Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life” as Want to Read:
Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life

by
3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,470 ratings  ·  411 reviews
Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This vivid, eye-opening biography--the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for th ...more
Hardcover, 596 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Random House
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Prince Charles, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Asher First of all...I believe you're thinking of The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Further, Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark. To answer y…moreFirst of all...I believe you're thinking of The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Further, Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark. To answer your question; yes, this book is worth the read. If not solely, to assassinate your utter ignorance.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,470 ratings  ·  411 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
Erin
Prince Charles is the Royal nobody seems to like or care about. His sons, daughter-in law, grandkids, and late ex-wife are all more popular than he is. I can't imagine what it must be like to have spend your life preparing for a job you can only obtain upon the death of your mother. Add to that the fact that opinion polls show that your loyal subjects would prefer that you be skipped over in favor of your much more popular son. It must be difficult to be Prince Charles. I admit I didn't really k ...more
Matt
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Sally Bedell Smith, and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

My ongoing trek though the world of biographies would not have been complete without a piece by the famed Sally Bedell Smith. With honour and elegance, Smith is able to offer up an insightful look into the lives of those many hold in high esteem. Her latest subject is Prince Charles, heir to the
...more
Diane
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
If it weren't for the marvelous show "The Crown," I probably wouldn't have read this biography about Prince Charles. That Netflix series is about a young Queen Elizabeth II and the early years of her reign. The show sparked an interest in the British Royals, and when I heard about this new book on Prince Charles, I thought it was worth a chance.

Before reading this biography, I admit I didn't know much about Prince Charles. Growing up in the '80s I was a fan of Princess Diana, of course, but I di
...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
A big thank you to Sally Bedell Smith, Random House, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Prince Charles was born into an unaffectionate, cold, austere environment, isolated from his parents who were busy with diplomatic functions. If it weren't for the Queen Mother and "Dickie" Mountbatten, he probably wouldn't have experienced familial comfort in childhood. School was one bullish event after another, where he failed to excel at any " manly pursuits"
...more
Wanda Maynard
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding read! I love reading anything about the royal family. If I see something about them in the newspaper, or magazine, I read it. Especially prince Charles and Lady Di. I watched every moment of the Royal Wedding. When I found out about Lady Di's fatal accident, I was devastated.
PRINCE CHARLES by Sally Bedell Smith, told wonderful stories about Prince Charles' travels, and the many things he accomplished, but will he ever be king?
I love looking at pictures! Because a picture is worth a
...more
Lynn
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
This is a fascinating profile of Charles, The Prince of Wales. It is very evenhanded, showing his good qualities and those that get him in trouble. He is funny, self-deprecating, opinionated, arrogant, kind, sensitive, entitled, self absorbed, intelligent, lonely, obtuse, self-pitying, generous, and stubborn. Camilla is portrayed sympathetically; Diana not so much. There is a lot more to this triangle than meets the eye, or was portrayed in the media. Camilla is obviously the woman he was meant ...more
SundayAtDusk
Oh my, it’s been a long time since I've read a book on the royal family. I think the last one I read was Ken Wharfe's Diana - A Closely Guarded Secret. So, what’s new with the family? Well, of course, since the days of Princess Diana, her sons have grown up and Prince William has happily married and has had two children. There’s nothing in this book, however, that has not been written before about Prince Charles’ children and grandchildren. As far as I can tell, there is nothing new in this book ...more
Jean
I have read a number of biographies about Prince Charles. They all seem to portray him as a love-starved, lonely and emotionally vulnerable. Charles was the first Royal to graduate from Cambridge University and signed up for the Air Force to learn to fly jet planes but was forced into the Royal Navy by his father. Like his father he graduated from Dartmouth, the British Naval Academy. He had a hard time in the close quarters of the Navy ships as he primarily is an introvert.

Smith states that Cha
...more
Noorilhuda
This book is proof that you can kill a person in more ways than one. Part of a sustained, subtle and slow media campaign against Diana that started a year after her death, whereby confessions of Charles as presented in the June 1994 Dimbleby interview are repeated - this campaign to hold Diana accountable as an unstable, precariously thin-skinned wife in need of a good counselor or two, was largely unsuccessful at the time because of Diana’s monstrous popularity and public’s trust in her and bel ...more
Susan (the other Susan)
"Diana Snares Her Man" as a chapter title is typical of the way this author throws objectivity out the window, choosing sides against a then-19-year-old girl versus a 38 year old man and the lover who helped select his bride.

