Prince Charles

The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life

The first major biography of Prince Charles in more than two decades, with new insights into his family and his two marriages—from the New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen.

Drawing on her extensive access to the Royal Family’s inner circle, Sally Bedell Smith delivers unprecedented insights into Prince Charles, a man who possesses a fiercely independent spirit, and yet has spent his life in waiting for the ultimate role. Beginning with his lonely childhood, Smith details his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his love affairs—from the tragedy of his marriage to Diana to his eventual reunion with Camilla—as well as his relationship with the next generation of royals, including Will, Kate, Harry, and his beloved grandchildren. As this sweeping biography shows, Prince Charles is more complicated and compelling than we knew—until now.

Best Seller Lists

Prince Charles is featured on:
New York Times
USA Today
London Evening Standard
Publisher’s Weekly
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal

See all Best Seller lists, read reviews for the book, meet Sally Bedell Smith on the book tour and follow her through her media appearances and Facebook.

Advance Praise for Prince Charles

“Prince Charles is an eighteenth-century gentleman with a twenty-first-century mission. His love of tradition combines with an outlook that can be bracingly avant garde. Sally Bedell Smith captures his contradictions and his convictions in this fascinating book that is not just about a man who would be king, but also about the duties that come with privilege.”
Walter Isaacson

“For all we know about Prince Charles, there is so much we didn’t know—until now. Sally Bedell Smith has given us a complete and compelling portrait of the man in the shadow of the throne. It’s all here, from the back stairs of the palaces to the front pages of the tabs. Read all about it!”
Tom Brokaw

“No one writes about life at the top with more panache than Sally Bedell Smith. Her Prince Charles is a delicious blend of glamour and grandeur, jealousy and rivalry, greatness and human foible. Smith writes with wisdom and sympathy—and a sharp and knowing eye—about the struggles and maturation of the man who would be King.”
Evan Thomas

“This great biography is an indispensable guide for anyone eager to understand Prince Charles and the British monarchy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. What an achievement—what work went into it, and all of it presented with such ease. It is so fair, while suggesting so much.”
Peggy Noonan

Book Reviews

“The marriage between Charles and Diana was unhappy virtually from the outset, so Smith establishes…with great judiciousness….[Smith] understands the British upper classes and aristocracy (including the royals) very well indeed…Smith makes many telling, shrewd points in pursuit of realigning the popular image of Prince Charles.”
William Boyd, The New York Times

“Prince Charles is arguably one of the most recognizable people in the world…In this biography, historian and frequent biographer Sally Bedell Smith presents a multidimensional portrait of a complex, sensitive and often visionary man. Verdict: Intimate but not gossipy, this highly accessible and thoroughly researched volume would do well in all collections.”
Library Journal

“A sympathetic psychological study of the prince who has been working tirelessly all his life to be taken seriously.” Read the full review.
Kirkus Review

“Prince Charles or involved in his initiatives in the economic, social, and architectural fields—finds that his long days as a king-in-waiting have actually been full of projects that are important to him and which he feels contribute to the good of the country…Until his accession to the throne, Smith’s portrait will stand as the definitive study.”

A masterful account”
The Wall Street Journal

“An affectingly human portrait”
The Christian Science Monitor

“Compellingly juicy…Windsor-philes will be mesmerized”

“It reads like an angel wrote it”
Chris Matthews, “Hardball”

“New details and insights”
USA Today

“More than a few fascinating facts”

New biography Shows a Side of Prince Charles Few Have Seen

The Florida Times-Union
August 20, 2017
“We thought we knew a great deal about Britain’s future king, but in this definitive biography, we learn how much we don’t know… The author of this exquisitely written, energetic – and unauthorized – biography has unfolded the life of the real Prince Charles. Smith has let us see Charles grow and mature on these pages through her research and interviews with hundreds of people who knew him well… He deserves more respect and dignity for all that he has accomplished.” Read More »

‘Be patient and endure’: how Prince Charles will handle Diana’s humiliating tapes

The Sunday Telegraph
August 6, 2017
As Diana speaks from beyond the grave, Prince Charles will continue to swallow his pain, says his biographer. Read More »

Charles and Diana on their last official trip together – a visit to South Korea Getty Images

For the love of Camilla: Prince Charles’ influential wife and… foodie?

