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Who Is The Real King Charles III?

Dec 13, 2022
History
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19
minutes

Despite being in the public eye for his entire life, there are many question marks about who King Charles III actually is.

In this episode, we look at the experiences that shaped him and ask ourselves what sort of man he really is.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are talking about King Charles III.

[00:00:26] This is actually the second of a two-part mini-series about King Charles.

[00:00:32] In part one, which came out last week, we talked about his life and took a more chronological approach to his long and patient journey to the British crown. 

[00:00:42] Today, in part two, we are going to go a little deeper and ask ourselves the question ‘Who Is The Real King Charles?’

[00:00:51] Who is Charles the man, what life experiences have shaped his character, and what will this mean for this reign as king?

[00:01:00] So, let's get into it and talk about the real Charles III.

[00:01:06] When he was a mere prince, Charles once remarked that “ As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions and to judge people too quickly”

[00:01:20] It is, if I may say, an astute observation, something I’m sure most people would agree with.

[00:01:27] And while we must try to not fall into the trap of judging people too quickly here, in the case of King Charles, the British public has had over 70 years of him being in the public eye, of him being known to the country.

[00:01:43] These 70 years have provided us with some clues, some indications that might give us some idea about who Charles the man actually is.

[00:01:53] So, in the next twenty minutes or so, we are going to try to unearth some clues, to find some indications of the character of the British King.

[00:02:04] We must, of course, look at the question of nature vs. nurture, of how much of someone’s character is pre-built, is genetic, vs. how much of it can be understood through their upbringing and lived experiences.

[00:02:19] And within the question of nurture, we must look at the experiences that Charles went through to try to ask ourselves how they might have affected him.

[00:02:30] As with anyone, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, to try to understand how he grew up and the childhood he had.

[00:02:39] This, clearly, touches on nature and nurture, though as you will see, there wasn’t all that much nurture.

[00:02:48] Firstly, clearly, it’s almost impossible for any heir to the throne to have anything remotely resembling a normal childhood.

[00:02:58] As soon as Charles could understand who his parents were, he would have known that he was destined to become king.

[00:03:06] In some respects, however, his parents did try to give the young boy as normal a childhood as a monarch-in-waiting could have.

[00:03:16] You may remember from part one that the young Charles was the first heir apparent, that is, the first next in line to the throne, to go to school, as opposed to being tutored privately at home.

[00:03:30] The school Charles went to wasn’t a normal school, of course, it was an exclusive boarding school in the north of Scotland called Gordonstoun.

[00:03:40] The school had a focus on the outdoors, and on outdoor physical activity.

[00:03:48] Prince Phillip had suggested Charles was sent to this school precisely because of its reputation for being a tough school. He thought his son was too sensitive and soft, and thought going to Gordonstoun would toughen the young boy up.

[00:04:06] When Charles arrived, teachers and students were instructed not to treat the young prince any differently, and to not give him any special treatment.

[00:04:17] And they certainly didn’t.

[00:04:20] In fact, he was beaten up and bullied, and Charles would later admit that he hated his time there, and longed to return to his family.

[00:04:30] See, this school was a terrible choice for Charles.

[00:04:35] His father was right, that he was a sensitive young boy, someone more at home reading books or painting than fighting with other boys.

[00:04:45] But his father was certainly wrong about this being a good choice of school for Charles, who hated every minute of it. 

[00:04:54] It was just one of many examples of there being a strained relationship between father and son.

[00:05:02] The two men had very different characters: Charles was sensitive, Prince Phillip was very traditional and, in his own words “unfeeling”.

[00:05:13] Prince Phillip made no secret of his preference for his daughter, Anne, who liked outdoor sports, was more tough and was more similar to her father.

[00:05:26] To Prince Phillip, his eldest son was a disappointment.

[00:05:30] His father’s disappointment in him is thought to have been one of the reasons that Charles took active steps to try to engage in more “rough and tumble” activities, such as polo.

[00:05:42] If you don’t know, polo is a ball game played on horseback where each team must use a long wooden mallet, or stick, to hit a ball into the opposing team's goal. 

[00:05:54] It is a very elitist sport, and is one only really played by the upper classes.

[00:06:01] Charles embraced this unusual sport and was often photographed on horseback.

[00:06:08] Some have said that this was to impress his rough-and-ready father, to show that yes, Charles was a real man, he played this tough sport.

[00:06:18] Others have suggested that his reasons for taking up this sport went beyond his father, and in fact it was to show the country that he was a powerful young king in waiting.

[00:06:30] It seems likely that there was some truth in both of these theories.

[00:06:35] In one respect, taking up the sport was Charles' way of reaching out to his father, of trying to understand him and showing him that they could connect in the same way, that Charles could be more like his sister, Anne.

[00:06:50] In the other, it was Charles’ way of trying to establish his own legacy, to fight the preconceived notion that he was someone who preferred intellectual pursuits over physical ones.

[00:07:04] And polo was far from his only physical outdoor hobby.

[00:07:08] He went fox hunting, shooting, and fishing, and threw himself into these outdoor pursuits, making him more like a 15th-century prince than someone born in the 20th century.

