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Prince Charles

The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
Length: 18 hrs and 28 mins
4 out of 5 stars (304 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Elizabeth the Queen comes the first major biography of Prince Charles in more than 20 years - perfect for fans of The Crown.

Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than 300 years. This vivid, eye-opening biography - the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for the first time - is the first authoritative treatment of Charles' life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day.

Prince Charles brings to life the real man, with all of his ambitions, insecurities, and convictions. It begins with his lonely childhood, in which he struggled to live up to his father's expectations and sought companionship from the Queen Mother and his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten. It follows him through difficult years at school, his early love affairs, his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his intense search for spiritual meaning. It tells of the tragedy of his marriage to Diana; his eventual reunion with his true love, Camilla; and his relationships with William, Kate, Harry, and his grandchildren.

Ranging from his glamorous palaces to his country homes, from his globe-trotting travels to his local initiatives, Smith shows how Prince Charles possesses a fiercely independent spirit and yet has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role, living a life dictated by protocols he often struggles to obey. With keen insight and the discovery of unexpected new details, Smith lays bare the contradictions of a man who is more complicated, tragic, and compelling than we knew - until now.

With a preface read by the author.

©2017 Sally Bedell Smith (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Prince Charles is an 18th-century gentleman with a 21st-century mission. His love of tradition combines with an outlook that can be bracingly avant garde. Sally Bedell Smith captures his contradictions and his convictions in this fascinating book that is not just about a man who would be king, but also about the duties that come with privilege." (Walter Isaacson)
"For all we know about Prince Charles, there is so much we didn't know - until now. Sally Bedell Smith has given us a complete and compelling portrait of the man in the shadow of the throne. It's all here, from the back stairs of the palaces to the front pages of the tabs. Read all about it!" (Tom Brokaw)
"No one writes about life at the top with more panache than Sally Bedell Smith. Her Prince Charles is a delicious blend of glamour and grandeur, jealousy and rivalry, greatness and human foible. Smith writes with wisdom and sympathy - and a sharp and knowing eye - about the struggles and maturation of the man who would-be king." (Evan Thomas)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • RY
  • 09-12-17

Diana dissed at every chance

this book is a good book but it was very irritating that at every chance that could possibly be squeezed in the writer disses the memory of Diana she insults belittles and is very very anti Diana and to further her disdain for Diana she elevates Camilla at every possible chance and squeezes in unnecessary comparisons between the two she makes light and glosses over the Charles Camilla relationship indescretions but slams the Diana and her indescretions. If the writer had not been so blatant with her disdain for Diana I would have enjoyed the book. I endured the book because I was interested in what Charles does . I am sure you can get the same story with an unbiased writer somewhere else.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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The "Green" Prince

I love reading about the British Royal Family, and when it comes to today’s crop it’s been a while since I’ve read anything recent. When it comes to Charles, most of the books have all ended on a “but will they ever get married” note. Clearly, they did.

It was an interesting bio, despite the zillions of books and documentaries I’ve seen I still felt like I learned something new about Charles… like for example: to what extent he is passionate (obsessed?) by environmental issues. I always knew it was an interest of his, but I didn’t know just how Green he is! Good for him.

I’d recommend this book to anyone curious about his life, it was a very complete biography.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Unbelievably Biased

I know so little about the future king of England that I was really looking forward to this book however the author's unbelievable bias where anything relating to Diana was concerned made me question everything else. She seemed to go out of her way to make Diana look "crazy", spoiled, mean, petulant, etc. even in circumstances so private that only the prince and Diana could know what actually happened. Every event was how poor Charles tried and tried and tried to understand her and help her but she always resisted.

Diana's death and funeral were told from a perspective that, having lived through it, I know were either incorrect or glossed over to make the Queen look kind and magnanimous. The entire world witnessed something different.....so many "on the street" interviews showed how disappointed and angry the people there were that the Queen said nothing for days until public opinion forced her to. Every article of the day and every book written since then has described the Queen's opinion that Diana was no longer a royal and a state funeral was no longer appropriate and it took Charles and Tony Blair to convince her that it would make her look petty if she didn't allow it.

Overall I was happy to learn things about Charles life and the things he was/is interested in. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have already lived most of your life and still not being able to do the one thing you were destined for. I have no doubt that he will be a worthy king but if you can't trust such an important part of the book I don't really know how accurate everything else is.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Poor Little Rich Boy

I know this extensive biography isn't meant in any way to be humorous, but I think most Americans, even Anglophiles, will get a few chuckles from it.

Of course, you have to respect the unique and difficult position in which Prince Charles has lived his entire life. He has had the same public exposure, duties and restrictions of being a constitutional monarch without having attained the title, respect or experience of actually being one. If he does ever become King, it's unlikely he'll have the time to establish himself in his own right.

