> Zed Book Club / The King: The Life of Charles III

Prince Charles holds a cane during a 2000 visit to the Hafod y Llan estate in Wales. Photo: Ken Goff/Getty Images

> Buzz

The King: The Life of Charles III

The latest biography from veteran royal reporter Christopher Andersen digs into the hardships that forged the King's character / BY Leanne Delap / December 16th, 2022

After publishing 35 books about celebrities, political dynasties and the Royal Family, American journalist Christopher Andersen brings us The King: The Life of Charles III just eight weeks after the heir-in-waiting acceded to the throne on Sept. 8, and seven months before his coronation.

Andersen, who has been reporting on the Royal Family for 50 years, witnessed the birth of modern celebrity culture as a former contributing editor of Time magazine and then as a long-time senior editor at People, where he led Royal coverage in the 70s and 80s. He is also the author of the 2021 book Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan.

Andersen, 73, wanted to take on Charles as a subject because, despite all that is known about the new King, he is still an enigma. “We knew who the Queen was, because she knew who she was. Charles is more complicated than that,” the Connecticut-based writer says in a recent interview. “Even after 70 years of waiting to take on the top job, as Diana called it, Charles is to some extent unsure of himself, and we can see it.  He is full of contrasts and contradictions – a work in progress.”

Christopher Andersen


He was popular, even swoon-worthy, when he was a young bachelor and Diana’s husband. But the spotlight, which was always on his mother, moved on to the next generation of young royals – his own sons – as soon as they were of age. So there is, in fact, much texture and detail we don’t know about Charles in midlife, and that is the meat of Andersen’s story.

I have covered the Royal Family since Diana died 25 years ago, and I thought that, after the slew of books and coverage about the Queen around her Jubilee and death, there was little left to learn. I got really into this book, however, because details of Charles’ life felt fresh and new to me. There aren’t any bombshells, but there are quiet moments of revelation.

It was with some relief that I realized, halfway through The King, that Andersen was going to glide over the Diana years, or, as he calls them here, “a 17 year blur.” When asked why, Andersen says he has also been there and done that. “I’ve written extensively about the marriage of Charles and Diana in my No. 1 New York Times bestseller The Day Diana Died.  While I definitely deal with it in The King, it’s 17 years – albeit important years – in a 74-year saga still in the making.”

Christopher Andersen is a veteran royal reporter and writer, whose 1998 book, “The Day Diana Died,” was a No. 1  New York Times bestseller.  Photo: Valerie Andersen

Early Trials

As Andersen writes in the book, Charles was the product of an institution whose motto was: “Be hard. Be detached. Be, in every conceivable way, simply above it all.” The author says the King was shaped by a “very lonely and heartbreakingly sad childhood,” and a life where women always overshadowed him. “Over the years, Charles has frequently asked, ‘Why don’t they love me the way they love her?’ For years, this comment was aimed at Diana. After her death, Charles was talking about his mother.”

That’s why King Charles III wants his subjects to respect him, and “to feel that same intangible sense of warmth and affection coming in waves at him from the British people – the same warmth and affection that washed over the Queen during her 70 years on the throne.”

Ironically, “it is precisely because he was emotionally abandoned by his parents that Charles is the man he is. Recently, they were somewhat affectionate toward one another. But for nearly all his life, Charles described his mother as cold and aloof and his father as overbearing and hectoring – a bully who often berated and belittled the Prince of Wales in front of others, reducing him to tears. He was sent away to a boarding school he likened to a German POW camp. “Unbearable,” “pure torture,” “hell on earth” – these were the words he used to describe his years away at [Gordonstoun] school, where he was routinely beaten and abused by older students.” The only people he could count on were the Queen Mother and his nanny, Mabel Anderson.


Prince Charles, at Sandringham in 1969, could always depend on Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for support, while Prince Philip, in the background with Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew, was a bully who could reduce hm to tears. Photo: Getty Images

Narrow Escapes

Charles has had several “near misses” that could have changed the course of history. I ask Andersen about a parachuting incident during his RAF training, and how it changed the future King. “There are so many times when Charles cheated death,” he responds. “An emergency appendectomy at 13, being struck by a bus outside the library at Trinity College, getting tangled in the lines of his parachute during RAF training. If he had died as a result of any of these incidents, Andrew would now be sitting on the throne.”

Fast cars and risky sports were also a factor. “After marrying Diana, Charles was nearly killed in an avalanche that took the life of his close friend, and was nearly killed when his car almost went off a cliff in Majorca just weeks before the crash in Paris that took Diana’s life. If he had died then, William would be sitting on the throne.”

Charles can seem somewhat prickly to North Americans, but Andersen explains Charles’ need for deference. “People keep complaining that the royals have an unearned sense of entitlement.  But that is the very definition of royalty, and of Britain’s aristocracy. They don’t have to actually do anything.  They demand respect because, to one degree or the other, they are historically regarded as the physical, living, breathing embodiment of the state.”

