When you’ve spent months intensively researching a cover story, it feels like a release to write. I tried to explain this to the Prince of Wales. “I’m looking forward to not thinking about you all the time,” I blurted. But writing brings the fresh pain of making choices, sacrificing fun facts and revealing anecdotes you just can’t squeeze in to your main text. 1. He’s fit. Several of the Prince’s friends complained about the difficulties of keeping up with him when they go hiking together. At 64, he’s still always king of the mountain, arriving at the highest peak first. He suffers from a bad back, but to alleviate the symptoms gets up early every morning to perform a rigorous series of exercises. “Occasionally in the Royal Train you hear a frightful bump,” says Julia Cleverdon, special adviser to the Prince’s charities.
2. He really knows his sheep. Emma Sparham was unemployed when the Prince’s Trust gave her support to start her business, the White Chicken Company, selling natural poultry and livestock products. At a June 20 reception for the Prince’s Trust at St James’s Palace, she mentioned to her host that she also raises soay sheep. “If I was to say the word ‘soay’ to 100 people, maybe five of them might know what it is,” says Sparham. “He knew exactly what it was, what island they come from and he knows the nature of the animal. He asked if I could catch them because they are renowned for being uncatchable.”
3. He didn’t design a fire station. PRINCE CHARLES’S POUNDBURY FIRE STATION IS A DAFT MESS, headlined the Guardian. PICTURED: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET A PRINCE DESIGN A FIRE STATION, sniped the Daily Mail Poundbury fire station earned a 2009 shortlisting in the Carbuncle Cup, Building Design magazine’s annual ranking of Britain’s worst buildings. (The anti-prize derives its name from a famous speech given by Prince Charles in 1984, in which he derided a proposed extension to London’s National Gallery as a “monstrous carbuncle.”)
Poundbury, a model village abutting the city of Dorchester in Southwest England, is his brainchild, an attempt to build a contented community by deploying traditional materials and local vernacular, mixing commercial and residential properties, rich and poor, calming traffic and encouraging walking. But here’s the thing: the Prince didn’t design its fire station. That honor, says Ewen Miller, managing director of Calderpeel architects, must be shared between his practice and Leon Krier, the master planner for Poundbury, who rejected the architects’ initial proposal for a barn-type structure. “Fire engines are pretty large brutes and therefore require big garage door openings,” says Miller. “It’s difficult to make a building look historically accurate when you’re making an opening physically larger than would have been possible in days gone by, before the advent of concrete and steel structures.”
4. The Prince has won the grudging respect of at least one architect. Miller used to regard the Prince as an irritant, meddling in the built environment without any qualifications to do so. In 2000 the Prince, invited by the BBC to deliver one of its prestigious Reith lectures, talked about how architects need to better engage with clients and communities. “I sat down with a glass of wine ready to throw it. I was quite upset that he really started to make a lot of sense,” says Miller.
5. You can book a holiday at the Prince’s private retreat in Wales. The Duchy of Cornwall estate, held in trust for heirs to the throne, rents out two cottages adjoining the main farmhouse at Llwynywermod. How to ask directions? “Llwyn” rhymes with ruin. The double L, technically known as a “voiceless alveolar lateral fricative,” sounds a little like throat clearing. Y is pronounced “uh,” “werm” and “od” are both pretty much as you’d guess. But if that’s too daunting, pack garlic and crucifixes and head to properties the Prince has renovated in Romania as part of his drive to promote sustainable tourism. Altogether now: “Please can you tell me the way to Zalanpatak and Viscri?”
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6. His friends don’t really know what to call him. By tradition, even his chums are expected to call the Prince “Sir.” More than one member of his inner circle confesses to avoiding calling him anything at all. When talking about him to other people, his staffers usually refer to “HRH,” short for His Royal Highness.
7. He sometimes calls himself “Carrick.” One of his titles is Earl of Carrick. He signs some personal notes with the name and prints of his watercolor paintings are marketed by A.G. Carrick, a trading arm of the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation.
8. His 1993 lecture on Islam and the West is still remembered. “There is nothing to be gained, and much harm to be done, by refusing to comprehend the extent to which many people in the Islamic world genuinely fear our own Western materialism and mass culture as a deadly challenge to their Islamic culture and way of life,” he said.
9. Eight-year-olds have strange ideas about what the Prince actually does. “Sometimes he works in the garden,” says Silvana. It’s July 3 and she’s part of a crowd hoping to meet the Prince who is due to visit Treharris, a town in South Wales, as part of his annual summer trip to the region. The Prince “crossed the Amazon,” ventures her friend Lexy, also 8. “He tells people what to do and if they don’t, he’ll behead them,” says Ryan, another 8-year-old standing further down the street.
10. Adults aren’t necessarily much clearer on the matter. Members of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, scrutinizing the tax affairs of the Duchy of Cornwall at a hearing on July 15, express concern at the tax arrangements of the Duchy and of the Prince and ask a number of questions about what the heir to the throne does. “His business, if you like, is being the Prince of Wales,” replies William Nye, his Principal Private Secretary,