[00:07:22] But none of this would seem to endear him to his parents.

[00:07:27] His relationship with his father showed few signs of improving, and his mother, the queen, had her own favourite, her third son, Andrew.

[00:07:39] If you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Andrew who is now somewhat disgraced, but she was the queen’s “golden boy”.

[00:07:48] Again, this is thought to come down to Charles’ character.

[00:07:52] The queen found Charles to be, as she said, “emotionally complicated”, whereas Andrew, she felt, could “make her laugh and raise the family’s spirits.”

[00:08:03] But the Queen’s preference for her second son over her first wasn’t only because of the two men's different characters.

[00:08:12] Commentators have suggested that a lot of it is to do with the fact that Charles is 11 years older than Andrew.

[00:08:20] For much of Charles’ early life, his mother had been away, she was absent.

[00:08:26] He was three years old when his mother became queen, and he rarely saw her when he was growing up.

[00:08:33] And when he did see his parents, it was an unusual and unaffectionate relationship.

[00:08:40] In one famous episode, when the queen and Prince Phillip returned to the UK after 6 months away on a tour, they greeted the five-year-old Charles not with a hug or a big kiss, but with a handshake.

[00:08:56] So, his relationship with his parents was distant, unaffectionate, and always inferior compared to their relationship with their other children.

[00:09:07] For a sensitive young boy, this must not have been easy.

[00:09:12] With absent parents, Charles was far closer to his great-uncle, the 1st Earl Mountbatten.

[00:09:20] Mountbatten began to nurture the young Charles, allowing him to show his sensitive side and speak his mind.

[00:09:28] Charles, reportedly, felt comfortable enough to cry in front of him, something he would never have done in front of his own father.

[00:09:37] But in 1979, Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA. Just like that, this guiding influence in the young man’s life, his confidant, was no more.

[00:09:50] As you might imagine, it affected him greatly, and for months Charles couldn’t talk about his beloved great-uncle without breaking down in tears.

[00:10:00] By this time, Charles was in his early thirties.

[00:10:04] He had been playing around, dating women, for several years, and it was time to find a wife.

[00:10:11] The wife was, as you’ll know, Lady Diana Spencer, a woefully bad match for Charles.

[00:10:18] Now, what does the choice of Diana, and his behaviour during his marriage to Diana, tell us about Charles the man?

[00:10:27] Perhaps it tells us that he has a strong sense of duty.

[00:10:31] He knew that he needed to find someone to produce an heir, someone to be his queen, and Diana had all of the relevant qualities.

[00:10:40] She was young, she was beautiful, and she looked like a princess.

[00:10:45] And most importantly, she would give him a child.

[00:10:49] So, Charles moved quickly, with the pair only meeting 13 times before their wedding day.

[00:10:56] Perhaps you have a story of true love, where you only met your partner a handful of times before getting hitched, getting married, and living happily ever after.

[00:11:07] If so, great, well done.

[00:11:10] For Charles and Diana, as you’ll know, it wasn’t a story of true love.

[00:11:16] But perhaps, to Charles, this didn’t matter.

[00:11:20] It didn’t matter if he hardly knew her and didn’t love her, that was secondary, this marriage was a transaction on behalf of the country.

[00:11:30] After all, his true love was another woman, Camilla Shand, who by now was Camilla Parker-Bowles.

[00:11:38] You could interpret this as showing some great sense of duty, putting his country’s needs above his own.

[00:11:45] But to others, it suggests selfishness, that he brought this young girl into the limelight, and put her on the front page of every newspaper, knowing full well that it would be a loveless marriage and her role was to produce an heir and look glamorous.

[00:12:03] And his behaviour as a parent did nothing to dispel, to get rid of, these accusations of selfishness, of putting himself before his wife and children.

[00:12:15] For example, in 1991, the young Prince William had an accident when a friend hit him with a golf club.

[00:12:23] The then nine-year-old, who still has the scar to this day, needed 24 stitches.

[00:12:30] But what did Charles do?

[00:12:32] After going to see his young son, he left to attend a function after less than an hour.

[00:12:39] This was observed by the British press, of course, and fueled tabloid speculation that the future King was a selfish man and uncommitted father.

[00:12:49] Then there were the revelations of his and Camilla’s affair, his subsequent divorce from Diana, and her death a year later.

[00:12:58] Charles was a villain, his popularity with the British public at rock bottom.

[00:13:04] And whatever Charles did, there were accusations of hypocrisy.

[00:13:10] He would try to put forward the image of a simple man with simple pleasures: the outdoors, gardening, and nature.

[00:13:18] Yet there were reports that one of his valets, his servants, was required to squeeze out his toothpaste onto his toothbrush every night.

[00:13:27] Similarly, he said he had simple tastes, only having a simple boiled egg for breakfast every morning.

[00:13:35] Yet his standards for this simple boiled egg are reported to be so high that it needs to be cooked to perfection, and the cook always boils several eggs in case the first one is rejected by his master.

[00:13:50] Now, one area where it is perhaps harder to fault Charles is his commitment to the environment.

[00:13:58] Charles has long been an advocate for green issues, and it’s fair to say he was certainly ahead of the curve on this one, or ahead of his time.

