The Man Who Will Be King

Prince Charles is a most uncommon bloke


    May 15, 1978 TIME Cover: The Man Who Will Be King
    Britain's Prince Charles

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    The command center for that role is Charles' desk in his suite at Buckingham Palace. There are suites for the Prince at Windsor, Balmoral, Sandringham and other castle-homes, and the new digs at Chevening House in Kent, still under renovation. Charles has both his lodgings and office in his third-floor palace apartment overlooking St. James's Park. A few years back, Designer David Hicks redecorated the suite, but Charles has added his own touches and a good bit of clutter. The bathroom is hung with favorite cartoons, the sitting room crammed with memorabilia from his journeys. There are books on history, art and archaeology, as well as sound and video equipment, including a video tape recorder that he uses to replay and critique his appearances.

    At Buckingham Palace, the Prince often spends the morning in private meetings: as honorary colonel in chief of ten regiments, active officer in three others and patron of 147 societies, he must receive an endless procession of visitors. Among callers trooping in may be parachute officers from the army regiment in which he has just earned his jumping wings; delegates from the Men of the Trees society, a conservation organization; administrators of his private conglomerate, the Duchy of Cornwall. Business luncheons often end the morning, with more meetings, or princely visits to worthy institutions, consuming the afternoon. Basically shy, Charles has perfected what one palace observer calls "all the little hypocrisies of the royal trade. When you meet him, he really makes you think he's only interested in you."

    When his schedule permits, the Prince likes to spend his evenings with a small circle of discreet friends, who call him simply "Wales." He telephones them to join him for the theater, a shooting weekend or dinner at a favorite London restaurant, like Boulestin in Covent Garden. Among his cronies: Merchant Banker Lord Tryon and his Australian wife; Lord Tollemache, heir to a brewing fortune; Insurance Broker Nicholas Soames, a grandson of Winston Churchill; Barrister Richard Beckett. When dining alone, Charles favors light meals (one favorite: scrambled eggs and smoked salmon). He does not smoke, keeps fit by jogging in Windsor Park, seldom drinks anything stronger than dry white wine.

    "Charles needs to justify his actions to himself in moral terms," observes a friend. To that end, his personal concerns are earnest, international, multiracial (see TIME INTERVIEW). Britain's royalty is expected to steer clear of partisan political positions but need not avoid controversial ones: on race, a particularly hot issue in Britain, Charles outspokenly supports an open society. He agreed to act as interlocutor in the current BBC anthropology series Face Values partly to promote his vision of racial harmony. He is also a disciple of the late E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, with its plea for alternative economic systems and technologies.

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