The BBC Releases Never-Before-Seen Images of Charles as a Grandfather

On Sunday night, King Charles III got the opportunity to tell his life story in his own words. The new BBC documentary Charles R: The Making of a Monarch, narrated by the king himself, uses never-before-seen archival footage and photographs to paint a picture of his seven decades so far, beginning with his earliest days and progressing all the way to his role as a father and a grandfather. Near the end, the documentary includes a photograph of Charles holding Princess Charlotte as a toddler, and another image of the king sitting with a young Prince George.

The treatment ultimately challenges plenty of the conventional wisdom about Charles and his personality. Though previous biographers have noted that the king had a difficult childhood, Charles focuses on the positives. “I do have very happy memories of childhood,” he says, over home video footage of him playing as an infant. He notes that his mother was very busy when he was young, but she had a great sense of humor. “I remember we used to have lots of laughs,” he says. “I could sometimes make her laugh, she was always very jolly.”

One of the main draws of the show is footage shot during the production of Royal Family, a 1969 documentary about the Windsors that hasn’t been aired for more that 50 years. Some of the footage included images of Charles water-skiing, windsurfing, and setting a fire on a family camping trip. “I like to think of us more as a family rather than a firm. I tend to think of my family as very special people,” he says in an interview from that earlier documentary. “In that sense, I’m only beginning to see my parents and the rest of my family as other people, do you know what I mean? That you look upon them as having their own different characteristics.”

In a segment about his hobbies, Charles explained some of the personality traits that led him to prefer sports like polo and skiing to the horse racing his mother enjoyed. “I’m one of those hopeless characters who likes trying all sorts of things because it appeals to me, and I’m one of those people who doesn’t like sitting and watching something else go on,” he says. “I don’t like going to the races and watching horses thundering up and down because I’d rather be riding the horses myself.”

An interview with Queen Camilla also features in the documentary, and she highlights her favorite qualities about the king. “People see him as a serious person, which he is, but I would like a lot of people to see the lighter side of him,” she says, before the documentary cuts to old footage of the king dancing the hokey pokey. Charles also compliments his wife. “She’s the best listener in the world,” he says. “She does have a wonderful way with people.”

The documentary lingers on his relationship with Prince William as the heir to the throne, and includes plenty of images of the late queen and her father, King George V. “I hope that rather like a farmer’s son following his father around the farm and picking things up,” he says when an interviewer asks what he hopes to pass onto William. “I would hope that he would do the same in a sense.” 

Charles’s late ex-wife Princess Diana and his younger son Prince Harry, are only featured briefly in the documentary. Their 1981 wedding is represented by footage of the stamps produced for the occasion, and Harry is seen in profile during a Balmoral walkabout soon after her death in 1997. In footage from his 1994 interview with biographer Jonathan Dimbleby, he does mention the impact that press coverage is having on both of his children. “The trouble now is, of course, that our children are getting to the age where they read newspapers and it’s very upsetting,” he says. “I’ve learned over the years to try and  ignore it by just not reading the papers. Otherwise you go bananas. But with the children, what can you do?”

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