[00:14:08] As early as the 1970s, when he was just 21 years old, Charles was making speeches about pollution, and he has been a keen environmental campaigner ever since he was a young man.

[00:14:22] But even when it comes to his environmental credentials, there are plenty of reports over the years that have shown Charles to be a man who doesn’t always practise what he preaches - that is, that he is somewhat of a hypocrite.

[00:14:37] He has a large collection of gas-guzzling cars, and travels all around the world on private planes.

[00:14:43] So, to try to bring this back to the question at hand, Who is the real King Charles III?

[00:14:51] His character is one of contradictions.

[00:14:54] A sensitive man who tried to develop a macho image.

[00:14:58] A man with both a reputation as an environmentalist and an expensive collection of gas-guzzling cars.

[00:15:06] What does this mean that we, the public, should think about him?

[00:15:11] On the one hand, he is the king, and he should be held to higher standards than normal citizens. I say this both from the point of view of a functional constitutional monarchy more generally, and from the point of view of the longevity of the monarchy.

[00:15:28] In other words, if Charles wants the monarchy to remain popular, he needs to hold himself to the same high standards as his mother did.

[00:15:37] But on the other hand, on a human level, Charles has had a very unusual and not very happy life.

[00:15:45] Sure, it was far from difficult in the sense that he has huge houses, servants, and access to any material possession he might choose.

[00:15:55] But on an emotional level, he had an unhappy childhood with absent parents, both of whom clearly preferred another one of his siblings.

[00:16:05] He was not allowed to marry the woman he loved and ended up in a loveless marriage.

[00:16:11] And he constantly lived in the shadow of his mother, a hugely popular woman and queen.

[00:16:18] Of course, I am not saying that we should pity Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor. But simply acknowledge the bizarre situation of his life, and recognise the impact that this must surely have on a person.

[00:16:33] To have emerged from this unhappy and unusual life lived under a magnifying glass and still manage to have a half-decent reputation is somewhat of a triumph.

[00:16:45] And on this note, he is now more popular than ever before. More than a quarter of British people say that their opinion of him has improved since he became king, and 58% of people say that they think he’ll be a good king.

[00:17:02] As a sensitive man who is acutely aware of his public perception, this must surely give him some reassurance.

[00:17:10] So, we’ve learned about Charles the man - a sensitive character with an unhappy childhood, a man of contradictions, a man perhaps unsure of who he wants to be.

[00:17:24] What does this mean for his reign as king?

[00:17:27] Well, a strange contradiction is that as king, he will have much less opportunity to have an influence and show his true character. 

[00:17:39] As Prince Charles, he enjoyed some freedom to speak his mind, to try to influence opinion and to get his way.

[00:17:48] As King Charles, he will not enjoy these freedoms. His mother’s huge popularity came in part from her never interfering with the running of the country, never showing anyone her opinion, and never revealing what she really thought.

[00:18:04] It will certainly be a tough adjustment.

[00:18:08] But king he is, and he has had more than enough time to think about the kind of king he wants to be.

[00:18:15] Only time will tell how much of the “real” Charles we will see now he is King.

[00:18:24] Ok then, that’s it for today’s episode - the second in our two-part special on King Charles III.

[00:18:30] I hope it was an interesting one, and whether you are a huge fan of the Royal Family and knew a lot about Charles’ character, or this mini-series was the first time you’d heard much about him, well I hope you learned something new.

[00:18:43] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:18:47] What type of man do you think Charles really is?

[00:18:51] How will that affect him as King?

[00:18:53] Do you think he’ll be a good King?

[00:18:55] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:18:58] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:07] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:12] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are talking about King Charles III.

[00:00:26] This is actually the second of a two-part mini-series about King Charles.

[00:00:32] In part one, which came out last week, we talked about his life and took a more chronological approach to his long and patient journey to the British crown. 

[00:00:42] Today, in part two, we are going to go a little deeper and ask ourselves the question ‘Who Is The Real King Charles?’

[00:00:51] Who is Charles the man, what life experiences have shaped his character, and what will this mean for this reign as king?

[00:01:00] So, let's get into it and talk about the real Charles III.

[00:01:06] When he was a mere prince, Charles once remarked that “ As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions and to judge people too quickly”

[00:01:20] It is, if I may say, an astute observation, something I’m sure most people would agree with.

[00:01:27] And while we must try to not fall into the trap of judging people too quickly here, in the case of King Charles, the British public has had over 70 years of him being in the public eye, of him being known to the country.

[00:01:43] These 70 years have provided us with some clues, some indications that might give us some idea about who Charles the man actually is.

[00:01:53] So, in the next twenty minutes or so, we are going to try to unearth some clues, to find some indications of the character of the British King.

[00:02:04] We must, of course, look at the question of nature vs. nurture, of how much of someone’s character is pre-built, is genetic, vs. how much of it can be understood through their upbringing and lived experiences.

[00:02:19] And within the question of nurture, we must look at the experiences that Charles went through to try to ask ourselves how they might have affected him.

[00:02:30] As with anyone, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, to try to understand how he grew up and the childhood he had.

[00:02:39] This, clearly, touches on nature and nurture, though as you will see, there wasn’t all that much nurture.

