Prince Charles Says Conscience Suffers

On August 5, 1982, as the Washington Post correspondent in London, I became, we asserted, the “first” American reporter to have a full interview — on the record — with Prince Charles. His son and heir, William, had just been born. That topic and Diana were off limits. The royal couple was at their peak of popularity around the world. None of the stresses and tragedy that would follow were anywhere apparent.

When the interview was published in the Post later than month, the British press covered it extensively. In nationwide billboards, the Sunday Mirror called it “amazing” and paid me $5000 dollars for the right to run it. That came in handy because my editors didn’t ask for a share.

The text of the interview is not at hand at this moment. But here is the news story from United Press International that I found on Google:

Washington-Prince Charles. In an interview published Sunday, said his conscience suffers from the “constant battering” of trying to justify his existence as the future head of a monarchy that does not really rule Britain.

In an interview with The Washington Post, the heir to the throne said he realizes he does not have any power to make changes in Britain and he therefore tries to affect changes by setting examples.

“I don’t actually have a role to play, “Charles said, “I have to create it. And there is no set book of rules, so to speak, as to what my job is in the scheme of things. I am heir to the throne. Full stop. That’s all. I could do absolutely nothing if I wanted to.” …

Said Charles: “I think a lot of people outside this country and perhaps some of them inside this country, think that somehow or other this particular family ‘rules’ I inverted commas. It doesn’t…

‘But in my case, I can’t affect things on a large scale. The only way I can see myself achieving anything is by example. I can make speeches until I am blue in the face, but I believe that’s not really going to have much effect. It’s the way you behave, the way you act, what things you do and how you do them, and how you are seen to be doing them, which is what ultimately going to have an effect, I believe.
‘I suffer from the constant battering that my conscience gets as to what I can try and do to help, if you know what I mean’

‘To justify the existence and the comfort etcetera?’ he was asked?

‘My existence,’ the prince replied.

“It may sound silly, but I think I did have to struggle — to show throughout the schools, the university and the military services –that I was as good, if not better than other people that I had to compete with, despite my position,’ he said.

The Prince of Wales also said ‘there is a great deal to be done’ with race relations in Britain. ‘I have no axe to grind. I am just interested in making as happy a society as possible.”

The interview was reviewed by the Palace. The “institution” as it was repeatedly called in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, made only “insignificant changes.” When I was presented to Charles and Diana at an event a few months later, I was flattered when he called me “a serious journalist.”

By coincidence, standing with me at the time, aside from my wife, Susan, was the daughter of Richard Nixon, Julie Eisenhower and her husband David Eisenhower. As a representative of the Post which had driven her father from the presidency in disgrace, I wondered what Julie was thinking.

I’ll doubtless never get a follow up with Charles or the chance to ask Julie what her thoughts were at the time.

Founder in 1997 of PublicAffairs, he is the author of “An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen” to be published in June.

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