How Charles became a modern dad, changing nappies and going to nursery – despite Harry saying he made him ‘suffer’
CHARLES always wanted to be a modern, loving father – but according to his son Harry he never had a chance.
In a raunchy assessment of the new king’s parenting abilities last year, the prince said Charles had been doomed by a lack of love in his own childhood and his loyalty to the royal brand.
The Duke of Sussex told an American podcast: “There is no blame. I don’t think we should point fingers or blame anyone, but certainly when it comes to parenthood, if I felt any form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that my father or parents may have experienced, I will make sure to break this cycle so that I don’t pass it on.
But Harry had been less understanding months earlier when he launched his first devastating attacks on his father after he and Meghan fled royal life.
In a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, he revealed that Charles refused to take his calls after the couple first moved to Canada in early 2020 and cut it off financially for a time.
And in a later documentary series on Apple TV, his rage was still burning as he spoke of his father’s failure to protect his sons from the ‘business model’ of royal life.
He said: “He used to say to William and me, ‘Well that’s how it was for me, so it’s going to be that way for you’.
“It makes no sense. Just because you suffered doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer.
“In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you have suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences you have had, you can make things right for your children.
Harry and the Duchess of Sussex were barely seen interacting with Charles when they returned to the UK in June this year to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, despite protests that they wanted to heal the relationship.
Charles had been terribly hurt by the attacks, which came as a shock after decades of William and Harry telling amusing and funny stories about their father in public.
He had tried so hard to be a good father, from the start.
In fact, her desire to be the best parent possible began long before the arrival of her firstborn in June 1982.
It was a time when expectant fathers weren’t always deeply involved in the welfare of their wives during pregnancy – but, as always, Charles was ahead of his time.
He eagerly read Betty Parsons’ guide, The Expectant Father, and brought the author to Kensington Palace to teach Diana the latest breathing techniques during childbirth.
And Charles was by Diana’s side throughout her long labor with William.
That night, the new dad sat down and wrote in a letter to a friend, “I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
He added: “He really looks amazingly appetizing and has sausage fingers like mine.”
Just because you suffered doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer
Charles soon changed diapers, joined William’s bath time, and tried to keep up with young Diana dubbed his “mini tornado.”
The proud dad revealed: “He keeps crawling, especially in the wastebaskets.”
Charles even looked amused when he revealed the little boy had a habit of trying to flush everything down the toilet, including his dad’s shoes.
On September 15, 1984, the prince was again at Diana’s side when she gave birth to Harry.
Emerging to the cheers of the crowd outside the hospital, Charles said the newborn looked “wonderful”, with “pale blue eyes” and hair “of some sort of indeterminate colour”.
He then announced, “I’m going home for a drink.”
Diana later told biographer Andrew Morton that the prince had hoped for a girl, and her first comment upon seeing the baby was, “Oh my God, it’s a boy.”
She also said that after the arrival of her second child, she realized her marriage was doomed: “When Harry was born, it just worked out, our marriage. It all fell apart. »
A day after Harry was born, Charles was in Windsor playing a game of polo he had organized to mark the occasion. Some said it showed he was indifferent, but it wasn’t true.
Charles faced unfair criticism
Charles could barely tear himself away from nursery and only accepted a dozen engagements over the next four months, to spend time with his new son.
When Harry was one, big brother William, three, started nursery – another sign of his father’s modern thinking.
Charles and his sister Anne had started their own schooling with a governess.
But despite everything, Charles faced unfair criticism.
In May 1988, when three-year-old Harry underwent emergency surgery for a hernia, Charles’ absence from his bedside was noted.
The fact that he was on a painting trip to Italy and called every hour to be updated did not prevent him from being called indifferent.
A few years later, in June 1991, there were more bad headlines when one of William’s classmates accidentally hit the young prince in the head while swinging a golf club, fracturing his skull.
Charles and Diana traveled with him when he was transferred to Great Ormond Street for surgery.
But while Diana stayed with William, Charles left shortly before the operation to attend an opera with a group from the European Commission.
He then went straight to Yorkshire for an environmental conference.
The prince was shocked by the deluge of negative publicity, summed up by a headline from The Sun demanding: “What kind of dad are you?”
Later, Diana’s lover James Gilbey – of ‘Squidgygate’ fame for phone leaks – was quoted in Andrew Morton’s book as saying of Diana: ‘She thinks he’s a bad father. Self-centered.”
This was despite Charles doing everything he could to make the boys’ childhood magical.
He even hired architect William Bertram to design a tree house in Highgrove and ensured that five-year-old William had the decisive voice in the designs.
The youngster told the architect firmly: “I want it to be as high as possible so I can get away from everyone, and I want a rope ladder that I can pull up so no one can reach me. .”
Charles also read to his boys as much as they liked and taught them about plants and wildlife.
But the public perception of him as a bad father remained. Diana saw to it – it was her only real weapon.
Harry suffered under this stiff upper lip style of parenting
After Diana’s death in 1997, Charles was no longer torn between what she wanted and what he wanted, or even between his public duties and his role as a father.
His grieving sons, aged 15 and 12, were his only priority – and the public could finally see him.
A chef who worked in Highgrove at the time recalled: “He took care of everything.
“He was interested in everything that was going on instead of leaving it to someone else. He called off all his engagements and really went for it.
Charles also made sure the boys avoided television and newspapers, so they wouldn’t be confronted with stories of their mother’s death. Instead, they spent their days outdoors.
A former member of staff recalled the life of the young princes at the time: “The normality was almost shocking.
We now know that Harry suffered from this stiff upper lip parenting style.
William, meanwhile, has only shown empathy and understanding for his father’s struggles – although he admitted that as a boy he wished his father hadn’t was also busy with the royal workload.
He also said he wished Charles had more time to spend with his three children, George, Charlotte and Louis.
He explained in 2018: “To have more time with him at home would be adorable, and to be able to play with the grandchildren.
“When he’s there he’s brilliant, but we need him as much as possible.”
The new queen consort also said what a fun grandfather Charles was.
She said: “He will get down on his knees and crawl with them for hours, making funny noises and laughing.
“He reads Harry Potter and does all the different voices.”
Prince Harry’s children, Archie and Lilibet, live in America and have missed it all.
But now there is a chance for a new beginning – for father, sons and grandchildren.
Charles III is intelligent and sensitive and will have taken Harry’s raw pain to heart.
Few have had such an agonizing journey to emotional maturity as our new king.
As sovereign, Charles will continue to guide Prince George as the nine-year-old heads towards his own destiny as king.
And as a grandfather, Charles will seek, if permitted, to pass on to all of his grandchildren the best legacy there is: his love and hard-won wisdom.