[00:02:48] Firstly, clearly, it’s almost impossible for any heir to the throne to have anything remotely resembling a normal childhood.

[00:02:58] As soon as Charles could understand who his parents were, he would have known that he was destined to become king.

[00:03:06] In some respects, however, his parents did try to give the young boy as normal a childhood as a monarch-in-waiting could have.

[00:03:16] You may remember from part one that the young Charles was the first heir apparent, that is, the first next in line to the throne, to go to school, as opposed to being tutored privately at home.

[00:03:30] The school Charles went to wasn’t a normal school, of course, it was an exclusive boarding school in the north of Scotland called Gordonstoun.

[00:03:40] The school had a focus on the outdoors, and on outdoor physical activity.

[00:03:48] Prince Phillip had suggested Charles was sent to this school precisely because of its reputation for being a tough school. He thought his son was too sensitive and soft, and thought going to Gordonstoun would toughen the young boy up.

[00:04:06] When Charles arrived, teachers and students were instructed not to treat the young prince any differently, and to not give him any special treatment.

[00:04:17] And they certainly didn’t.

[00:04:20] In fact, he was beaten up and bullied, and Charles would later admit that he hated his time there, and longed to return to his family.

[00:04:30] See, this school was a terrible choice for Charles.

[00:04:35] His father was right, that he was a sensitive young boy, someone more at home reading books or painting than fighting with other boys.

[00:04:45] But his father was certainly wrong about this being a good choice of school for Charles, who hated every minute of it. 

[00:04:54] It was just one of many examples of there being a strained relationship between father and son.

[00:05:02] The two men had very different characters: Charles was sensitive, Prince Phillip was very traditional and, in his own words “unfeeling”.

[00:05:13] Prince Phillip made no secret of his preference for his daughter, Anne, who liked outdoor sports, was more tough and was more similar to her father.

[00:05:26] To Prince Phillip, his eldest son was a disappointment.

[00:05:30] His father’s disappointment in him is thought to have been one of the reasons that Charles took active steps to try to engage in more “rough and tumble” activities, such as polo.

[00:05:42] If you don’t know, polo is a ball game played on horseback where each team must use a long wooden mallet, or stick, to hit a ball into the opposing team's goal. 

[00:05:54] It is a very elitist sport, and is one only really played by the upper classes.

[00:06:01] Charles embraced this unusual sport and was often photographed on horseback.

[00:06:08] Some have said that this was to impress his rough-and-ready father, to show that yes, Charles was a real man, he played this tough sport.

[00:06:18] Others have suggested that his reasons for taking up this sport went beyond his father, and in fact it was to show the country that he was a powerful young king in waiting.

[00:06:30] It seems likely that there was some truth in both of these theories.

[00:06:35] In one respect, taking up the sport was Charles' way of reaching out to his father, of trying to understand him and showing him that they could connect in the same way, that Charles could be more like his sister, Anne.

[00:06:50] In the other, it was Charles’ way of trying to establish his own legacy, to fight the preconceived notion that he was someone who preferred intellectual pursuits over physical ones.

[00:07:04] And polo was far from his only physical outdoor hobby.

[00:07:08] He went fox hunting, shooting, and fishing, and threw himself into these outdoor pursuits, making him more like a 15th-century prince than someone born in the 20th century.

[00:07:22] But none of this would seem to endear him to his parents.

[00:07:27] His relationship with his father showed few signs of improving, and his mother, the queen, had her own favourite, her third son, Andrew.

[00:07:39] If you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Andrew who is now somewhat disgraced, but she was the queen’s “golden boy”.

[00:07:48] Again, this is thought to come down to Charles’ character.

[00:07:52] The queen found Charles to be, as she said, “emotionally complicated”, whereas Andrew, she felt, could “make her laugh and raise the family’s spirits.”

[00:08:03] But the Queen’s preference for her second son over her first wasn’t only because of the two men's different characters.

[00:08:12] Commentators have suggested that a lot of it is to do with the fact that Charles is 11 years older than Andrew.

[00:08:20] For much of Charles’ early life, his mother had been away, she was absent.

[00:08:26] He was three years old when his mother became queen, and he rarely saw her when he was growing up.

[00:08:33] And when he did see his parents, it was an unusual and unaffectionate relationship.

[00:08:40] In one famous episode, when the queen and Prince Phillip returned to the UK after 6 months away on a tour, they greeted the five-year-old Charles not with a hug or a big kiss, but with a handshake.

[00:08:56] So, his relationship with his parents was distant, unaffectionate, and always inferior compared to their relationship with their other children.

[00:09:07] For a sensitive young boy, this must not have been easy.

[00:09:12] With absent parents, Charles was far closer to his great-uncle, the 1st Earl Mountbatten.

[00:09:20] Mountbatten began to nurture the young Charles, allowing him to show his sensitive side and speak his mind.

[00:09:28] Charles, reportedly, felt comfortable enough to cry in front of him, something he would never have done in front of his own father.

[00:09:37] But in 1979, Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA. Just like that, this guiding influence in the young man’s life, his confidant, was no more.