Chicago Tribune
July 13, 2017
The Prince of Wales has spent a lifetime waiting, which is what one does if Mummy is queen of England and the longest-reigning British monarch on record. But, as biographer Sally Bedell Smith notes in her new book, “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life,” the heir has spent much of his life eclipsed by others. Read More »

Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, has a featured role in a new biography of Prince Charles, “Prince Charles” by Sally Bedell Smith.WPA Pool / Getty Images

Is Prince Charles Misunderstood?

CBC News
June 29, 2017
Heir to throne’s 3-day Canadian visit includes focus on philanthropic interests Read More »

Prince Charles, who arrives in Canada for a three-day visit this week, is a complex man and an heir to the throne with ‘so many facets that are poorly understood,’ says author and biographer Sally Bedell Smith. Alastair Grant / Associated Press

A side of Prince Charles We’ve Not Seen

PBS News Hour
June 28, 2017

Prince Charles, king-in-waiting, oldest heir to the British throne in 300 years, has never been perceived as the most charismatic member of the royal family.

Instead, says biographer Sally Bedell Smith, he has often been overshadowed by his revered mother, Queen Elizabeth, the ghost of his wife Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997, and his two glamorous sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

But Charles has done much in his life and been “massively misunderstood,” says Smith, whose new biography, “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life,” explores the side of Charles we’ve not seen. Read More »

Britain’s Prince Charles in Donegal, Ireland in May 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A Kinder, Gentler Portrait of Prince Charles

William Boyd, New York Times
May 10, 2017
“The marriage between Charles and Diana was unhappy virtually from the outset, so Smith establishes…with great judiciousness….[Smith] understands the British upper classes and aristocracy (including the royals) very well indeed…Smith makes many telling, shrewd points in pursuit of realigning the popular image of Prince Charles.” Read More »

Prince Charles at Highgrove, his house and gardens in Gloucestershire, in 2002. John Stoddart / Getty Images

Interview with Charlie Rose

May 9, 2017
On “Charlie Rose,” a conversation with Sally Bedell Smith. The book offers an inside look into Charles’ childhood, his marriages, and his life as a king-in-waiting. Watch the Video »

There’s much more to Prince Philip than unveiling those plaques

Evening Standard
May 5, 2017
The Duke of Edinburgh has done rather more in his near seven decades as the Queen’s consort than he is being given credit. Read More »

Sound advice: Prince Philip with his grandsons William and Harry Tim Ockenden/PA

Poetry on a Sunday afternoon, the scene at City Lights

SF Gate
April 25, 2017
At the Park Tavern this week, Sally Bedell Smith spoke to members of the Monday Group, who gather periodically to reap wisdom from authors and civic leaders. The group learned about Prince Charles’ aversion to technology, how he eavesdrops on tourists and his charitable work. Read More »

Join Sally Bedell Smith’s chat on Scribd at Facebook

People Picks

Prince Charles
April 17, 2017 Issue

People Magazine recommends Sally Bedell Smith’s book, Prince Charles.

5 Things We Learned About Prince Charles

US Weekly
April 12, 2017
In royal writer Sally Bedell Smith’s biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, she examines Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son’s inevitable rise to the throne over his son Prince William. Read More »

The Prince of Wales attends Sandringham Flower Show at Sandringham on July 29, 2015 in King’s Lynn, England.(Photo: Samir Hussein/

Prince Charles Concerns with Prince William and Duchess Kate’s Travels

April 12, 2017
A new book reveals Princes Charles, 68, wasn’t too pleased with Kate and William during their first overseas trip as a married couple in 2011. Read More and Watch the Video »

When Might Prince William Become King?

Vanity Fair
April 11, 2017
“You don’t have to watch Netflix’s The Crown. The real stuff is better.” Read More »

Left (Photo: Tristan Fewings/WPA Pool Getty Images) Right (Photo: Van der Hasselt/NurPhoto Getty Images)

Prince Charles Won’t Step Aside for William to Be King

Town & Country
April 10, 2017
His biographer, Sally Bedell Smith, spent four years exhaustively researching the Prince of Wales. She has collected an exhaustive file of facts about the future king of England. Read More »

Where Prince Charles Went Wrong

The New Yorker
April 10, 2017
Smith’s mission is…to reconcile us to the inevitability of King Charles III and to convince us that his reign may not be as insufferable as is generally feared. Read More »

Charles has become unpopular trying to carve out a role while waiting longer to reign than any previous Prince of Wales. Illustration by Floc’h

