Published: 22:00 BST, 16 March 2018 | Updated: 19:20 BST, 17 March 2018
'Nobody knows what utter hell it is to be Prince of Wales,’ Charles said in November 2004. His idea of hell, it must be said, is unlikely to be shared by most of his future subjects.
Take, for example, accounts of what it is like to have Prince Charles come to stay for the weekend.
Before a visit to one friend in North-East England, he sent his staff ahead a day early with a truck carrying furniture to replace the perfectly appropriate fittings in the guest rooms.
And not just the odd chest of drawers: the truck contained nothing less than Charles and Camilla’s complete bedrooms, including the Prince’s orthopaedic bed, along with his own linen.
His staff had also made sure to pack a small radio, Charles’s own lavatory seat, rolls of Kleenex Premium Comfort lavatory paper, Laphroaig whisky and bottled water (for both bedrooms), plus two landscapes of the Scottish Highlands.
A new book by Britain's top investigative author has revealed Charles's remarkable travel demands including bringing his entire bedroom, complete with orthopaedic bed, on trips
The next delivery to arrive was his food — organic, of course. His hosts decided, despite their enjoyment of his company, not to invite him again.
Their experience was less distressing, however, than that of the family asked to host Charles for a long weekend on the Welsh borders.
Over the preceding months, they’d invited many friends for the four meals at which he’d preside; they’d also hired staff and ordered in masses of food and flowers.
But on the Friday afternoon of Charles’s expected arrival, there was a call from St James’s Palace to offer regrets. Under pressure of business, the Prince could not arrive until Saturday morning.
The following day, the same official telephoned to offer regrets for Saturday lunch, but gave the assurance that Charles would arrive for dinner. Then, that afternoon, the whole visit was cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.
The considerable waste and disappointment were not mitigated when Charles later revealed to his stricken hostess the reason for his cancellation. He had felt unable to abandon the beauty of his sunlit garden at Highgrove, he said.
For about six months of every year, the heir to the throne enjoyed a unique lifestyle in beautiful places, either in seclusion or with friends.
Although his travelling staff (a butler, two valets, chef, private secretary, typist and bodyguards) could anticipate most of his movements between his six homes, the only definite confirmation of his final destination, especially to his hosts, would be the arrival of a truck carrying suitcases, furniture and food.
There then followed endless telephone calls with his staff as he changed his mind about his future plans and projects.
For four months every year he lived in Scotland, where he expected people to visit him from London, usually at their own expense.
Sometimes, he travelled abroad. After the death of the Queen Mother in March 2002, for instance, he flew to Greece to stay for three days on his own in a monastery on Mount Athos.
His travelling staff include a butler, two valets, chef, private secretary, typist and bodyguards
Unfortunately, someone took a photograph that showed the Prince stepping off a boat with a butler and a remarkable amount of luggage in tow — certainly far more than anyone could need for a few days’ meditation.
The image didn’t exactly chime with the theme of the imminent Jubilee celebrations: to emphasise the monarchy’s relevance in modern Britain. Charles’s staff could see this, even if he couldn’t.Julia Cleverdon, an executive on one of his charities, stuck the photo on her office wall and wrote, with risky irony: ‘We’re off to Mt Athos with 43 pieces of luggage.’
The Prince’s other free weeks were likely to be divided between well-off friends. At Chatsworth, the 175-room home of his beloved Debo Mitford, the Duchess of Devonshire, Charles and Camilla would be assigned a whole wing for up to three weeks.
During the shooting season, the Prince opted for the company of Gerald Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, at either Eaton Hall, near Chester, or at the Duke’s shooting lodge in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire.
In between, he stayed at Garrowby, the home of the Earl and Countess of Halifax in Yorkshire, and with Chips and Sarah Keswick in Invermark, Scotland.
Even his personal policeman was roped in to cater to his comfort. If the Prince had to attend a function, the policeman would arrive with a flask containing a pre-mixed Martini. This would then be handed over to the host’s butler along with a special glass that Charles insisted on using.
And if he was expected to sit for a meal, the host would be informed in advance that an aide would be delivering a bag containing the Prince’s food. This was in complete contrast with the Queen, who always ate what everyone else was having.
None of this petulant behaviour would be on show, however, when Charles emerged in public. On those occasions, he’d show what appeared to be genuine interest in people and events.
