Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son might have been labelled “dotty” and “eccentric” occasionally over the years – for his views on subjects from the environment to alternative medicines and architecture – but history has also shown the heir to the British throne to be way ahead of his time.
As Prince Charles turns 72 later this week, on November 14, we look at little-known facts about the Prince of Wales you may not know from watching The Crown alone.
Back in the 1970s, Prince Charles was already talking about the problems of plastic waste, as he endeavoured to convince the public about the need to recycle. His pleas may have fallen on largely deaf ears, but his sons Prince William and Prince Harry are said to admire their dad for this stance.
While climate change may now be an era-defining crisis at the heart of sensible public dialogue the world over, you might not believe that Prince Charles has been touting the need for environmental awareness since the 1980s.
The heir to the throne installed one of the world’s first bottle banks at Buckingham Palace in 1980. At the time, even The Guardian described it as a “strange engine”, according to the prince’s recollection at a speech for the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership hosted at St James Palace in 2010.
Prince Charles has also pioneered agricultural techniques over the past 35 years, installing solar panels in his home at Highgrove House and other royal households. He has influenced the queen, his sons and other members of the royal family to be more environmentally aware.
Prince Charles has also long advocated for locally sourced and organic produce. After he moved to Highgrove House, he also started to cultivate an organic farm in his gardens, which culminated in the launch of his own organic brand Duchy Originals in 1990. The brand now sells more than 200 sustainable products from food to garden furniture.
But sustainability isn’t the only issue that the prince is passionate about. He has additionally advocated for alternative medicine since the 1970s, in the form of herbal and homeopathic solutions to certain health issues. He established The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, which was opposed by many in the scientific and medical community. It has now been rebranded as the College of Medicine and encourages the use of alternative medicine within the National Health Service in the UK.
Prince Charles gave a speech to the World Health Assembly in Geneva in 2006 encouraging the integration of alternative and conventional medicines. On top of that, his Duchy Original brand includes a “detox tincture”, among other complementary medicinal products, and the Prince has said he uses homeopathic veterinary medicines on his farm to reduce antibiotic use.
Architecture and his own village
Prince Charles has never been shy about his views on modern architecture and urban planning, and is said to feel strongly about inner-city renewal and quality of life. In 1984, on the 150th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects, he famously described London’s National Gallery extension as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”.
A fan of new classical architecture, he dislikes the “glass stumps and concrete towers” of modern buildings. So what do you do about it if you are the Prince of Wales? Build your own village, of course. The village of Poundbury was built – on land owned by the Prince under the Duchy of Cornwall – in line with his philosophy on architecture and environmental issues.
The hardest-working royal
Prince Charles eclipsed Princess Anne in 2019 as the hardest-working British royal on the books, attending an incredible 521 events in a single year while his sister clocked 506. The siblings have taken over much of the crown’s official engagements since the queen and Prince Philip reduced their engagements in recent years.
Plagued by sinus problems
The Prince is said to have suffered from sinus problems since he was a child. To remedy this, he always insists on fresh air and sleeps in an oxygen tent if he is having trouble breathing, according to a 2018 report in The Sun.
Cars fuelled by wine and cooking oil
According to The Telegraph, Prince Charles’ Aston Martin, a 21st birthday gift from his mum, now runs on biofuel made from surplus English wine. His Jaguars, Audis and Range Rovers are meanwhile said to be fuelled by cooking oil.
Children’s book author
Prince Charles once wrote a book for his younger brother Prince Edward called The Old Man of Lochnagar. The story is about an old man who lives in a cave near Lochnagar, a mountain near the Balmoral Estate where the royal family spend their summer holidays. He published the book in 1980 in aid of The Prince’s Trust charity. It has since been renamed The Legend of Lochnagar, after the film made from the book.
The first British royal heir to earn a degree
Prince Charles was the first royal heir in the British royal family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He graduated in 1971 from Cambridge University’s Trinity College and, four years later, earned a master’s from the same college.