[00:09:50] As you might imagine, it affected him greatly, and for months Charles couldn’t talk about his beloved great-uncle without breaking down in tears.

[00:10:00] By this time, Charles was in his early thirties.

[00:10:04] He had been playing around, dating women, for several years, and it was time to find a wife.

[00:10:11] The wife was, as you’ll know, Lady Diana Spencer, a woefully bad match for Charles.

[00:10:18] Now, what does the choice of Diana, and his behaviour during his marriage to Diana, tell us about Charles the man?

[00:10:27] Perhaps it tells us that he has a strong sense of duty.

[00:10:31] He knew that he needed to find someone to produce an heir, someone to be his queen, and Diana had all of the relevant qualities.

[00:10:40] She was young, she was beautiful, and she looked like a princess.

[00:10:45] And most importantly, she would give him a child.

[00:10:49] So, Charles moved quickly, with the pair only meeting 13 times before their wedding day.

[00:10:56] Perhaps you have a story of true love, where you only met your partner a handful of times before getting hitched, getting married, and living happily ever after.

[00:11:07] If so, great, well done.

[00:11:10] For Charles and Diana, as you’ll know, it wasn’t a story of true love.

[00:11:16] But perhaps, to Charles, this didn’t matter.

[00:11:20] It didn’t matter if he hardly knew her and didn’t love her, that was secondary, this marriage was a transaction on behalf of the country.

[00:11:30] After all, his true love was another woman, Camilla Shand, who by now was Camilla Parker-Bowles.

[00:11:38] You could interpret this as showing some great sense of duty, putting his country’s needs above his own.

[00:11:45] But to others, it suggests selfishness, that he brought this young girl into the limelight, and put her on the front page of every newspaper, knowing full well that it would be a loveless marriage and her role was to produce an heir and look glamorous.

[00:12:03] And his behaviour as a parent did nothing to dispel, to get rid of, these accusations of selfishness, of putting himself before his wife and children.

[00:12:15] For example, in 1991, the young Prince William had an accident when a friend hit him with a golf club.

[00:12:23] The then nine-year-old, who still has the scar to this day, needed 24 stitches.

[00:12:30] But what did Charles do?

[00:12:32] After going to see his young son, he left to attend a function after less than an hour.

[00:12:39] This was observed by the British press, of course, and fueled tabloid speculation that the future King was a selfish man and uncommitted father.

[00:12:49] Then there were the revelations of his and Camilla’s affair, his subsequent divorce from Diana, and her death a year later.

[00:12:58] Charles was a villain, his popularity with the British public at rock bottom.

[00:13:04] And whatever Charles did, there were accusations of hypocrisy.

[00:13:10] He would try to put forward the image of a simple man with simple pleasures: the outdoors, gardening, and nature.

[00:13:18] Yet there were reports that one of his valets, his servants, was required to squeeze out his toothpaste onto his toothbrush every night.

[00:13:27] Similarly, he said he had simple tastes, only having a simple boiled egg for breakfast every morning.

[00:13:35] Yet his standards for this simple boiled egg are reported to be so high that it needs to be cooked to perfection, and the cook always boils several eggs in case the first one is rejected by his master.

[00:13:50] Now, one area where it is perhaps harder to fault Charles is his commitment to the environment.

[00:13:58] Charles has long been an advocate for green issues, and it’s fair to say he was certainly ahead of the curve on this one, or ahead of his time.

[00:14:08] As early as the 1970s, when he was just 21 years old, Charles was making speeches about pollution, and he has been a keen environmental campaigner ever since he was a young man.

[00:14:22] But even when it comes to his environmental credentials, there are plenty of reports over the years that have shown Charles to be a man who doesn’t always practise what he preaches - that is, that he is somewhat of a hypocrite.

[00:14:37] He has a large collection of gas-guzzling cars, and travels all around the world on private planes.

[00:14:43] So, to try to bring this back to the question at hand, Who is the real King Charles III?

[00:14:51] His character is one of contradictions.

[00:14:54] A sensitive man who tried to develop a macho image.

[00:14:58] A man with both a reputation as an environmentalist and an expensive collection of gas-guzzling cars.

[00:15:06] What does this mean that we, the public, should think about him?

[00:15:11] On the one hand, he is the king, and he should be held to higher standards than normal citizens. I say this both from the point of view of a functional constitutional monarchy more generally, and from the point of view of the longevity of the monarchy.

[00:15:28] In other words, if Charles wants the monarchy to remain popular, he needs to hold himself to the same high standards as his mother did.

[00:15:37] But on the other hand, on a human level, Charles has had a very unusual and not very happy life.

[00:15:45] Sure, it was far from difficult in the sense that he has huge houses, servants, and access to any material possession he might choose.

[00:15:55] But on an emotional level, he had an unhappy childhood with absent parents, both of whom clearly preferred another one of his siblings.

[00:16:05] He was not allowed to marry the woman he loved and ended up in a loveless marriage.

[00:16:11] And he constantly lived in the shadow of his mother, a hugely popular woman and queen.

[00:16:18] Of course, I am not saying that we should pity Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor. But simply acknowledge the bizarre situation of his life, and recognise the impact that this must surely have on a person.