Few outsiders could guess, commented one adviser, whether or not he was ‘just putting on a game face’.
Sir Christopher Airy, who became his private secretary in 1990, was once reprimanded for suggesting to Charles that a forthcoming visit was ‘your duty’. The Prince shouted at him: ‘Duty is what I live — an intolerable burden.’
At home, his demands were constant, which meant an assistant had to be on call in Charles’s office until he went to sleep.
All his aides were subject to familiar daily tirades. ‘Even my office is not the right temperature,’ he’d moan. ‘Why do I have to put up with this? It makes my life so unbearable.’
Sir John Riddell, his private secretary for five years from 1985, once told a colleague that Charles was better suited to being a second-hand car salesman than a royal prince.
In this picture one of Prince Charles's flunkies is revealed to be the 'keeper of the royal cushion'
‘Every time I made the office work,’ Riddell observed, ‘the Prince fed it up again.
‘He comes in, complains that his office is “useless” and people cannot spell and the world is so unfair, then says: “This is part of the intolerable burden I put up with. This incompetence!” ’
When Charles entertained at home, everything was geared to his own habits and convenience. Dinner would be served to guests at 8pm, but he wouldn’t arrive until 8.15pm, because he’d decided against eating a first course.
It was fine, therefore, for dinner guests to start without him. Not at breakfast, though: visitors to Highgrove were cautioned by Camilla not to begin eating before the Prince appeared.
He was also unusually particular about his gardens at Highgrove. Because he refused to use pesticides, he employed four gardeners who would lie, nose-down, on a trailer pulled by a slow-moving Land Rover to pluck out weeds.
In addition, retired Indian servicemen were deployed to prowl through the undergrowth at night with torches and handpick slugs from the leaves of plants.
Charles also gave rein to extravagance in his office, where he employed an individual private secretary for each of his interests — including the charities, architecture, complementary medicine and the environment.
And anyone visiting the office at St James’s Palace would be escorted to it by no fewer than three footmen, each responsible for a short segment of corridor.
A weekend with the Prince at Sandringham, meanwhile, can be a decidedly odd experience. One group of writers and journalists, invited five years ago, arrived to find that each of them had been assigned a servant.
Friday after dinner was listed as a cinema night. The chosen film was Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, depicting upstairs/downstairs life to an audience surrounded by the reality of that social order. The film became a regular feature of Charles’s culture weekends.
Michael Fawcett, the Prince’s former valet and fixer, supervised the placing of chairs in front of a screen in the ballroom. In the front row were two throne-like armchairs for Charles and Camilla.
Soon everyone was seated, and servants entered with silver platters of ice cream. The film started. Charles and Camilla instantly fell asleep, and the ice cream slowly melted away.
On Saturday, the guests took a walk with Charles, during which he spoke about his belief in a sustainable environment. They were careful to avoid debate: their host, they had been cautioned, was easily offended.
‘People think I’m bonkers, crackers,’ Charles groaned suddenly, in the middle of a field. ‘Do you think I’m mad?’ he asked, in a manner that forbade a positive reply.
The two-hour walk ended back at the house, where the guests were served tea.
‘Right, we’re off,’ Charles announced, striding out of the house after a quick cup. Jumping into his Aston Martin, he drove at breakneck speed down narrow, twisting lanes, reassured that police motorcyclists had cleared other traffic.
His guests followed in a fleet of gleaming Land Rovers, arriving at Charles’s local church in time to hear a short concert.
On Sunday, female guests had been instructed to wear appropriate hats and gloves for a trip to the local Anglican church, St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalen. The two who chose to go to mass at a nearby Roman Catholic church felt Charles’s displeasure.
By Sunday dinner, some of the guests had become puzzled about their host. His habit of commandeering a small bowl of olive oil just for himself provoked one visitor to recount a story of Charles during a recent trip to India.
The Prince had invited the banking heir Lord billionaires be rounded up to accompany him. During the tour, a sumptuous lunch was held in a maharaja’s palace.
Unexpectedly, a loaf of Italian bread was placed on the table. As an American billionaire reached out to take a piece, Charles shouted: ‘No, that’s mine! Only for me!’
