His full name is Charles Phillip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor: "Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester." He is much written-about, particularly in the realms named above, and oceans of ink, mountains of paper are saved each year by the simple expedient of calling him Charles, prince of Wales.
He numbers Charlemagne among his ancestors -- who are by no means all numbered. They have been traced back in some detail for four or five centuries, but genealogical energy flagged when their number passed the quarter-million mark. If all who contributed to his heredity were traced back as far as William the Conqueror, there would be an astounding 1,073,741,824 places to be filled on the chart -- though, of course, through intermarriage, many names would appear in more than one place.
He is as much a symbol as a human individual -- the latest avatar and heir apparent to a system of rule whose origins are lost in the mists of time.
Fortunately for him, he seems to have a fine sense of absurdity and a carefully cultivated ability to cope with it. Fortunately for his future subjects, he seems to be a most serious, energetic, dedicated young man, carefully prepared by heredity and training for the unique employment that awaits him.
Being the prince of Wales would be enough to encumber his life with crowds of spectators, photographers and reporters whenever he goes out into the public, but Charles has compounded this hazard by being what reporters call "good copy."
He plays polo expertly, has made something of a splash in amateur theatricals, can and does pilot helicopters and jet aircraft, drives fast cars, has earned a very respectable university degree (bachelor of arts from Trinity College, Cambridge, with concentration in anthropology, archeology and history), has served honorably as an officer in the Royal Navy. He has learned to speak Welsh better than some of the public officials who must greet him in that language, and he has a quick, slightly self-deprecating sense of humor that has endeared him to his constituents probably more than any of his other qualities (by now, surely, everyone has heard the story about the ram who almost destroyed the royal succession).
It sometimes seems that there must be at least two people named Prince Charles -- one a dashing young figure who has successfully modernized the traditional image of Prince Charming; the other, a serious, quiet, rather withdrawn young man who realizes that his role in life is to be a symbol and has decided that he will fill that role as well as it can be done. The first one plays polo, the second has taken to heart the traditional motto, "Ich Dien" (I serve), which he inherited with his hereditary title, and is seriously at work now sorting out what he thinks should be the role of a king in a modern socialist, industrial nation.
Appropriately enough, these two persons (who must, somehow, coexist in one body) are the subject of two concurrently appearing books, "H.R.H.: The Man Who Will Be King" focuses on the colorful person (whom we might call Charles I) and reads like a very long, expertly written magazine article -- full of color, action, bright quotes and lots of scene-painting. It is Charles once over lightly, easy reading and moderately informative, with occasional glimpses of a deep historic backgropund and intimation as prince of Wales) and freighted fun, monarchy may also be a serious business.
"Prince Charles" (dealing with what we might call Charles II is longer, slower-moving and more serious, heavy on documentation (for example, the complete text of the ode written by C. Day Lewis for Charles' installation as prince of Fales) and freighted with an index, a bibliography, six appendices and a handy, four-page list of royal and other personages who enter into the text. It does not avoid frivolity (for example, it has the text of a 1928 song: "I've Danced with a Man Who's Danced with a Girl Who's Danced with the Prince of Wales") but, on the whole, it concentrates on more weighty topics in both a carefully drawn historical perspective and a conscientiously detailed modern context.
For a thoughtful consideration of what the princes of Wales have been and meant historically, what may be the role of such an office today and how Charles is measuring up to it and changing it, Holden is clearly the choice. For an introduction to an interesting person with a unique role in society, Heald and Mohs will do well enough. There is enough overlap in the content (both words and photos) and enough difference in approach to make it unlikely that any but the most dedicated Carlophiles will want both.