6 Things You Never Knew About Prince Charles

Harpers Bazaar
April 10, 2017
From honeymoon strife to the distant cousin he asked to marry. Read More »

Always in Waiting, Never the King

Boston Globe
April 10, 2017
Alex Beam shares his perspective on Prince Charles. Read More »

Prince Charles waved to wellwishers in Vienna, Austria.
(Photo: Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The Charitable Entrepreneur

CTV News
April 10, 2017
Author Sally Bedell Smith can distinctly remember the first time she met Prince Charles. She was attending a polo match with some friends in England in 1991. One of her friends had a close relationship with the prince’s grandmother, the Queen Mother, and the future king came over to greet her. Read More & Watch the Video »

How Diana Won Her Prince

Sunday Telegraph, Sydney
April 9, 2017
Despite having serious doubts about his future with the young Diana, a new book reveals how a panicked prince Charles rushed into a marriage proposal. View the PDF »

The Quirky Man Who Would Be King

The Sunday Times
April 9, 2017
Prickly, fussy about his food and martinis and so given to bombarding ministers with ideas that Thatcher had to remind him she ran the country, Charles can be hard to fathom. Read More »

(Illustration: Ellie Foreman-Peck

The Untold Story of How Princess Diana Snared Charles

Herald Sun
April 8, 2017
Diana and Charles looked happy on their wedding day, but a new book reveals what was really behind the rushed marriage proposal. Read More »

How Sally Bedell Smith Broke Into Buckingham Palace

The Daily Beast
April 8, 2017
A biographer fascinated by power, Sally Bedell Smith has lately focused on the British royals. But gaining entrée to the palace was almost as complex as the Windsors themselves. Read More »

Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace
(Photo: TTC / ALAMY)

Being Diana’s Ex-Husband

The Wall Street Journal
April 7, 2017
There was pressure on Charles to find a virgin for his bride. It rather narrowed the field. Read More »

Comparing Trump Family to the Royal Family

Hardball with Chris Matthews
April 7, 2017

Sally Bedell Smith joins Chris Matthews to discuss her new book Prince Charles.

Prince William and Kate’s Marriage is a Sign of a Modern Monarchy

Hello Magazine
April 7, 2017
Prince Harry’s romance with Meghan Markle and Prince William’s marriage to Kate would have been “inconceivable” if Prince Charles had not suffered trouble in his first marriage, according to the future King’s biographer. Sally Beddell-Smith says the royal brothers have been given the freedom to enjoy happy relationships because of the difficulties faced by their parents. Read More »

13 Fascinating Facts About the Royal Family

April 7, 2017
Sally Bedell Smith gives an in-depth look at the life—and family—of Britain’s heir apparent. Read More »

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sensational Claims in the New Biography of Prince Charles

ITV Good Morning Great Britain
April 6, 2017
An interview with Sally Bedell Smith on ITV’s “Good Morning Britain.” Watch the Video »

Author of Prince Charles Reads an Excerpt

Facebook Live
April 5, 2017

Sally Bedell Smith has taken over Books on Facebook with anecdotes she’s uncovered, including a story ignored by the world press about Prince Charles’ endearing affection toward his son, Prince Harry.

Watch a special Facebook Live edition discussion and excerpt reading from Prince Charles, The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life.

Be sure to follow Sally Bedell Smith on Facebook.

Biographer Sally Bedell Smith on Where Prince Charles Goes From Here

April 5, 2017
At ninety years of age, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest ruling monarch in British history. She’s been queen so long, and outlived so many presidents, prime ministers, and other members of the royal family, it almost seems impossible she will ever not be queen. When the day finally comes, the crown will pass to her eldest son, Charles, a man who has spent nearly seventy years knowing he will be king…someday. Read More »

Prince Charles paints an affectingly human portrait

Christian Science Monitor
April 5, 2017
Veteran royals biographer Sally Bedell Smith worked on this book for years, interviewing dozens of court figures and talking many times with members of the royal family. Read More »

Why Camilla Will Have the Title of Queen

April 4, 2017
When Prince Charles becomes king at his mother Queen Elizabeth’s passing, another queen will take his side. Read More »

(Photo: Anwar Hussein Collection / ROTA / WIREIMAGE)

Prince Charles Biographer on Future King’s Legacy

CBS News
April 4, 2017
Queen Elizabeth’s son, Prince Charles, now holds the record as the longest-waiting heir to the British throne. Author Sally Bedell Smith joins “CBS This Morning” to shed light on defining moments that shaped the future king. Watch the Video »