In reply to that story, another visitor recalled that on a previous weekend at Sandringham, a guest had brought Charles a truffle as a gift. To everyone’s envy, Charles did not share the delicacy at dinner but kept it to himself.
As they listened to these curious tales, Charles’s guests did not laugh; there was merely bewilderment.
Those who know him have often asked themselves why Prince Charles is so extraordinarily self-indulgent
At the end of the Sandringham weekend — the guests were asked not to leave until the Monday morning — some were told to leave £150 in cash for the staff, or to visit the estate’s souvenir shop.
Most would tell their friends that Charles seemed genuine, but that the weekend was surreal.
Those who know him have often asked themselves why Prince Charles is so extraordinarily self-indulgent. Why can’t he be more like his mother, who lives without complaint under leaky roofs and in rooms that haven’t been repainted since her Coronation?
In 2006, for instance, Charles used the royal train simply to travel to Penrith to visit a pub — at a cost of £18,916 — as part of his ‘pub in the hub’ initiative to revitalise village life.
And he spent £20,980 for a day trip by plane from Scotland to Lincolnshire to watch William receive his RAF wings.
By contrast, the Queen travelled by train — courtesy of First Capital Connect — to Sandringham at Christmas. Her ticket cost £50, instead of the £15,000 her journey would have cost by the royal train.
Some have speculated that Charles’s extravagance is a kind of revenge on the Duke of Edinburgh, for sending him to Gordonstoun in Scotland during his formative years. The Prince loathed the school’s Spartan regime, but his father insisted he stay there to complete his secondary education.
The other mystery is why Charles has never seemed to appreciate his great good fortune. Instead, he has given vent so frequently to resentment that one friend has dubbed him ‘an Olympian whinger’.
With a personal income of millions from the Duchy of Cornwall (£16.3 million in 2007 alone) he could afford to indulge his slightest whim — yet even that didn’t satisfy him.
One evening, the Prince was particularly maudlin at a dinner hosted by a billionaire in Klosters, Switzerland, for a number of the super-rich. When they’d finished eating, Charles huddled in a corner with King Constantine of Greece. ‘We pulled the short straw,’ sighed the Prince.
Compared with others in the room, he complained, both he and the King were stuck for cash. In his case, he explained, the Duchy of Cornwall administrators would repeatedly tell him what he couldn’t afford to do.
In fact, Charles doesn’t have to answer to anyone over his use of the duchy’s income.
At the time of his complaint, among his 124 staff — most of them paid for by taxpayers — were four valets.
Why four for one man? So that two would always be available to help him change his clothes, which he did up to five times every day.
It could be argued that it is his association with billionaires that has made Charles so dissatisfied with his lot. During a recent after-dinner speech at Waddesdon Manor, Lord Rothschild’s Buckinghamshire home, Charles complained that his host employed more gardeners than himself — 15 against his nine.
Fortunately, the public were unaware of such gripes. His staff, however, began to realise that his extravagance was threatening to undermine his public image.
To counter this, Michael Fawcett told a charity donor: ‘His Royal Highness lives modestly. He hasn’t got a yacht and doesn’t eat lunch.’
This had the benefit of being partly true: Charles has never bought a yacht and prefers not to eat lunch — though he could easily afford both.
More worryingly, the Prince’s then private secretary Sir Michael Peat decided to brief a journalist that ‘Charles does not enjoy a champagne and caviar lifestyle’.
Contrary to the public’s perception, he continued, the Prince possessed only one car, and did not even own his own home.
In reality, Charles had access to a fleet of at least six cars, including two Aston Martins, a Bentley, an Audi, a Range Rover and a Land Rover.
And Peat’s quibble about the legal ownership of the six homes variously occupied by the Prince (Clarence House, Highgrove, Birkhall, the Castle of Mey, Balmoral and Sandringham) was clearly disingenuous.
Among other things Peat failed to mention was that when Charles moved into Clarence House, in 2003, the cost of refurbishment had soared from £3 million towards £6 million — all funded by the taxpayer.
Or that the 15-bedroom Castle of Mey, had been rebuilt with the help of a £1 million gift from Julia Kauffman, a Canadian-born heiress living in Kansas City.
Foreign Office officials, however, were well aware of the Prince’s tendency to demand the best of everything, without dipping into his own pocket.
