Prince Charles: Comeback King?
A year after his painfully public separation, Britain's king-in-waiting focuses on social and environmental issues to improve his image
PRINCE Charles has launched a campaign to restore his credibility as Britain's ``king-in-waiting.''Skip to next paragraph
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A year after the collapse of his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, amid scandal and acrimony, the heir to the throne has worked with a cabinet of hand-picked advisers to devise an action plan for improving his public image. It will concentrate on social and environmental issues.
Charles has broken royal precedent by hiring a full-time public relations adviser, and the word is going out that the prince is determined to be a successful monarch when his mother, Elizabeth II, ceases to be queen.
Sources close to the royal family say Charles hopes to capitalize on his estranged wife's decision late last year to avoid the media limelight as much as possible. But he also wants to be accepted in his own right as a champion of improving the lifestyle of the people he eventually hopes to reign over.
There are doubts about the prince's ability to spread his ideas in language that ordinary people can understand.
``He has been so rigorously trained in the arts of kingship that he does not know how to bend,'' commented a writer in London's Sunday Times. ``The man who longs to reach out and touch his people remains as remote from them as a Highland peak in winter.''
Charles can appear awkward in public and sometimes uses technical language. People who have watched him perform say he can be charming in private conversation, but appears stiff and formal on the rostrum.
In touch with people
The cutting edge of his comeback campaign is a set of carefully planned initiatives aimed at keeping him in the public eye and highlighting his interest in matters affecting the lives of ordinary people.
This month saw the publication of the first issue of Perspectives on Architecture, a glossy magazine funded by the prince. According to its editor, the magazine is aimed at stirring debate about building design, town planning, and highway development.
An article by Charles in the magazine argues that buildings should grow ``organically'' out of the landscape.
``The world we are creating for our children should be less ugly and less ecologically damaged than the world which my generation inherited,'' he wrote.
To hammer home his concern for the conditions in which people live, the prince has appointed himself patron of Poundbury, a new town of high-quality homes being built in Dorset, southwest England.
Prince Charles insists that all materials and construction methods in Poundbury should be in harmony with the area's existing buildings. He favors high-tech building techniques so long as they suit the environment in which they are used and preserve the human scale of the new town.
The prince's views on architecture have often made him a center of argument within the profession.
Some years ago he attacked a plan to extend London's National Gallery by adding what he said would be ``a giant carbuncle'' to the existing building. The plan was scrapped.
The prince is also making a strong bid to gain the ear of British business leaders. One of his key projects is Business in the Community, an association of more than 500 companies.