By Brook Mitchell/Getty Images.
It is being hailed the most intimate and revealing portrait of the Prince of Wales to date. Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70 will air on BBC One tonight, less than a week before Prince Charles’s 70th birthday.
To make the documentary Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70, director John Bridcut spent 12 months shadowing the Prince of Wales. The result is an illuminating portrait of the future king, the most intimate to date, which reveals Charles as a deeply emotional man who adores his children, is surprisingly warm, and has more energy than a man half his age. Also, he hates selfies.
“For a man about to turn 70, I think his energy surprises me the most,” Bridcut told Vanity Fair. “He has amazing physical and mental energy. Yes, he is looked after in a way most of us aren’t, but he compensates by the amount he crams in.”
Prince Harry, who is also interviewed for the documentary, reveals that his father works into the early hours and often falls asleep with a memo attached to his forehead. Charles is a keen notetaker who tells his staff off if they don’t come to meetings armed with a pen and a notebook.
“He gets annoyed when he has meetings and people don’t write things down,” Bridcut said. “Charles writes everything down on a notepad, and he expects his staff to do the same. He’s not into new technology. There’s no iPad; it’s all about notebooks and handwritten letters.”
According to Bridcut, the prince cites his beloved grandmother, the Queen Mother, as a key influence in his life. “He told me he learned from the Queen Mother how important it was to look and to notice everything. This business of observation really struck me, along with his work ethic. Charles has campaigned on climate change, which is a lifetime preoccupation for most—but he’s involved in so many other different things as well, which makes him very impressive. It’s not superficial—he’s passionate about it. He absorbs stuff.”
Charles also inherited a love of opera from his grandmother, and what might be a royal’s natural touch with large groups—Bridcut describes him as “unexpectedly warm” and “remarkably easy with crowds.” But he does have limits. “He gets irritated by people poking their phones at them. I heard him tell people, ‘I’m trying to give up selfies.’ He wants to meet people, and it irritates him getting camera phones shoved in his face.”
The Palace was recently forced to respond to rumors of bad blood between Charles and his sons, and the documentary goes further to prove their bond, with Prince William and Harry both sharing what they’ve learned from their father. “I think in the last year or two, Harry has been a real champion of his father,” Bridcut said. “I found in the interview [that] he was very frank and unguarded and very committed to his father. He feels aggrieved that his father’s warnings haven’t been given their proper due. It was very touching to hear him talk about his father publicly and so warmly.”
Prince William, meanwhile, shares what he’s learned from Charles’s work ethic—even the parts he doesn’t always like. “He talks about wanting his father to see more of his family,” Bridcut said. “I didn’t feel it was a pointed comment; I think it was an entirely natural comment, and meant affectionately. Charles works hard, and there is a part in the film in which William says he used to find Charles’s disciplined routine frustrating. But now he admires his work ethic.”
One last rumor to quash: Charles’s quick temper. “I can imagine it must be maddening to have a film crew follow you around for 12 months,” Bridcut said. “Much of the time, Charles had a radio mic attached to him that could easily pick things up, but he was very good-natured. You hear he’s bad-tempered and short with people, but to us he was always gracious and welcoming. He hasn’t seen the film at all. I hope he’s not going to be too shocked.”
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