The author falls just short of fawning over Charles, but doesn't hesitate to impose her own politics when she disapproves of his (stating as fact, for example, that Charles' views on climate change should be more "moderate.")

So yeah, the author is not my cup of Earl Grey.
...more
Judy Lesley
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received an e-ARC of this biography through NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group. Thank you.

This is not an authorized biography of Prince Charles, but it is a very even handed attempt to show what this man is like both when he is in the public spotlight and when he isn't. I have read other biographies of the British royal family written by Sally Bedell Smith and my reason for wanting to read this one was because I knew I would find a balanced approach to the subject at hand. I always ma
...more
Ashley Marie
If you're a fan of the British royal family and you haven't read this or Elizabeth the Queen -- what are you waiting for? Bedell Smith writes with a natural narrative voice and while she may bounce around from time to time depending on chapter themes, the end result is still an extremely cohesive, engaging biography. This one has me appreciating Charles and Camilla's relationship more than anything else I've read about them, but people deserve to have their lives seen through their own eyes. ...more
FoodxHugs
Sep 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
In the GP's waiting room, I read a book extract on Prince Charles in VANITY FAIR. It was interesting to read, so I decided to tick off a biography from my reading challenge this year, since I don't read non-fiction for pleasure. By coincidence, I got Bedell Smith's book, which turned out to be the one where they'd got the extract from in the magazine.

The only interesting chapter was the bit about Charles's childhood. Philip sent him to Gordonstoun, which he loathed, because he wasn't treated lik
...more
Amy
A fascinating look at the life of the Prince of Wales, thus far.

Prince Charles really broke the mold for the royal family. He is much more reflective and tends to study his "subject" more and not provide a snappy [flippant] comeback to something someone says. The causes that he supports are most interesting - art, the environment, architecture, etc.

While I am glad that he and Diana got together (because this union produced princes William and Harry), this couple never really should have gotten
...more
Sharon Huether
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
*TUDOR^QUEEN*
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was graciously provided an advance reader copy of this book via NetGalley in return for my honest review.

As an unabashed Anglophile, I have read many biographies on the Windsors over the years, including a few specifically about Prince Charles. This fresh, new biography about Prince Charles is as precious as a hunk of royal Welsh gold!

The Prince Charles biography of note since the 90's has been the authorised Johnathan Dimbleby tome, which is referenced throughout this book (ironically, I've n
...more
Caidyn (he/him/his)
This review, and others, can be found on BW Book Reviews.

I received an ARC of this book from Random House and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Prince Charles has never been my favorite royal, if I had to have one. Probably because I've read too many tabloid articles about him and I'm quite partial to Will and Kate. (Sorry.) But, this book helped me see him in context. One review I read summed Charles up perfectly: "the man at the center of the book is not its most interesting character
...more
Maddie
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, biography
Prince Charles is a pretty boring guy, but the author goes through his life in an interesting way, with a healthy sprinkling of details that make it clear what a sad guy he is. E.g., he had very little interaction with his parents growing up, then he went to a school where he was bullied, and his father-figure type personal security guard was fired for letting him drink at the age of 14. Just when you start feeling sorry for the man, Bedell Smith drops in some letter from him complaining about h ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Biographies irritate me; this one was less annoying than many. Going in, I thought Charles was freakish, interesting, unlovable, and that he may well rise to the occasion and not be a complete disaster on the throne; this book did little to sway or deepen any of those impressions. Still, I really enjoyed the gossip.
Linda Lipko
A clunker of a book, with over 500 pages of dining, whining, partying, complaining, inability to stay on one path -- Prince Charles of England

I thought some of the book was noteworthy, and I learned a lot about the authors perception of British politics, there was a lot of rambling, title changing, and down-right disdain of Diana, Charles ill fated marriage to a woman much younger, much more spontaneous and loving abilities that Charles clearly lacked.

Camilla Parker Bowles was a meddler. As Dian
...more
John Behle
I enjoyed the audio CD of this large and quite diligent book. The narrator, Rosalyn Landor, adds much to the near 600 pages of prose by Sally Bedell Smith. Landor has won several awards for her acting and voice work. There is an article about her now on AudioFileMagazine.com where she exclaims, "I can be anyone, from the 95-year-old dowager to a 21-year-old frivolous spirit." Yes.

