Carmel College was a Jewish Public School my late father had founded in England in 1948. I had the honor to be its headmaster and then Principal from 1971 -1984. We celebrated our 25th anniversary (a year late) in 1974. And 25-year-old Prince Charles as he was then, spent a day with us on our beautiful Thames side campus in Oxfordshire.
He arrived by helicopter, and I took him on a tour of the school. He visited every department and made each person he spoke to feel like the most interesting person in the world for the moment he engaged with him or her. He was surprisingly impressive in the professional way he went through every department of the school, asking questions as if he really cared, making everyone feel special. He was unfailingly gallant, and dignified, tolerating all the fawning sycophants with restraint and bonhomie. He came to our house on the campus where a small party of important guests took drinks (no photos were allowed of him drinking, according to protocol). Then he took a nap, before changing into more formal gear for a celebratory dinner and speeches.
He spoke about his memories of his old school, Gordonstoun. Most of the juvenile humor revolved around girls and the embarrassing joint dancing evenings arranged with a nearby girls’ school. But he acquitted himself pretty well. He carried out his formal duties so maturely and professionally for one so young. The proceedings over, his entourage hustled him off to the Royal train to return to Balmoral, the Scottish castle where his mother spent much of her time and sadly died recently.
A few years later when I met the Queen, at an event for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, she was very formal, constrained, and professional. But she seemed uninterested when I told how well her son had done during his visit to Carmel. However, she came alive when I told her I had seen her racehorse win at Ascot. The fact is that she played her royal role impeccably for over seventy tears. Regardless of whether she was a good mum or a distant in-law, she had an incredible reign and held her family and the realm together for so many years and through so many family and national crises. Precisely because she understood her role and its constraints, as well as the privileges.
Prince Charles as a young man struggled with the demands of royalty and his desire to take up and advocate for causes that appealed to him. Inevitably he got into trouble with whichever sector of society, or the press disagreed with him. Whether it was a preference for traditional architecture, advocating for organic farming, or indeed expressing a view that he would like to be identified with all religions in his realm, not just the Church of England. I felt sorry for him, having to be a symbol rather than a normal human being.
The failure of his fairy tale marriage brought the hounds of the press down on him. Princess Diana’s carefully choreographed demolition of him, left him wounded and discredited for many years. And the Queen herself suffered the lowest point in her popularity for seeming too unemotional and rigid. Such is the cost of royalty and the press’s lust for scandal. When his long-standing affair with Camilla became public, they were both regarded as home breakers. And for a while, the Queen was seen as emotionally distant and out of touch with the new generation. It took a long time for both Charles and Camilla, behaving as they did with restraint and dignity to regain public approval but eventually they did.
Conventional wisdom was that Charles might abdicate in favor of his son rather than succeed to the throne. But in recent years as the Queen has slowed down, he has grown into his role. And even if occasionally some anti-royal sentiment emerges, Charles and the Queen carried on, despite repeated examples of other members of the Royal Family letting the institution down.
Charles’s refusal to be drawn into the scandals of others has won him respect. The dignity of his broadcast speech to the nation on his mother’s death, his commitment to serve as she did and the way he has thrown himself right away into filling the huge gap she left, have won the hearts of many who previously enjoyed deriding him.
By nature, I am not a monarchist. Though I do not know what system is better. Too many monarchs have failed. A symbolic, constitutional monarchy, rather than a divine one is close in many respects to the biblical model of a monarch subject to laws and constraints. It offers tradition, dignity, and a sense of pride in one’s heritage. And I do not know what system is better. Most presidents have been and are disappointing, if not criminal. I do not doubt that Charles 3rd will prove to be a far better monarch than his critics have assumed.
Jordan Peterson has put it succinctly: America is the culture of personality, whereas Britain and its old colonies have a culture of the institution. The monarch subsumes his or her personality into the institution of the monarchy, whereas in America, for example, it is all about the persona of the President and the vagaries of popularity or notoriety. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5os9bT9zuo
But to be personal again, despite his youth, at the time when he came to Carmel ( and I was only a few years older myself), there was something unique in Charles’s sense of mission and Noblesse Oblige. So, I presume to show you some photos taken at the time. They are dated of course as was my hirsute appearance which was fashionable at the time. But it is my little bit of history and I wish King Charles all the best.