• Share
  • Read Later

I think it's something that dawns on you with the most ghastly, inexorable sense. I didn't suddenly wake up in my pram one day and say "Yippee," you know.

First I thought of being the proverbial engine driver or something. Then I wanted to grow up to be a sailor, as I had been on the yacht for the first time, and, of course, a soldier, because I had been watching the Changing of the Guard. When I started shooting, I thought how marvelous it would be to be a big-game hunter. I went from one thing to the other until I realized I was rather stuck.

DID ever a king speak thus? Probably not, but then these are exceptional times for once and future kings. The author of those wry and rueful words, lamenting a downward mobility forever out of his grasp, is H.R.H. Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, K.G., Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall in the peerage of England, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, and Lord of Renfrew in the peerage of Scotland, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland.

A pleasant, jug-eared young man of 20 who likes to fly planes, drive sports cars, play the trumpet and the cello, and who once delivered a very creditable Macbeth on a school stage, Charles is stuck in history. It is his blessing and his burden to be destined to become Charles III, the 41st sovereign of England since the Norman invasion. He will inherit a throne that, for all the erosion of empire and the straitened circumstances of the scepter'd isle, remains the most prestigious in the world.

Splendor in Wales

The prestige is not, of course, a reflection of any real power. More than a century ago, Walter Bagehot noted that a constitutional monarch has only three rights: "The right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn." Those narrow royal prerogatives have further diminished in the years since. Such considerable aura as the British crown still has for Britons and the rest of the world is largely the residual glow from the past. It emanates from the legends and lives of England's kings, evoking images of silver trumpets raised on lofty battlements, the colored swirl of pennants and the flashing swords on Bosworth Field, and all the pageantry that still occasionally stirs in modern Western man the memories of his medieval passage.

The splendor of Britain's royal heritage will be unfurled for an estimated 500 million television viewers next week as Queen Elizabeth journeys to Caernarvon Castle in North Wales to invest Charles as Prince of Wales. The title has been Charles' since his mother announced, when he was only nine, her intention of awarding it to him. The investiture will mark his formal installation. It will also serve to signal the end of Charles' royal adolescence (he turns 21 in November) and his acceptance of the role and tasks of apprentice sovereign. Perhaps most important, the ceremony is designed to honor Wales, a region of Britain that too often feels overlooked by London and harbors a small but vocal separatist movement, the Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales). Finally, the event will be the biggest royal bash since Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8