I am a fan of Prince Charles, and thus, liked this work. I admire his outspoken nature, his truth and good old Britis
...more
Candace
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 rounded up to 4. I really enjoyed this book, it made me want to learn more. I definitely think Americans have a limited view through the media on Charles and Diana and I was not aware Diana had mental issues. It is hard for me to still like Camilla and Charles given what occurred. I also liked understanding more why Charles is the way he is, learning more about his background and upbringing. Some parts dragged for me, especially when speaking about fundraising but Charles does try and help a ...more
Melody
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, audiobook
I learned a lot about the Royal Family. Even though there were some slow parts, much of it was of great interest to me.
Andie
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unauthorized, but generally sympathetic biography of Prince Charles by the woman who wrote a biography of the queen a couple of years ago. It largely portrays Charles as a person man who has been starved for affection and praise his entire life, and one who is largely out of step with his unintellectual family.

The book is fairly even-handed about his disastrous marriage to Princess Diana, showing that there was plenty of fault on both sides and leaving one to speculate what would have
...more
Linda Hutchinson
Remember when I said I wouldn’t be fooled again by celebrity bios after reading the book about Prince? I lied. I am beginning to believe I may have a problem with all things related to Prince...be it the artist formerly known as Prince or the actual HRH Prince Charles. Having majored in history and studied the Royals, this book is a compilation of all the other bios with some additional Camilla hogwash thrown in for good measure. 2 Stars. This is a library read...don’t waste your hard earned shi ...more
Susan
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's probably no surprise that I was anxious to read "Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life," by Sally Bedell Smith. You might wonder why we need yet another biography of the prince. I wondered this myself. I have read several, and I don't know that I honestly learned anything new from this one, but I found it enjoyable nonetheless. For me, reading books about the British royals is like reading People or US Weekly -- pure reading "junk food." Just fun. So, here are a f ...more
Kate
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I started 2017 with a goal of reading more memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies, and realized in July that I hadn't made much progress. My local public library branch had this available, and it was such a pleasant surprise. It is an absolute credit to Ms. Smith's writing and storytelling skill how enjoyable and interesting a 500+ page book on a subject I'm not particularly intrigued by could be. ...more
V
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book during a power outage because it was the only book I had. I didn't know much about Prince Charles before I started reading, and was stunned to find out how retrograde his racial views are (you can be all about multiculturalism and still be an obtuse Orientalist/Africanist) and how sheltered he is when it comes to how ordinary people live. It's also hard to take this level of criticism against Princess Diana on the chin. Lately I notice more and more books and document ...more
Quinby6696 Frank
This was a slightly painful read. While the author clearly strives to be even-handed with Charles and Diana and Camilla as well as the royal family in general I came away with the impression that Charles is an extremely self-obsessed spoiled brat who has squandered millions and millions of dollars in the pursuit of charities that do some good, but that seem to be mostly for his own edification and search for spiritual enlightenment. One wants to just say "get a grip!" One of the best parts was t ...more
Elsbeth Kwant
A romantic, lonely, lordly, mean and charming man and a book that keeps turning your perspective; 'the lonely schoolboy with the cold upbringing who married the wrong woman and spent a lifetime waiting for his ultimate role, who tried so hard while being constantly misunderstood', rather sums it up. The nickname 'Eeyore' encapsulates the tragic with the comic. Also I don't think I will ever loose the image of Prince Charles kneeling in prayer, whilst Diana hits him repeatedly over the head, cont ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown
  • The Diana Chronicles
  • Battle of Brothers: William and Harry–The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult
  • That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
  • The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe
  • Behind Palace Doors: My True Adventures as the Queen Mother's Equerry
  • Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words
  • Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria
  • The Royals
  • Diana: Story of a Princess
  • Princess Margaret: A Biography
  • Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece
  • The King in Love: Edward VII's Mistresses
  • Diana
  • Prince Philip Revealed: A Man of His Century
  • Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne
  • Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series
  • As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto: Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece
See similar books…
198 followers
Author of six biographies: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (Random House 2102); For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years (Random House 2007); Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House (Random House 2004); Diana In Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess (Random House 2004); Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill H ...more

Related Articles

I am honored and thrilled that the Goodreads community has selected Elizabeth the Queen as your best book in the history and biography category for...
6 likes · 1 comments
“designed” 0 likes
“Charles and their advisers and staff dealt with Diana’s bewildering and often infuriating behavior by placating her, trying to distract her, and ultimately, out of frustration, abandoning her.” 0 likes
More quotes…