If you like only to hear good of the royals, you’ll want to swerve this book, a sustained character assassination of the Prince of Wales. In Tom Bower’s telling he is vain, petulant, money-hungry and out of touch. Apparently, Camilla had to explain what clingfilm was to him; he brings his own loo seat when staying with friends; one associate told Bower that Prince Charles is an “an Olympian whinger — whingeing into the small hours on the telephone with friends”. On and on it goes.
Bower shows us how cut-off from real life Charles is, surrounded by staff who ensure that when he goes to stay with people in their country houses, a truck arrives first, containing his own orthopaedic bed, Kleenex Premium Comfort lavatory paper, Laphroaig whisky and bottled water.
Bower also tells a darker story, of the Prince’s increasingly shameless dependence on donors’ money in return for favours. Guests donate up to £500,000 to his charities in return for sitting next to him at Buckingham Palace dinners. At one recent banquet, Charles made the gaffe of referring to the guests as ‘donors’ rather than ‘friends’. An embarrassing truth had slipped out.
Astonishingly, the Prince doesn’t feel at all rich. ‘He hasn’t got a yacht and he doesn’t eat lunch,’ a senior aide pleads. Not a soothing or a graceful read this, but gripping.
Based on 120 interviews, Rebel Prince is an unauthorised account of the “utter hell” of being Britain’s longest-waiting heir to the throne. And what a crown of thorns it appears to be, as Bower records tales of the temper tantrums, luxury trappings and traps that Prince Charles and his coterie both set for the rest of the family and fall into. There is more than enough carping, cosseting and cattiness here to satisfy any appetite for royal intrigue.