He calls it a “well, duh” moment. “Of course he feels entitled. Charles is King of England. He is also a human being, and throughout has often felt ignored and sidelined while he waited for the other shoe to drop.  He’s waited 70 years to be seen, as it were, and he will accept nothing less.”

Charles may sit atop a monarchy that has existed for more than a thousand years, but Andersen says he is intensely aware “how precarious his position is. If the monarchy survives and flourishes, it will be because of Charles III.  If it crashes and burns, it will be because of Charles III.”

Wives and Lovers

So, now to the gossipy bits. I had no idea Charles had so many girlfriends and conquests; he was quite the man about town, but his dalliances never made the headlines. Andersen says some of that secrecy can be attributed to his caution, and because he had others arranging his assignations. Andersen reports, via one of his former flames, that, in those days, Charles did not use protection. So how did he keep that from exploding into scandals? Andersen simply says: “He expects others to handle things.”

Camilla emerges as the real through line in Charles’ life, from the moment he first became enamoured with her in his 20s. They are opposites in many ways: he is neat as a pin; she’s shabby chic, he’s introverted; she’s outgoing. At the same time, Andersen says they are “two peas in a pod” with tremendous chemistry who share a love of the outdoors. “They also share a sense of humour that I have to say even their critics must see as quite endearing. They are exchanging glances and laughing all the time, and that connection comes across.”

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall share a joke after a bumble bee buzzed around the prince’s head during a 2015 visit to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in New Zealand. Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images


For Andersen it comes down to Camilla’s deep understanding of Charles’ world. “There are differences, yes. But I think Camilla has a huge respect for the aristocracy and how it works.  She is an aristocrat, after all – the granddaughter of a baron. She aspired to be the mistress of a king, like her great-great grandmother, Alice Keppel, was. She didn’t bargain on becoming queen. I think she is absolutely terrified at the prospect of being crowned queen.”

Her job is critical, though. “Camilla is down to earth on some levels, but she also knows how the Firm works,” says Andersen. “Charles is a world-class whiner and complainer with an explosive temper. Camilla is one of the few people who can tamp that down a bit.

At the end of the day, her strength is the linchpin. “Camilla lets a lot roll off her back; Charles is inclined to stew and feel sorry for himself.  She isn’t into playing the role of victim the way he is.  I think at a certain deep level, however, they share a deep sense of insecurity.  She can tremble with nerves, as she did when she first met William.  I think she will be shaking like a leaf at the coronation, and is already dreading the very thought of it.”



Alice Munro, One of Canada’s Literary Masters, Dies at 92Alice Munro's career spanned over four decades, during which time she earned a multitude of literary awards, including a Nobel Prize nearing the end of her writing career. 

American writer V. V. Ganeshananthan wins the US$150,000 Carol Shields Prize for FictionHer novel, 'Brotherless Night,' was chosen over the work of four finalists, including 'Birnam Wood' by Eleanor Catton

2024 Amazon Canada First Novel Award Shortlist AnnouncedThe award, which was founded in 1976, offers a $60,000 prize for the winner.

Three Canadian Authors Shortlisted for the US$150,000 Carol Shields Prize for FictionClaudia Dey, Eleanor Catton and Janika Oza are finalists for the largest cash prize celebrating American and Canadian women writers

Donald Sutherland, 88, to Detail His Journey to Hollywood Fame in Long-Awaited MemoirThe Canuck screen legend's first-ever autobiography will hit Canadian bookshelves on Nov. 12.

Camilla Leads Miniature Book Initiative to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of the Queen’s Dolls’ HouseThe miniature book collection includes handwritten tomes by Sir Tom Stoppard, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Sir Ben Okri and other well-known authors

2024 Giller Prize: Noah Richler, Kevin Chong and Molly Johnson Among Jury MembersAuthor Noah Richler is chairing the jury for this year's Giller Prize, an award's body his father literary icon Mordecai Richler helped launch in 1994.

Queen Camilla to Offer Weekly Reading Recommendations in New Queen’s Reading Room PodcastThe Queen's Reading Room Podcast will feature Her Majesty's book picks as well as literary discussions with authors and celebrities every week.

2023 Booker Prize: Irish Writer Paul Lynch Wins For Dystopian ‘Prophet Song’Canadian Booker Prize jury chair Esi Edugyan called the novel a "a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave."

