CHARLES AT FIFTY by Anthony Holden


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Yet another portrait of the British throne’s much-maligned heir, timed for His Royal Highness’s 50th birthday on November 14, from a top royal biographer who’s the author of several other books on Charles and Diana (Prince Charles, 1979, etc.). While Holden’s new portrait gives precedence to the prince’s private life, readers also get a fair overview of Charles’s various public initiatives, from the supervision of city planners and the founding of the ill-fated Institute of Architecture to his attack on the conventional medical establishment. Despite the author’s dry and often ironic tone, what he reveals about the prince’s endorsement of organic farming, vegetarianism, holistic healing, and environmental protection resonates with numerous concerns relevant for 1990s readers. Holden attributes Charles’s inability to express affection—the trait that was the cause of much pain to his late wife—to a childhood devoid of emotional contact with his parents: The prim and prudish Elizabeth II always valued public duty more than her maternal responsibilities. As a result, in one famous instance, Charles insisted on attending a Royal Opera House concert while his son William underwent surgery; the more motherly Diana kept vigil at the boy’s hospital bedside. Overall, Holden’s criticisms of the British royalty echo the recent mood of British taxpayers, tired of supporting an expensive monarchy that has lost even its symbolic status as the guardian of national moral and religious values. Charles’s adulterous relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles is one focus of the book; so are other royal sex scandals. Without taking sides, Holden portrays Diana sympathetically but also as a manipulator of public opinion and a master of intrigue. He credits the princess, nevertheless, with reforming the now-ever-so-slightly-more-human royal family. Replete with quotes from anonymous confidants and sundry royal “lunch guests,” Holden’s opus will find favor with all lovers of the never-ending Windsor soap opera. (32 pages color and b&w photos) (Radio and TV satellite tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-50175-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998


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