Twenty-eight years ago, Prince Charles was entering college, but even then many Canadians wondered if he would become the right man for the job of king.
The tragedy of the boy born to be King of the United Kingdom, Canada and His Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith, is that he’s not the son his father would have liked him to be. And so H.R.H. Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, has thus far been groomed for the crown in a manner that many consider absurdly unsuitable for the age in which he must reign—a manner demonstrably not the kind of grooming a boy of his temperament is likely to enjoy.
Philip, the father, is an extrovert, a man of action, a man’s man, often arrogant, prideful and demanding. In many ways his is the kind of new blood the British royal House of Windsor needed. His eldest son Charles is—as far as one can determine on available evidence—an introvert, a dreamer, a boy of tenderness and self-effacing humility who will probably grow to be like his shy but dedicated grandfather, George VI. Prince Philip, for instance, once deliberately doused press photographers with a garden hose, then guffawed with laughter. But when, during a school fire-fighting demonstration, Prince Charles accidentally splashed the feet—the feet only, mind you—of a photographer, he flushed and apologized: “Oops—I am sorry.”
Through chinks in the armor of protocol that surrounds royalty, Prince Charles emerges as a boy growing to manhood—he’s 18 now—suffering from conflicts set up by an upbringing constantly at war with his inclinations. It would seem that Philip is harder on his son than are most fathers; that Charles may face the danger of even becoming slightly neurotic by constantly trying to meet a set of standards arbitrarily set by a parent to whom the child is an extension of self, of ego. All this would be serious enough at any time, in any boy. But in this age of rampant innovation and change, the fact that Charles is not his father’s son (in the sense that they are totally unlike each other) could change the structure of Britain, of Canada, of the rest of the Commonwealth.
Britain is now convulsed with a social revolution the main aim of which seems to be to free the country from the deadening effects of tradition maintained for its own sake. In this climate the very need for any sort of monarchy is being openly questioned, often on the alarmingly fallacious grounds that the system is traditional and, therefore, valueless. Even so, it needs no clairvoyance to predict that, if the world survives long enough, the monarchy will last out Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime, and that thereafter the survival of the monarchy will depend on King Charles III.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.