I’ve never seen a man his age who is as strong as he is.”
But when he turns 70 on Nov. 14, Charles will have yet to take on the role he was born to assume. So yes, while most men his age are looking to retire or settle down, he’s still making preparations for arguably the biggest moment of his life.
There is a secret plan in place that has been at the ready for quite some time called Operation London Bridge, which will go into action when the Queen, 92, dies, per Vanity Fair, which notes the Queen has no intention of ever resigning, with a source recalling her saying, “I would never do that.”
It will guide Britain for the 10 days, down to the moment, following her passing, with Charles set to address the nation “on the evening of his mother’s death and then will immediately tour the country, visiting Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff to attend services and meet leaders.”
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Morbid? Undoubtedly. Meticulous. Why, of course.
After Operation London Bridge comes to a close, Operation Golden Orb will come next, which is the top-secret plan for Charles’s coronation, with the publication noting the planning for this stepped up following Queen Elizabeth’s much-publicized “heavy cold” that prevented her from attending church services in Christmas in 2016.
So Charles will be ready, with the Duchess of Cornwall, whom he married in 2005, by his side, something that would’ve seemed downright scandalous decades ago.
Even in the Vanity Fair piece, it’s made clear that Charles and Camilla are loved—individually and together.
A royal correspondent adamantly said Camilla is his “favorite royal, by a country mile,” with another noting that Charles and Camilla are “far more relaxed” than his sons and their respective wives, who are described as “control freaks.” (Sorry, Fab Four!)
And while the royals are infamously strict when it comes to showing off too much PDA and affection, Charles and Camilla seem to be taking a cue from Harry and Meghan these days. Look at her hand resting on his leg in their Vanity Fair photo.
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As Prince Charles celebrates his 70th birthday, @jamesnreginato hops a royal flight for a close-up with the United Kingdom’s someday sovereign and his queen. Follow the link in bio for more, and swipe for the Prince’s cover of @vfldn. Photographs by @alexilubomirski.
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Aside from the intimate portrait, their close bond is also made quite clear with words and actions. Charles feeds Camilla sausage at one point. affectionately saying, “Try this, darling.”
Their friends and family members gush about how perfect they are for each other.
“They are both clearly great on their own. But two and two makes five in a big way here,” says Camilla’s nephew Ben Elliot said. “You can see it when they are together. They enjoy each other’s company so much. You can see it best when they are dancing together—such genuine, deep-down affection and love. They both get the giggles—she first, then he tries to hold it together.”
They kind of sound like teenagers, no? It’s a vibe even royal photographer Alexi Lubomirski picked up on while shooting their portraits, saying, “As soon as they looked at each other, there was a sparkle in their eyes—that’s when the magic happened,” he says. “You feel like they are a young couple in love.”
And it’s hard to imagine any of this sappy sentiment being shared about the couple, given their relationship’s past as tabloid fodder.
After meeting and quickly falling in love in 1971, Camilla was deemed unfit to be the next king’s bride, going on to marry Andrew Parker Bowles. Charles, of course, married Princess Diana, resulting in a relationship and marriage so complicated that Ryan Murphy was once going to do a season of his FX anthology series Feud all about it. (Plans were eventually scrapped, surely causing the Palace to breathe a sigh of relief.)
Camilla was omnipresent in their marriage, with Diana infamously saying she wasn’t content to live in a crowded marriage of three in her 1995 interview with Martin Bashir, leading to the couple announcing their decision to separate in 1992 after having William and Harry, with their divorce being finalized in 1996.
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Charles and Camila reunited, but tragedy soon struck in a major and public way when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash at only 36 years old in 1997, leaving Britain and the rest of the world in mourning.
“He was absolutely distraught. He fell apart,” Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles, said in the 2017 TV documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook the Windsors of Charles. “He knew, instantly, that this was going to be a terrible thing, that…he will be blamed, that they will be blamed, for the death of Diana.”
And the royal family was criticized for their actions in the aftermath of the People’s Princess’ death, especially the Queen, who did not immediately return to London. One tabloid headline? “”SHOW US YOU CARE.”
The Queen eventually addressed the devastated public in a live broadcast the day before the funeral, her first one in over 50 years.
“We have all been trying in our different ways to cope. It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings—disbelief, incomprehension, anger and concern for those who remain.”
Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Charles, left to care for his two sons, was reportedly upset with his parents for their handling of Diana’s funeral, and was surprisingly open about showing his grief in public.
Two weeks after the funeral, Charles returned to the public eye, and when a well-wisher told him to “keep [his] chin up,” he responded, “That’s very kind of you, but I feel like crying.”
Still, if the public’s opinion on Charles was slowly softening, their feelings about Camila weren’t exactly thawing–nor were the Queen and Prince Philip‘s, with the couple infamously skipping her 50th birthday celebration in 1998. And who can forget that infamous tale that the Queen once reportedly referred to Camilla as “that wicked woman”?
“It was bloody hard. She was a prisoner in her own house. For everyone involved it was not a happy time,” her nephew said of his aunt being the “the most unpopular woman” in Britain during that time. which included Camila receiving hate mail and death threats. “In the breakdown of any marriage, you want privacy to deal with it, but they didn’t have any of that.”
And in a 2017 interview with The Mail on Sunday‘s You magazine, Camila herself admitted, “It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through it,” she said. “I couldn’t have survived it without my family.”
Charles and Camila, however, remained committed, eventually marrying in 2005, slowly chipping away at the public’s dislike of of Charles’ longtime love. Ditto the Queen, who now happily goes on joint engagements with her daughter-in-law.
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“It’s now 21 years since the death of Diana in 1997 and public attitudes have changed, and continues to do so, with a greater acceptance of Camilla today than there was say 13 years ago…,” Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press spokesman, recently opined to Hello! “The Duchess through her work has shown herself to be a good support to her husband and to the Queen thus making her not only an asset to the country but to the institution of monarchy.”
In the Vanity Fair piece, Sun photographer Arthur Edwards gushed, “We think the world of her, we adore her. She’s an amazing woman. She always shows up with a great smile and is never, ever grumpy.”
Camila is also very close to new daughter-in-law Meghan, with a family friend sharing, “They clearly really like each other. There is real warmth and support. Camilla has been very helpful to Meghan.”
Much of public’s gradual trust and for Charles and Camila’s relationship is credited to his deputy private secretary Mark Bolland, who had a full strategy for winning over royal fans, that clearly worked.
But also playing a large role in their turn-around was their own charity work: Camila works with over 90 charities, serving as a patron or president, while Charles recently created the Prince’s Foundation, a new umbrella entity to bring together all of his charities. Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation has given away more than £52 million in grants in the last 10 years.
And then there’s one topic that Charles’ has been the most vocal and passionate about: climate change.
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While it’s arguably one of the biggest issues being discussed and worried over today, Charles was one of the first public figures to address climate change, but was dismissed as “out of touch” for caring about the acceleration of the issue decades ago.
“It seems to take forever to alert people to the scale of the challenge,” he wrote in a letter to Vanity Fair’s James Reginato. “Over forty years ago I remember making a speech about the problems of plastic and other waste, but at that stage nobody was really interested and I was considered old-fashioned, out of touch and ‘anti-science’ for warning of such things.”
These days, it’s hard to imagine anyone describing Charles as “old-fashioned.”
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