Unlike some earlier sensation-seeking biographers, who have dwelt on the Diana disaster above all else, Ms. Bedell Smith, who has previously written biographies of the Kennedys and the Clintons, resists any temptation to take sides ... Here is one of the paradoxes of Charles evident from Ms. Bedell Smith’s masterly account: encased in his own glass box of privilege, he is sometimes quicker than elected politicians to voice popular dissent. Having seen where narrow duty can lead, he follows his instinct, sometimes naïvely.
Prince Charles is that rare portrait — pro-Charles and anti-Diana ... The marriage between Charles and Diana was unhappy virtually from the outset, so Smith claims and, I think, establishes with great judiciousness ... What’s remarkable about her portrait of Prince Charles is that he emerges as a man not deeply tainted by the complacent values of the world in which he was raised. Her Charles is a complex, somewhat troubled, sincere and questioning individual ... her book suggests that we can look forward to the reign of Charles III with quiet confidence.
Smith’s stance is very close to what one imagines a senior palace aide’s might be: Charles is far from ideal, but he is what we’ve got, and there can be no talk of mucking about with the law of succession and replacing him with his son ... Early on, however, it becomes apparent that Smith’s public-relations instincts are at war with a fundamental dislike of her subject. The grade-inflating summaries she offers at the beginning and the end of the book are overpowered by the damning portrait that emerges in between...Although the book would like to be a nuanced adjudication of the Prince’s 'paradoxes,' it ends up becoming a chronicle of peevishness and petulance.
Smith writes about all this with a skill and sympathy she perfected in her 2012 biography of Charles's mother. She's frank about the Prince's personal flaws...Even as a man in his late 60s, he can still be aggravated when it seems as if his parents don't fully appreciate his hard work. It's an affectingly human portrait ... Smith's book gives readers a prince who's earned both his friends and enemies the old-fashioned way, a hard-working and opinionated man of principle. When it comes to gaining a new king, regardless of his age at accession, a kingdom could do much, much worse.
As Smith's biography makes clear, Camilla's impact on Charles has been considerable, first as his mistress in an on-again, off-again relationship that spanned decades and the end of both their marriages, and then as the second wife whom the prince married in 2005. So, while this is very much a biography about Charles — billed as the first major biography of the prince in 20 years — the reader will find Camilla woven throughout much of the story … I suppose it's ironic Charles is getting short shrift in this story, especially as it was sparked by his biography. But I don't think he'd mind the slight and might even admire the irony.
Smith is not the first biographer to depict the young prince as love-starved, lonely, and emotionally vulnerable, although her portrait is enormously touching and supported by wide-ranging interviews and research ... A thorough, timely biography of the man likely to become king in the next decade or so.