Anne and Charles are the Queen’s eldest children, born before the Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. Many royal watchers contrast Charles and Anne with Andrew and Edward, Her Majesty’s younger sons who were born some years after she had ascended the throne. However, the Queen’s eldest son and daughter faced difficulties in their own relationship growing up.
In her 2017 profile for Vanity Fair, royal author Sally Bedell Smith takes a look at Charles’ younger years, and how he grew up as the “Lonely Heir”.
Ms Bedell Smith writes about how the Duke of Edinburgh’s ethos was to toughen up the young, sensitive Charles.
She continues: “More often than not, the Duke was a blunt instrument, unable to resist personal remarks.
“He was sarcastic with his daughter, Anne, as well.
“But Charles’s younger sister, a confident extrovert, could push back, while the young prince wilted, retreating farther into his shell.”
She goes on: “Asked in an interview when he was 20 years old whether his father had been a ‘tough disciplinarian’ and whether he had been told ‘to sit down and shut up,’ Charles answered without hesitation: ‘The whole time, yes.’”
The royal author goes on to describe how Anne’s natural talent for equestrianism was another point of bonding for her and her parents, and another contrast with Charles.
She writes: “Physically uncoordinated and slow as well as overweight, Charles had no talent for Rugby, cricket, or soccer — the prestige schoolboy sports.
“During holidays he joined local boys who lived near Balmoral for cricket matches.
“‘I would invariably walk boldly out to the crease,’ he recalled, ‘only to return, ignominiously, a few minutes later when I was out for a duck’ — that is, having failed to score any runs.
“Elizabeth had taught Charles to ride, starting at age four.
“He was timorous on horseback, while his sister, Anne, was bold.
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“Mostly he feared jumping.
“Anne’s equine prowess pleased her mother, and Philip saw a kindred spirit in her confidence and fearlessness.”
However, Charles did strive to emulate his father, and took up polo, the sport he now plays with his own sons William and Harry.
Ms Bedell Smith writes: “In 1961, he took up polo, eager to follow his father.
“By 1964, Charles was applying himself to the sport more seriously.
“That year, he also started playing practice matches with Philip at the Household Brigade Polo Club, on Smith’s Lawn, at Windsor Great Park.
“Still a censorious figure, Philip nevertheless was idolised by Charles.
“The young prince began to mimic his mannerisms — walking with one arm behind his back, gesturing with his right forefinger, clasping his hands for emphasis, and pushing up the sleeve of his left arm.”
Prince Charles did open up himself about his childhood, when he spoke to Jonathan Dimbleby in 1994 for his authorised biography.
Ms Bedell Smith writes: “Dimbleby noted that, as a little boy, Charles was ‘easily cowed by the forceful personality of his father,’ whose rebukes for ‘a deficiency in behaviour or attitude… easily drew tears.’
“While brusque, Philip was ‘well-meaning but unimaginative.’
“Friends who spoke with Charles’s permission described the Duke’s ‘belittling’ and even ‘bullying’ his son.
“Charles was less harsh about his mother, but his opinion had a bitter edge.
“She was ‘not indifferent so much as detached.’”
However, royal author Penny Junor also notes how the portrayal saddened the Queen and Prince Philip.
In her 2005 book “The Firm”, Ms Junor writes: “The Queen and the Duke were appalled by ‘The Prince of Wales’, the book Jonathan Dimbleby wrote about the prince in 1995 following the disastrous film, and hurt by the picture he drew of his childhood.”
A former courtier told the author: “The Prince of Wales gave him all this stuff about how unhappy he was as a boy – the Queen never spoke to him, the Duke of Edinburgh was beastly to him – and it very much upset them.”
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