Indeed, relations with the heir to the throne became increasingly strained as he continued to insist on travelling on private planes, especially to the Continent.
After one particularly nasty spat, Charles reluctantly agreed to fly commercial in Europe. But on his return, he refused ever again to take a BA plane.
‘He wanted the convenience — and not to mix with hoi polloi,’ observed one mandarin dryly.
REBEL Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles by Tom Bower, published by William Collins on Thursday at £20. © Tom Bower 2018.
To order a copy for £14 (30 per cent discount) visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640, p&p is free on orders over £15. Offer valid until March 31, 2018.
William was furious when aides snubbed Kate's mum
While Prince Charles’s relationship with his parents was set in a permanent frost, his connection with his sons was almost as uneasy. One of his most painful recollections was of a visit to Kensington Palace while Diana was alive, and the boys were still small. As soon as Harry saw his father, he ran towards him — then suddenly stopped short.
‘Mummy says I mustn’t,’ he cried, just as Charles was about to hug him.
There was only one conclusion to be drawn: Diana had poisoned the boys’ minds towards their father.
After her death, the brothers had to cope with a continuing onslaught of public revelations about their parents’ adulterous relationships. Grieving for his mother, William would say, was especially difficult because ‘it was so raw’, and there was minimal privacy.
Prince Charles worried he was being usurped by the Middletons, and decided to ignore Carole Middleton on social occasions. To counter the hurtful snubs the Queen made a point of inviting a TV cameraman to film her driving the former air hostess around the Balmoral estate (pictured)
And then there was Camilla. Charles’s relationship with his sons certainly wasn’t helped by her presence — which was a constant reminder of their mother’s torment.
For months, staff at Clarence House noticed that William and Harry entered the building through the servants’ quarters, in order to avoid both their father and Camilla.
In the opinion of some of his staff, Charles’s lifestyle had blinded him to his sons’ personal troubles, and he was largely unaware of their coolness towards his mistress.
Harry was the more worrying. Ever since his confession to smoking cannabis at Highgrove as a teenager, Charles had struggled to control him.
Paparazzi had sold photographs of Harry emerging bedraggled with a topless model from Boujis nightclub in South Kensington; then chasing Chelsy Davy, his Zimbabwean girlfriend, across Africa; and misbehaving at endless parties.
As William grew up, it became clear that he too was a very different royal from his father. Since leaving university, he had neither shared his father’s interests nor offered to continue his charities. Specifically, he refused involvement in The Prince’s Trust.
After his own marriage, William chose to retreat with Kate to Norfolk, where they could preserve their privacy. They also preferred to spend Christmas with her parents rather than at Sandringham with the other royals.
The distance between Highgrove and Norfolk isolated the Prince from his grandchildren, and allowed Kate’s mother, Carole Middleton, to take charge.
Charles began to fear that he was being usurped by the Middletons, and several of the Queen’s courtiers picked up on this. As a consequence, they decided to ignore Carole Middleton on social occasions.
This so infuriated William that he consulted with his grandmother. To counter the hurtful snubs against Carole Middleton, the Queen then made a point of inviting a TV cameraman to film her driving the former air hostess around the Balmoral estate.
Meanwhile, Charles had decided, as neither of the boys showed any interest in classical music, he’d invite Kate to her first opera — Bellini’s La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) at Covent Garden.
It should have been a wonderful night out. As usual, Michael Fawcett had organised for dinner to be sent from Clarence House and served in the Royal Box during the interval on Charles’s personal china, using his personal silver cutlery.
Sadly, however, even the Prince had to admit the production was ‘awful’, and his hope that Kate might be converted to classical music was lost. Like William, she preferred Phantom Of The Opera.Once she’d married William, Charles grew worried that the public’s attention was switching to them.
To his disappointment, the Canadian government had asked for his proposed tour of the country to be delayed, so that his son and new daughter-in-law could visit first.
For her part, Camilla was unconcerned about Kate taking the limelight.
‘She didn’t give a damn,’ noted Robert Higdon, the chief executive of Charles’s charity foundation in America. ‘[But] Charles saw Kate and William as the new stars and feared he’d be in trouble.’
Camilla also dismissed the presumption that Kate would be the first commoner Queen.
‘That’ll be me,’ she’d say with a laugh.