Prince Charles

As heir to the British throne, Prince Charles's life has been one of privilege. It has not, however, always been easy. He was bullied at school, lost a much loved member of his family to a terrorist bomb, underwent a highly public breakdown in his marriage and has been the subject of a great deal of media criticism. He has also been faced with the problem of finding something to do with his life. "My great problem" he once commented as a young adult, "is that I do not really know what my role in life is. At the moment I do not have one. But somehow I must find one." ([1], p. 225)

Charles worked hard to find a role, although his achievements have been overshadowed by the publicity surrounding his private life. In 1976, in the face of some opposition, Charles established the Prince's Trust to provide self-help programs for disadvantaged young people. Since it began the Trust has helped more than half a million young people. The Trust has been successful in decreasing truancy and improving educational outcomes among disadvantaged students, providing training to build the self confidence and skills of young people, and providing loans and advice to assist young disadvantaged people to establish businesses [2]. Arguably, Charles was ahead of his time in expressing his views about organic farming, holistic and alternative health care, and environmental issues. Charles is currently the permanent patron or President of 270 different organisations.

Charles married in 1982. Difficulties in the relationship between Charles and Diana soon emerged. It also became clear that Diana was seriously, emotionally distressed. By 1983, Charles is said to have become "uncharacteristically moody… The joy seemed to have gone out of his life, and the serious side to his nature, which had always been there, appeared to take over." [[3], p. 107] By the mid 80's, plagued by doubts about his usefulness, he is said to have become "temperamental and depressed and hugely demanding of everyone around him" ([3], p. 107), withdrawing to his garden at Highgrove. During this time, he was criticised by the press for attending few public engagements and playing too much polo. According to Charles, polo made him "feel five hundred times better in my mental outlook". Without exercise, he stated "I'm afraid to say I get terribly jaded and, well, not depressed, but below par." (3, p. 119)

But one of his biographers claims that by 1985, "he was not just below par, he was seriously, chronically depressed, almost suicidal." ([3], p. 119). At this point, it has been said that one of his friends arranged for a reunion with Camilla Parker Bowles, "who brought Charles back from the brink of the abyss." ([3], p. 120)

Even so in the succeeding years it would seem that Charles was prone to frequent bouts of "melancholy" and "moments of despair". According to his authorised biographer, by 1994 (after the end of his marriage), Charles's friends have noticed that he was more relaxed and confident and that his "gaiety of spirit that for several years has too often been stifled by melancholy" had returned ([1], p. 564).

There is no doubt that Princess Diana suffered from depression during her life. In the end, 'everybody' knew, and, many, many people sympathised. Charles was usually portrayed as the cause of Diana's problems. Rarely, has it been suggested that he himself was sensitive, vulnerable or prone to depression. Certainly he does not seem to have elicited much public sympathy. Rather, he was the subject of highly personal and public criticism. If Charles was indeed suffering from depression, the relentless criticism and the constant pressure to perform in public, are unlikely to have helped his condition.

References

  • [1] Dimbleby J. The Prince of Wales: A biography. Little Brown: London, 1994.
  • [2] The Prince of Wales: The official internet website of HRH The Prince of Wales. [Accessed 26th August, 2001].
  • [3] Junor P. Charles: Victim or villain. Harper Collins: London, 1998.