[00:16:33] To have emerged from this unhappy and unusual life lived under a magnifying glass and still manage to have a half-decent reputation is somewhat of a triumph.

[00:16:45] And on this note, he is now more popular than ever before. More than a quarter of British people say that their opinion of him has improved since he became king, and 58% of people say that they think he’ll be a good king.

[00:17:02] As a sensitive man who is acutely aware of his public perception, this must surely give him some reassurance.

[00:17:10] So, we’ve learned about Charles the man - a sensitive character with an unhappy childhood, a man of contradictions, a man perhaps unsure of who he wants to be.

[00:17:24] What does this mean for his reign as king?

[00:17:27] Well, a strange contradiction is that as king, he will have much less opportunity to have an influence and show his true character. 

[00:17:39] As Prince Charles, he enjoyed some freedom to speak his mind, to try to influence opinion and to get his way.

[00:17:48] As King Charles, he will not enjoy these freedoms. His mother’s huge popularity came in part from her never interfering with the running of the country, never showing anyone her opinion, and never revealing what she really thought.

[00:18:04] It will certainly be a tough adjustment.

[00:18:08] But king he is, and he has had more than enough time to think about the kind of king he wants to be.

[00:18:15] Only time will tell how much of the “real” Charles we will see now he is King.

[00:18:24] Ok then, that’s it for today’s episode - the second in our two-part special on King Charles III.

[00:18:30] I hope it was an interesting one, and whether you are a huge fan of the Royal Family and knew a lot about Charles’ character, or this mini-series was the first time you’d heard much about him, well I hope you learned something new.

[00:18:43] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:18:47] What type of man do you think Charles really is?

[00:18:51] How will that affect him as King?

[00:18:53] Do you think he’ll be a good King?

[00:18:55] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:18:58] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:07] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:12] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are talking about King Charles III.

[00:00:26] This is actually the second of a two-part mini-series about King Charles.

[00:00:32] In part one, which came out last week, we talked about his life and took a more chronological approach to his long and patient journey to the British crown. 

[00:00:42] Today, in part two, we are going to go a little deeper and ask ourselves the question ‘Who Is The Real King Charles?’

[00:00:51] Who is Charles the man, what life experiences have shaped his character, and what will this mean for this reign as king?

[00:01:00] So, let's get into it and talk about the real Charles III.

[00:01:06] When he was a mere prince, Charles once remarked that “ As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions and to judge people too quickly”

[00:01:20] It is, if I may say, an astute observation, something I’m sure most people would agree with.

[00:01:27] And while we must try to not fall into the trap of judging people too quickly here, in the case of King Charles, the British public has had over 70 years of him being in the public eye, of him being known to the country.

[00:01:43] These 70 years have provided us with some clues, some indications that might give us some idea about who Charles the man actually is.

[00:01:53] So, in the next twenty minutes or so, we are going to try to unearth some clues, to find some indications of the character of the British King.

[00:02:04] We must, of course, look at the question of nature vs. nurture, of how much of someone’s character is pre-built, is genetic, vs. how much of it can be understood through their upbringing and lived experiences.

[00:02:19] And within the question of nurture, we must look at the experiences that Charles went through to try to ask ourselves how they might have affected him.

[00:02:30] As with anyone, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, to try to understand how he grew up and the childhood he had.

[00:02:39] This, clearly, touches on nature and nurture, though as you will see, there wasn’t all that much nurture.

[00:02:48] Firstly, clearly, it’s almost impossible for any heir to the throne to have anything remotely resembling a normal childhood.

[00:02:58] As soon as Charles could understand who his parents were, he would have known that he was destined to become king.

[00:03:06] In some respects, however, his parents did try to give the young boy as normal a childhood as a monarch-in-waiting could have.

[00:03:16] You may remember from part one that the young Charles was the first heir apparent, that is, the first next in line to the throne, to go to school, as opposed to being tutored privately at home.

[00:03:30] The school Charles went to wasn’t a normal school, of course, it was an exclusive boarding school in the north of Scotland called Gordonstoun.

[00:03:40] The school had a focus on the outdoors, and on outdoor physical activity.

[00:03:48] Prince Phillip had suggested Charles was sent to this school precisely because of its reputation for being a tough school. He thought his son was too sensitive and soft, and thought going to Gordonstoun would toughen the young boy up.

[00:04:06] When Charles arrived, teachers and students were instructed not to treat the young prince any differently, and to not give him any special treatment.

[00:04:17] And they certainly didn’t.

[00:04:20] In fact, he was beaten up and bullied, and Charles would later admit that he hated his time there, and longed to return to his family.

[00:04:30] See, this school was a terrible choice for Charles.

[00:04:35] His father was right, that he was a sensitive young boy, someone more at home reading books or painting than fighting with other boys.

[00:04:45] But his father was certainly wrong about this being a good choice of school for Charles, who hated every minute of it. 

[00:04:54] It was just one of many examples of there being a strained relationship between father and son.

[00:05:02] The two men had very different characters: Charles was sensitive, Prince Phillip was very traditional and, in his own words “unfeeling”.