And, oh, he has had misfortunes! Distant parents, both physically and psychologically. Nearly impossible high expectations from them, from his country and its notoriously prying media. A really bad marriage. Damned if he didn't try to have some serious influence; damned if he tried to interfere in any way deemed political.

Still, this is one of the wealthiest men in the world, people! Life's trials just cannot be put on an equal footing for him as on the next guy. All that elevated family history, all that money, all those loyal subjects and servants, all that protection and separation from the "real world" of finances, mortgages, bills - surely that's some compensation for a fellow of reportedly average intelligence. Given the truly horrifying positions and circumstances into which one may be born in today's world, most of us are probably not inclined to expend a whole lot of sympathy on Poor Charles.

It seems to me that the biographer here has done an admirable job of presenting an objective and balanced view of her subject, a living world figure. History may see it differently, but Sally Bedell Smith expertly walks a fine line, avoiding the unsympathetic on one hand and the overly-adoring on the other. Rosalyn Landor gives a hearty and appropriately plummy British upper class narration.

I learned something, but it did give me a giggle now and then!

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Informative and educational

Informative and educational on an important future King of Great Britain. I came into the book, wanting to know what was Prince Charles life growing up, that led to his adult life with great tragedy and also great potential.

The author in the end seemed biased towards Charles, and anti Princess Diana. But on who Prince Charles is, was enlightening.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Nothing Noteworthy

I was hoping for an objective view of Charles & his life. There is little here that can’t be picked up from a Wikipedia biography.
One would assume that Ms Smith is in, or would want to be in good graces of the Prince & Duchess. I wouldn’t expect a biography of Charles to be thoughtful of the late Princess of Wales, but I did expect less of the “Diana the manipulative, shy, stupid, and misogynistic bed-hopper”. But no luck there. Ms Smith continues the revisionist narrative that has been launched by The Palace; hardly even taking an original POV in that direction.
It is amazing to the reader that the Prince of Wales has such far reaching influence. Camilla is seen as the sympathetic and dutiful mistress while Diana is the unbalanced upstager to the poor Prince of Wales who can’t seem to catch a break. This book doesn’t even dare answer the conundrum that if Diana was so much more beloved by “The People”, is the PoW really her wounded victim, or is he simply jealous of the Diana Myth. Even sorting that out would have been worth the time.
Diana was cunning, where Camilla was unlucky, Diana was restless where Camilla was easy-going, Diana was not nice enough to Charles while grieving her father, yet Camilla put on a brave face when her father passed as Charles consoled her. Even after Diana’s death in the book, Ms Smith cannot resist contrasting in the most partial way Camilla’s “true love” with Diana’s “manipulation & outbursts.” Never taking into account that the late Princess, may have, could have, just might have matured as she aged as C&C did. It’s a little too unforgiving.
Perhaps death was not a high enough price for the Princess to pay.
So if you are looking for a balanced view of Charles, his life and loves, keep looking.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Detailed, But Towed The Party Line

This book is typical of Sally Bedell Smith. It's well researched and written. However, as a long time reader of many biographies of the current British royal family, this book glossed over the Diana years and in my humble opinion, didn't accurately convey what happened during the Prince of Wales' marriage, in particular the resumption of the affair with Camilla. While no one who wasn't involved will ever know the whole truth, it still felt as though the author bought the narrative provided by the Wales camp. Also, while there were some new facts regarding the prince, the book didn't feel like a new, refreshing read.

One bright spot was the narrator, Rosalyn Landor. She was a pleasure to listen to as always.

For me, this was an average biography with great narration. From someone as talented as Sally Bedell Smith, I expected better.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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An instant classic

Audible does it again. This same narrator also narrated the author's biography of Elizabeth the Queen in 2012 as well as Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles in 2007. She does an equally excellent job on Sally Bedell Smith's superb biography of H.R.H. Prince Charles. I've waited nearly a year for this and it was more than worth it. Wonderful audio commentary.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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A fresh look at Prince Charles

This was a good book. Of course it bends in favor of Prince Charles, but honestly it's nice to hear his side of his life story. I found myself feeling something along the lines of empathy for him throughout this book, and having a new respect for the monarch that I didn't previously possess. I will say that I got annoyed with how many times the book mentions how long he's been waiting to take the throne, but I really got the impression that came from the author, not that Prince Charles is willing his mother to die so he can take over. Other than that it was an interesting read that kept me awake on a couple long road trips.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Reviewing Prince Charles

Would you consider the audio edition of Prince Charles to be better than the print version?

I discovered I enjoy listening to my books being read to me as I'm older and my vision is not what is was..

Who was your favorite character and why?

Prince Charles himself who I've always felt very sorry for him and his childhood being left alone so much and whose parents really were very distant.

Have you listened to any of Rosalyn Landor and Sally Bedell Smith ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

All that I've read have been read to me and enjoyed equally..

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A portrait of a very lonely Prince...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful