A new biography attacks Prince Charles’ pampered lifestyle with an army of retainers and his petulant personality.
In Rebel Prince, author Tom Bower claims to have uncovered a less flattering side of “self-pitying” Charles.
But what is the real story of our heir to the throne?
Penny Junor, who has known the Prince of Wales for more than 30 years, reveals the man behind the myths...
Prince Charles has his foibles, but he is not a crook, not a bully and not a hypocrite.
Yes, he is spoilt, he is petulant, he is pampered, and there is no denying he takes everything but the kitchen sink with him when he goes to stay away from home for any length of time.
He also has a terrible temper and has a great tendency to feel sorry for himself. I have been writing all this for years, and so have others. There are no extraordinary revelations here.
I happen to know that the undergrowth in his garden at Highgrove is not alive with retired Indian servicemen prowling about picking slugs off his plants by torchlight, nor are there gardeners lying “nose-down on a trailer pulled by a slow-moving Land Rover to pluck out weeds”.
But if there were, so what?
The gardens are magnificent and tours of them raise £650,000 for charity every year. And if that is how he wants to spend his money, why not?
Tom Bower sneers at the army of aides – the gardeners, valets, butlers, chefs, private secretaries, typists and so on that he has to look after him.
He may not pay top dollar – the Royal Family are notoriously bad payers – but he is giving a lot of people employment. Aren’t most people who create jobs applauded for that, rather than castigated?
His parents happen to be comparatively frugal but the grandmother he adored, and spent so much time with as a child, was every bit as extravagant as Charles and no one turned a hair.
The taxpayer is not paying for his lifestyle; it is paid for by income from the Duchy of Cornwall and it is his money to spend.
Yes, the taxpayer paid for the refurbishment of Clarence House when he took it over, and it was close to £6million, but Clarence House is not just a home, it is also an office and it is used for official entertaining, as are all the royal palaces.
I remember the Prince once telling me that he didn’t think the British monarchy should follow the Scandinavian “bicycling” model.
His view was that if you have a monarchy you should do it properly.
I think the mounting excitement over Harry’s wedding proves the point.
Charles has made powerful enemies. His desire, when he left the Navy in the 1970s, to carve out a role for himself and do something useful during his years of waiting for the top job, brought him perilously close to institutions with vested interests in keeping the status quo.
The medical profession, for example, didn’t like his support for complementary medicine, the architectural fraternity didn’t like him meddling in modern building schemes, the petrochemical industry was not happy when he banged on about organics and saving the environment.
But he has strong views and was determined to make a difference to the world. And so he has.
When he came out of the Navy, against all advice, he used his naval allowance to start a charity to help disadvantaged young people get a start in life.
Since then, The Prince’s Trust has helped no less than 870,000 people – and a recent independent audit found that in the past 10 years the overall benefit to society from that has been worth £1.4billion.
The new Prince’s Foundation, which includes Dumfries House Estate in Scotland, now employs more than 200 people in one of the most depressed parts of the country.
Last year alone, the Prince’s charities raised £170million.
Now that he is taking on more of his mother’s work, he is doing more engagements than any other member of the Royal Family.
Last year he did 600. He is about to go to Australia and Vanuatu – it will be the tenth Commonwealth country he has visited since last June – all of it on behalf of the Government and representing the Queen. I have travelled with him both in this country and abroad, and he doesn’t stop. His energy and enthusiasm is extraordinary. As is his charm.
The downside to that drive, however, is the temper and intolerance when things go wrong and he does lash out.
And, of course, there are employees and aides who have fallen foul of that. Some who have walked away, some who have been sacked.
And what pleasure it must be to those people, when Bower comes calling, to have the opportunity to get their retaliation in, and to stick it to a man who is never going to answer back.
I have not yet read the book itself but I do know that Bower has never met the Prince of Wales.
Bower has an audience ready and waiting of people who idolised the Princess of Wales and believe that Charles destroyed her. They will lap up anything that helps to destroy him.
But I am not convinced that this time around Bower’s book has succeeded.