[00:05:13] Prince Phillip made no secret of his preference for his daughter, Anne, who liked outdoor sports, was more tough and was more similar to her father.

[00:05:26] To Prince Phillip, his eldest son was a disappointment.

[00:05:30] His father’s disappointment in him is thought to have been one of the reasons that Charles took active steps to try to engage in more “rough and tumble” activities, such as polo.

[00:05:42] If you don’t know, polo is a ball game played on horseback where each team must use a long wooden mallet, or stick, to hit a ball into the opposing team's goal. 

[00:05:54] It is a very elitist sport, and is one only really played by the upper classes.

[00:06:01] Charles embraced this unusual sport and was often photographed on horseback.

[00:06:08] Some have said that this was to impress his rough-and-ready father, to show that yes, Charles was a real man, he played this tough sport.

[00:06:18] Others have suggested that his reasons for taking up this sport went beyond his father, and in fact it was to show the country that he was a powerful young king in waiting.

[00:06:30] It seems likely that there was some truth in both of these theories.

[00:06:35] In one respect, taking up the sport was Charles' way of reaching out to his father, of trying to understand him and showing him that they could connect in the same way, that Charles could be more like his sister, Anne.

[00:06:50] In the other, it was Charles’ way of trying to establish his own legacy, to fight the preconceived notion that he was someone who preferred intellectual pursuits over physical ones.

[00:07:04] And polo was far from his only physical outdoor hobby.

[00:07:08] He went fox hunting, shooting, and fishing, and threw himself into these outdoor pursuits, making him more like a 15th-century prince than someone born in the 20th century.

[00:07:22] But none of this would seem to endear him to his parents.

[00:07:27] His relationship with his father showed few signs of improving, and his mother, the queen, had her own favourite, her third son, Andrew.

[00:07:39] If you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Andrew who is now somewhat disgraced, but she was the queen’s “golden boy”.

[00:07:48] Again, this is thought to come down to Charles’ character.

[00:07:52] The queen found Charles to be, as she said, “emotionally complicated”, whereas Andrew, she felt, could “make her laugh and raise the family’s spirits.”

[00:08:03] But the Queen’s preference for her second son over her first wasn’t only because of the two men's different characters.

[00:08:12] Commentators have suggested that a lot of it is to do with the fact that Charles is 11 years older than Andrew.

[00:08:20] For much of Charles’ early life, his mother had been away, she was absent.

[00:08:26] He was three years old when his mother became queen, and he rarely saw her when he was growing up.

[00:08:33] And when he did see his parents, it was an unusual and unaffectionate relationship.

[00:08:40] In one famous episode, when the queen and Prince Phillip returned to the UK after 6 months away on a tour, they greeted the five-year-old Charles not with a hug or a big kiss, but with a handshake.

[00:08:56] So, his relationship with his parents was distant, unaffectionate, and always inferior compared to their relationship with their other children.

[00:09:07] For a sensitive young boy, this must not have been easy.

[00:09:12] With absent parents, Charles was far closer to his great-uncle, the 1st Earl Mountbatten.

[00:09:20] Mountbatten began to nurture the young Charles, allowing him to show his sensitive side and speak his mind.

[00:09:28] Charles, reportedly, felt comfortable enough to cry in front of him, something he would never have done in front of his own father.

[00:09:37] But in 1979, Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA. Just like that, this guiding influence in the young man’s life, his confidant, was no more.

[00:09:50] As you might imagine, it affected him greatly, and for months Charles couldn’t talk about his beloved great-uncle without breaking down in tears.

[00:10:00] By this time, Charles was in his early thirties.

[00:10:04] He had been playing around, dating women, for several years, and it was time to find a wife.

[00:10:11] The wife was, as you’ll know, Lady Diana Spencer, a woefully bad match for Charles.

[00:10:18] Now, what does the choice of Diana, and his behaviour during his marriage to Diana, tell us about Charles the man?

[00:10:27] Perhaps it tells us that he has a strong sense of duty.

[00:10:31] He knew that he needed to find someone to produce an heir, someone to be his queen, and Diana had all of the relevant qualities.

[00:10:40] She was young, she was beautiful, and she looked like a princess.

[00:10:45] And most importantly, she would give him a child.

[00:10:49] So, Charles moved quickly, with the pair only meeting 13 times before their wedding day.

[00:10:56] Perhaps you have a story of true love, where you only met your partner a handful of times before getting hitched, getting married, and living happily ever after.

[00:11:07] If so, great, well done.

[00:11:10] For Charles and Diana, as you’ll know, it wasn’t a story of true love.

[00:11:16] But perhaps, to Charles, this didn’t matter.

[00:11:20] It didn’t matter if he hardly knew her and didn’t love her, that was secondary, this marriage was a transaction on behalf of the country.

[00:11:30] After all, his true love was another woman, Camilla Shand, who by now was Camilla Parker-Bowles.

[00:11:38] You could interpret this as showing some great sense of duty, putting his country’s needs above his own.

[00:11:45] But to others, it suggests selfishness, that he brought this young girl into the limelight, and put her on the front page of every newspaper, knowing full well that it would be a loveless marriage and her role was to produce an heir and look glamorous.