Sarah Bernstein’s ‘Study for Obedience’ Wins 2023 Scotiabank Giller PrizeThe author, who gave birth to a daughter 10 days ago, accepted the award remotely from her home in the Scottish Highlands

Governor General’s Literary Awards: Anuja Varghese’s ‘Chrysalis’ Among This Year’s WinnersEach of the 14 writers, illustrators and translators will receive a prize of $25,000

Giller Prize Winner Suzette Mayr Among Finalists Shortlisted for 2023 Governor General’s Literary AwardsThe 14 winners, who will each receive a prize of $25,000, will be announced Nov. 8

Five Authors Shortlisted for This Year’s $100,000 Scotiabank Giller PrizeDionne Irving and Kevin Chong are among the finalists who "probe what it means to be human, to survive, and to be who we are"

Norway’s Jon Fosse Wins Nobel Literature Prize for Giving “Voice to the Unsayable”The author's work has been translated into more than 40 languages, and there have been more than 1,000 different productions of his plays.

Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist Recognizes 12 Authors Who Demonstrate “the Power of Human Imagination”The 2023 longlist includes the prize's 2005 winner David Bergen and debut novelist Deborah Willis. 

Duke and Duchess of Sussex Buy Film Rights to Canadian Author Carley Fortune’s ‘Meet Me at the Lake’Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have purchased the movie rights to the bestselling romantic novel, which was published in May this year.

Booker Prize Longlist ‘Defined by its Freshness’ as Nominees RevealedEsi Edugyan, chair of the 2023 judges, said each of the 13 novels "cast new light on what it means to exist in our time."

Barack Obama Releases His 2023 Summer Reading ListThe list includes the latest novel by Canadian-born New Zealand author Eleanor Catton.

David Suzuki Takes Inspiration From His Own Grandchildren for New Kid’s Book ‘Bompa’s Insect Expedition’The book features Suzuki and two of his grandchildren exploring the insect population in their own backyard.

Milan Kundera, Author of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, Dies at 94Kundera won global accolades for the way he depicted themes and characters that floated between the mundane reality of everyday life and the lofty world of ideas.

Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Dark Genius of American Literature, Dead at 89McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2006 novel 'The Road.'

Remembering the Life and Loves of Literary Bad Boy Martin AmisThe legendary British author has died at 73. His absence will be keenly felt, but Amis leaves behind a book shelf’s worth of novels, including 'London Fields', 'Money' and 'Success', filled with shambolic anti-heroes raising a finger at society. 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to Publish Two Books Related to Mental Health and Wellness With Penguin Random House CanadaThe upcoming releases include a wellness book for adults and a picture book for children, which will roll out over the next two years.

Queen Camilla Celebrated Her Love of Books by Having Some Embroidered on Her Coronation GownThe Queen's coronation gown also featured tributes to her children, grandchildren and rescue dogs embroidered into it.

Better Late Than Never: Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s Unpublished Novel Set for Release in 2024'En Agosto Nos Vemos' or 'We'll See Each Other in August' was deemed by the late author's family to be too important to stay hidden

End of an Era: Eleanor Wachtel leaves CBC Radio’s ‘Writers & Company’ After More Than Three Decades on the AirAfter a career interviewing what she describes as the "finest minds in the world," the long-time radio host says she's ready to begin a new chapter.

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day Features Deals, Contests and ReadingsOn Saturday, every book purchased at an indie store qualifies you to enter the Book Lovers Contest, with a chance to win gift cards worth up to $1,000

Translation Project Will Bring Literature From the South Asian Continent to English-Speaking AudiencesThe SALT project aims to translate and publish 40 works by authors from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

The Book Thief: An Italian Man’s Guilty Plea Ends a Caper That Puzzled the Literary World for YearsFilippo Bernardini’s elaborate phishing scam netted 1,000 unpublished manuscripts by prominent authors including Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan

The Late Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Is Honoured with an American StampThe Obamas and Oprah Winfrey pay tribute to the writer whose poetic interpretations of the African American experience gained a world-wide audience

Five Canadian Writers Make the Long List for the Inaugural Carol Shields Prize for FictionThe US$150,000 English-language literary award for female and nonbinary writers redresses the inequality of women in the publishing world

The Furry Green Grump is Back in a Sequel to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”Dr. Seuss Enterprises will publish “How the Grinch Lost Christmas!” in September

Chris Hadfield to Publish a Sequel to His Blockbuster Debut, “The Apollo Murders,” on Oct. 10"The Defector” brings the Cold War intrigue from space to Earth as the Soviets and Americans race to develop fighter jets

Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ Continues to Break Worldwide RecordsThe book also seems to have put a dent in the popularity of members of the Royal Family — including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Prince Harry’s Memoir Breaks U.K. Sales Record On First Day of ReleaseThe publisher of the new memoir, 'Spare", says it had sold 400,000 copies so far across hardback, e-book and audio formats.

Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2022The former U.S. president’s 13 titles include Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton, as well as tomes from Michelle Obama, George Saunders and Jennifer Egan

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world

Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."

Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."

Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.

Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.

Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.

Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.

Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.

New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.

French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."

Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.

Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'

Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.

Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.

Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.

Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.

Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.

Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”

Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956

Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."

The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history

Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."

New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.

Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.

Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."

European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."

Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.

Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.

Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.

Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro

“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.

Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories

Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel

South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 

Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events

Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards

Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde

Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 

Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations

Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter