A Carolean Paean

Seventy years later, King Charles’s moment has come. There are no doubts about his character or his motives. The only variables are what he can accomplish and how much time the gods will grant him. Simon De Burton delivers The Rake’s alternative coronation homage.

A Carolean Paean

Before I discovered it was possible to make a living from writing in ways that did not involve churning out stories for the popular press, I worked in the dog-eat-dog world of news agency journalism, where many young reporters cut their teeth. We were typically in our twenties and had been ‘indentured’ with a parochial paper before finding work with an agency as a conduit to a job on the ‘nationals’. Said national newspapers use such agencies to root out stories that — if deemed sufficiently interesting — are invariably passed on to the paper’s own, better paid, correspondents, who tweak them a bit and take all the glory. In other words, agency types are the journalistic equivalent of foot soldiers. They are the ones who do the donkey work, take the greater risks (of which there are more than you might imagine), and, in the grand scheme of things, are deemed to be entirely dispensable.

The height of my disillusionment with this way of life came in 1993, when the agency I worked for was tasked with digging up additional morsels relating to the infamous ‘Camillagate’ recording of a tapped phone call made more than three years earlier between the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles. I shan’t go into the ‘gory’ details here, but followers of the Netflix series The Crown will be familiar with them — and, if you really want to read a transcript of the tape, you’ll have little trouble finding one on the internet. Since the conversation emanated from the future king, its contents were undeniably surprising. But, on the basis that we’re all human, that lovers say daft things in private from time to time, and, above all, that there is nothing so low as an eavesdropper on the make, I found the publication of the story far more distasteful than the contents of the call. More importantly, I had always been a fan of Charles, and, although I had never met him, decided to show solidarity by getting out of the tabloid news game as quickly as possible. Thirty years later I still feel a little ashamed of acquiescing and taking any part in the reporting of both the Camillagate and ‘Squidgygate’ recordings (the latter made during a phone call between Diana, Princess of Wales and her lover James Gilbey that took place on New Year’s Eve in 1989), largely because I think our new King is a thoroughly good bloke. His younger son, Harry, might moan about coming from a ‘broken home’, and you’d need a heart of stone not to appreciate how the death of his mother must have affected him and his brother, but Charles’s upbringing wasn’t a bed of roses, either.

In fact, the only tenuous association I can claim to have with the King relates to the fact that the ‘impromptu stay’ took place on a Duchy of Cornwall farm tenanted, at the time, by the family of my own son’s godfather. Wishing to discover what life was like for a Dartmoor farmer, Charles had secretly arranged to stay for a week, arriving without fanfare or entourage save for a single, obligatory security guard. “He simply wanted to find out what rural life was really like,” recalls my son’s godfather. “He lived in the house, ate with us, wore old clothes, worked with us from seven a.m. until six p.m., and didn’t bother shaving. He was happy and carefree, especially when he was able to take to the moor on horseback without his bodyguard. He had to. The chap didn’t know how to ride.”

Yes, Charles has already made a real difference to the world as Prince of Wales, and must surely have greater scope to do more in his role as king than once would have been the case. But I fear he will need more years than his life will allow. That’s partly the fault of the people who once belittled his beliefs about the precariousness of the Earth, the perils of climate change, the benefits of organic farming, and the potential efficacy of plant-based medicines (to name but a few). They are all beliefs that are now acknowledged as the foundations on which to rebuild our battered planet. But if he does go too soon, at least our King will be able to say: I told you so.



Read the full story in Issue 87, available to purchase on TheRake.com.

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