Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have always been fascinated by the Royal Family, so I was very excited about the opportunity to read Sally Bedell Smith’s new biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. Much of my interest is focused on the younger generation of the family, and Prince Charles has always remained somewhat enigmatic. I remember that the tabloid headlines from the early 1990s were less than favorable to the prince, so I was curious to learn more about his life.

Smith presents a thorough account of Prince Charles’ life, from his rigid childhood where his contact with his parents was limited, and where he teased at school because of his large ears and who his parents were. After reading about his years at Gordonstoun, it is no surprise that Charles’ sons went to Eton.

While his tumultuous relationship with Princess Diana is what people tend to associate with Prince Charles, it is only a small part of his fascinating life. Smith shows the reader a well-rounded and pensive man. Charles has many interests that mean a great deal to him, like architecture and conservation. He might appear to be emotionally distant, but he cares deeply for his tight-knit group of friends. Charles was devastated by the assassination of his uncle and mentor, Lord Mountbatten.

Of course, one cannot think of Charles without thinking of Camilla. She plays a large role in the book, and her transition from being associated with the breakup of Charles’ marriage to being accepted as his second wife is absolutely fascinating. The circumstances that kept them apart 40 years ago led to devastating consequences, and are perhaps the reason behind the next generation of young royals being allowed to marry for love rather than for the sake of maintaining appearances.

I would absolutely recommend Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life to anyone interested in the Royal Family. As a natural introvert, Charles doesn’t tend to have too many scandalous stories, although he did have his fair share during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Smith weaves together a cohesive portrait of the man who will one day be the King of England. This book has been meticulously researched, and is presented in an engaging style of writing that keeps the reader interested. I happen to own a copy of Smith’s biography of Queen Elizabeth II, and I am looking forward to reading it in the near future.

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