Articles - December 2018


A Landmark Birthday and Another Royal Wedding

“It’s a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means you have lived long enough to see your son grow up.” So said Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at a reception she hosted for Prince Charles, at Buckingham Palace. Born on November 14, 1948, Charles Philip Andrew George Windsor, heir to the British throne had reached what for most people is considered retirement age before starting the job assigned to him from birth.

As the 92-year-old monarch had almost certainly intended, the party sent a message that his was the fate of all hereditary princes. Among the distinguished guests were a king who until recently shared Charles’ situation, and two European crown princes who still do. King Philippe of Belgium was 55 when he succeeded his father in 2013. Crown Prince Frederik, heir to the throne of Denmark, is 50, and Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon is 45. 

Other European royal houses have settled the problem of ushering in the new generation through abdication, most recently Belgium, and the Netherlands. But abdication is not the British way.
So Prince Charles remains king-in-waiting, with a “royal traffic jam,” as it were, piling up behind him. His elder son Prince William, the next-in-line, is 36, and William’s son, Prince George, who is third in line. The good news for the Windsor dynasty is that the royal line is assured perhaps until the end of the 21st century.

For Prince Charles, the historical parallel is with his great-great grandfather, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Queen Victoria’s firstborn, who was 60 when he became king as Edward VII.  He was once asked why he didn’t find a job while he waited. His reply: “My job is to be king.”

In reality, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, has found plenty to do. “I have seen Charles become a champion of conservation and the arts, a great charitable leader – a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history,” was how the queen expressed it in her toast to her son. “He is now his own man, passionate and creative.”

With an estimated personal worth of $400 million, his 140,000-acre property, of agricultural land and real estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, is cultivated to strict conservationist standards. According to Duchy of Cornwall documents, in 2017, the prince received $28 million in income from the estate, much of which was funneled to his many charities, and those of his two sons and their respective spouses, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex.

In 1976, Prince Charles founded The Prince’s Trust, now one of the biggest and most successful charities in the United Kingdom. This charitable organization focuses on helping disadvantaged young people to make their way in the world.

Queen Elizabeth’s warm birthday toast was seen as a signal that differences with his once distant mother were in the past. Time seems to have healed many wounds in the Windsor family. Royal watchers say age and his marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall have done him justice.

The warm and relaxed official photograph to mark his 70th birthday, with his wife Camilla, Prince William and Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan, and his three Cambridge grandchildren grouped around a garden bench was clearly meant to portray him as a caring and involved father and grandfather. Six new stamps issued to commemorate the prince’s birthday reinforce the same narrative.

While Queen Elizabeth has always meticulously distanced herself from party politics – at least in public – Charles’ sometimes outspoken pronouncements and his correspondence with government ministers have seemed to favor the Labor Party. But a new BBC documentary called “Prince, Son & Heir at 70,” suggests that, as monarch, he will maintain the right distance. “I do realize that it is a separate exercise being sovereign,” he said. “So, of course…you know I understand entirely how that should operate.”

From all accounts, Charles can be a demanding boss. The flow of information on his 70th birthday revealed that the prince doesn’t have a mobile phone, and doesn’t use a computer. A surprising fact until one realizes that he has enough royal staff for someone else to handle both.

Returning to the queen’s party. Among the guests was Jack Brooksbank, European director of Casamigos Tequila - the company founded by actor George Clooney. Brooksbank was no ordinary guest. He was making his first appearance as an official member of the extended Windsor family having in October 2018 married Charles’ niece, Princess Eugenie, elder daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and his divorced wife, Sarah, Duchess of York.

The couple were married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, after a seven-year courtship. As the second royal wedding this year at what is in fact the queen’s parish church, the ceremony had a strong sense of déjà vu. In some ways, Eugenie’s nuptuals were a re-play of the May wedding of Prince Harry and the American television actress Meghan Markle.

For one thing, like Prince Harry, his cousin Eugenie was marrying what in British terms is described as a commoner – that is, neither a royal nor a member of the aristocracy. (But then, so had the bride’s father Prince Andrew, when he wed Sarah Ferguson in the same church in 1999.) For another, the ceremony followed the same formula as the Harry-Meghan wedding, including a (shorter) open-carriage drive, an honor guard of footguards lining the chapel stairs, celebrity guests – actually some of the same ones – and two receptions, an earlier one at Windsor Castle given by the queen, and a later, larger party at which Brooksbank’s tequila was served.

Princess Eugenie wore a wedding gown by London-based designers Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos. The ivory dress was bare backed to expose the princess’s surgical scar from severe scoliosis as a child. “I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars,” the princess said in a pre-wedding television interview. Parenthetically, the surgeon who operated on her was invited to the wedding.
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