[00:12:03] And his behaviour as a parent did nothing to dispel, to get rid of, these accusations of selfishness, of putting himself before his wife and children.

[00:12:15] For example, in 1991, the young Prince William had an accident when a friend hit him with a golf club.

[00:12:23] The then nine-year-old, who still has the scar to this day, needed 24 stitches.

[00:12:30] But what did Charles do?

[00:12:32] After going to see his young son, he left to attend a function after less than an hour.

[00:12:39] This was observed by the British press, of course, and fueled tabloid speculation that the future King was a selfish man and uncommitted father.

[00:12:49] Then there were the revelations of his and Camilla’s affair, his subsequent divorce from Diana, and her death a year later.

[00:12:58] Charles was a villain, his popularity with the British public at rock bottom.

[00:13:04] And whatever Charles did, there were accusations of hypocrisy.

[00:13:10] He would try to put forward the image of a simple man with simple pleasures: the outdoors, gardening, and nature.

[00:13:18] Yet there were reports that one of his valets, his servants, was required to squeeze out his toothpaste onto his toothbrush every night.

[00:13:27] Similarly, he said he had simple tastes, only having a simple boiled egg for breakfast every morning.

[00:13:35] Yet his standards for this simple boiled egg are reported to be so high that it needs to be cooked to perfection, and the cook always boils several eggs in case the first one is rejected by his master.

[00:13:50] Now, one area where it is perhaps harder to fault Charles is his commitment to the environment.

[00:13:58] Charles has long been an advocate for green issues, and it’s fair to say he was certainly ahead of the curve on this one, or ahead of his time.

[00:14:08] As early as the 1970s, when he was just 21 years old, Charles was making speeches about pollution, and he has been a keen environmental campaigner ever since he was a young man.

[00:14:22] But even when it comes to his environmental credentials, there are plenty of reports over the years that have shown Charles to be a man who doesn’t always practise what he preaches - that is, that he is somewhat of a hypocrite.

[00:14:37] He has a large collection of gas-guzzling cars, and travels all around the world on private planes.

[00:14:43] So, to try to bring this back to the question at hand, Who is the real King Charles III?

[00:14:51] His character is one of contradictions.

[00:14:54] A sensitive man who tried to develop a macho image.

[00:14:58] A man with both a reputation as an environmentalist and an expensive collection of gas-guzzling cars.

[00:15:06] What does this mean that we, the public, should think about him?

[00:15:11] On the one hand, he is the king, and he should be held to higher standards than normal citizens. I say this both from the point of view of a functional constitutional monarchy more generally, and from the point of view of the longevity of the monarchy.

[00:15:28] In other words, if Charles wants the monarchy to remain popular, he needs to hold himself to the same high standards as his mother did.

[00:15:37] But on the other hand, on a human level, Charles has had a very unusual and not very happy life.

[00:15:45] Sure, it was far from difficult in the sense that he has huge houses, servants, and access to any material possession he might choose.

[00:15:55] But on an emotional level, he had an unhappy childhood with absent parents, both of whom clearly preferred another one of his siblings.

[00:16:05] He was not allowed to marry the woman he loved and ended up in a loveless marriage.

[00:16:11] And he constantly lived in the shadow of his mother, a hugely popular woman and queen.

[00:16:18] Of course, I am not saying that we should pity Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor. But simply acknowledge the bizarre situation of his life, and recognise the impact that this must surely have on a person.

[00:16:33] To have emerged from this unhappy and unusual life lived under a magnifying glass and still manage to have a half-decent reputation is somewhat of a triumph.

[00:16:45] And on this note, he is now more popular than ever before. More than a quarter of British people say that their opinion of him has improved since he became king, and 58% of people say that they think he’ll be a good king.

[00:17:02] As a sensitive man who is acutely aware of his public perception, this must surely give him some reassurance.

[00:17:10] So, we’ve learned about Charles the man - a sensitive character with an unhappy childhood, a man of contradictions, a man perhaps unsure of who he wants to be.

[00:17:24] What does this mean for his reign as king?

[00:17:27] Well, a strange contradiction is that as king, he will have much less opportunity to have an influence and show his true character. 

[00:17:39] As Prince Charles, he enjoyed some freedom to speak his mind, to try to influence opinion and to get his way.

[00:17:48] As King Charles, he will not enjoy these freedoms. His mother’s huge popularity came in part from her never interfering with the running of the country, never showing anyone her opinion, and never revealing what she really thought.

[00:18:04] It will certainly be a tough adjustment.

[00:18:08] But king he is, and he has had more than enough time to think about the kind of king he wants to be.

[00:18:15] Only time will tell how much of the “real” Charles we will see now he is King.

[00:18:24] Ok then, that’s it for today’s episode - the second in our two-part special on King Charles III.

[00:18:30] I hope it was an interesting one, and whether you are a huge fan of the Royal Family and knew a lot about Charles’ character, or this mini-series was the first time you’d heard much about him, well I hope you learned something new.

[00:18:43] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:18:47] What type of man do you think Charles really is?

[00:18:51] How will that affect him as King?

[00:18:53] Do you think he’ll be a good King?

[00:18:55] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:18:58] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:07] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:12] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]