A Wales Tale

CBS This Morning
April 4, 2017
‘CBS This Morning’ hosts, from left Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose and Gayle King were there when ‘well-navigated’ joined the sexual vocabulary. Read More »

(Photo: John Paul Filo / CBS)

‘Well-navigated’: British royals add to vocabulary

Orlando Sentinel
April 4, 2017
A conversation with Sally Bedell Smith, author of “Prince Charles,” included the adjective “well-navigated” to describe Camilla Parker Bowles, the prince’s second wife. Read More »

The Awkward Moment Prince Charles Said ‘Whatever in Love Means’

April 4, 2017
When Prince Charles and the then-Lady Diana Spencer met the press for the very first time in 1981 to announce their engagement, the royal groom-to-be gave one of the most awkward answers in history to a simple question: Are they in love?

In uncomfortable TV footage that has been viewed millions of times since, Charles replies, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Read More & Watch the Video »

Turmoil of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s Marriage

ABC Good Morning America | Yahoo News
April 3, 2017
A new tell-all book about the life of Prince Charles reveals details about his marriage to Princess Diana that had been largely unknown to the public. Read More »

The Nice King

Washington Post
April 3, 2017
‘Poor Charles.”

That’s what Sally Bedell Smith kept hearing from everyone as she worked on her new book about the British monarch-in-waiting. Charles Philip Arthur George has been heir to the British throne for 65 years: His mother became queen when he was 3 years old, and she is still going strong at 90. He has spent his entire life waiting for his one and only job. Read More »

Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Charles on the grounds of Balmoral Castle in 1952.
(Photo: Hulton Deutsch/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Patient Prince

April 3, 2017
On Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero, WSJ’s Brenda Cronin profiles the book about the oldest heir to the British throne in more than 300 years. Read More and Watch the Video »

Prince Charles’ relationships with Diana and Camilla

April 3, 2017
Surprising new insight on the royal family is coming from a new biography exploring Prince Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana and his relationship with his current wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

NBC’s Keir Simmons reports for TODAY from Buckingham Palace. Watch the Video »

Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

New Insights Into Prince Charles

Wall Street Journal
April 3, 2017
A new biography of Prince Charles reveals unexpected details; from a passion for Monty Python to his father’s pressure to marry Diana. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports for TODAY from Buckingham Palace. Read More and Watch the Video »

Prince Charles Thought He Would ‘Learn to Love’ Wife Princess Diana

April 3, 2017
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s seemingly fairytale beginnings was anything but, and now a new book claims the royal hoped he would “learn to love” his future wife, Princess Diana, when he decided to propose. Read More »

(Photo: Tim Graham / Getty Images)

New Book on the Next King

Wall Street Journal
April 3, 2017
The prince in waiting since he was a toddler. Read More and Watch the Video »

Prince Charles Had to Learn to Love Princess Diana

Harpers Bazaar
April 3, 2017
A new book on Prince Charles will spotlight the royal’s shaky relationship and marriage with Princess Diana, including what their dynamic was like even before their wedding. According to the upcoming biography by Sally Bedell Smith, the prince wasn’t yet in love with his fiancée when he proposed to her. Read More »

(Photo: Getty Images)

Odd Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Next British King

USA Today
April 2, 2017
When Prince Charles becomes King Charles III of Great Britain, he’ll be the oldest ever to be crowned and the one who waited the longest. And, as a new biography suggests, he may be the most improbable, even peculiar, monarch to ascend the throne in nearly 1,000 years and after 40 predecessors. Read More »

Prince Charles greets well-wishers while touring the Wadworth Brewery on March 17, 2017, in Wiltshire, England.
(Photo: WPA Pool, Getty Images)

The Lonely Heir

Vanity Fair
March 31, 2017
Growing up, Prince Charles struggled to please his parents and to fill a role that was against his nature. In an adaptation from her new book, Sally Bedell Smith chronicles the brutal bullying the heir endured at school, and the unlikely place in which he found solace. Read More »

Charles and a royal corgi, Sugar, at Windsor.
(Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images; Digital colorization by Lee Ruelle.)

To Catch the Conscience of a King

Washington Times
February 28, 2017
“Thoroughly researched and insightful… In this profile, it is clear [Smith] got inside the circular barriers that protect the man and his position. The Charles that emerges is, as the subtitle suggests, both a paradox and a