Catherine Mayer, author of controversial Charles biography: 'I was a republican but now I'm a monarchist'

American writer is under attack for her portrayal of the heir to the throne

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The Independent Online

Catherine Mayer, the American writer who has sustained a bombardment from Clarence House since extracts of her revelatory new biography of Prince Charles made headlines, doesn’t bear a grudge.

“I used to think the monarchy was a sideshow and I didn’t take the Royals seriously,” she told The Independent. “Now I’ve seen the work they do, I would describe myself as a republican who has reluctantly come to believe in the monarchy.”

Published on Thursday after extracts made headlines around the world, Charles: The Heart of a King presents the heir apparent as a fallible, frugal and humane individual burdened by an overwhelming sense of duty.

That hasn’t prevented “Royal aides” from unleashing the dogs of war against Mayer, an American-born, British-educated, London-based journalist who is editor at large at Time, in a bid to undermine the credentials of her biography.

The book details Wolf Hall-style “turf wars” between Prince Charles’ employees and claims that the Queen fears that Britain will be shocked by the different style of monarchy the heir apparent is planning. It says that Charles has told ministers that he no longer wants to promote British arms sales in the Arab world and that he wanted to jilt Diana but lacked the courage.

The cover of the controversial book

Ms Mayer, a former president of the Foreign Press Association in London, who holds dual US and British citizenship, intended her book to “skewer widespread myths” such as the belief that Charles is frustrated by his 88-year-old mother’s refusal to stand down.

Instead she has been forced to defend her journalism after an unusually virulent fightback operation from Clarence House. Senior aides have accused Ms Mayer of exaggerating her access to Charles and, worst of all for a biographer, dismissed her “so-called revelations” as “frankly rehashed”.

Kristina Kyriacou, communications secretary to Prince Charles and a former PR for singers such as Gary Barlow and Bjork, told the Evening Standard: “The author did not have the access she claimed.”

Mayer, who never claimed the book was “authorised”, was granted one interview with Prince Charles, lasting 30 minutes in total and dined with him at the Scottish mansion Dumfries House.


However she spent six months struggling to keep up with the Prince striding across muddy fields, was allowed to sit in on private meetings and conducted sufficient interviews with friends, courtiers and Palace insiders for her to claim that the book is “authoritative”. “I had been given remarkable access by the standards of Royal press management, which is to say, nowhere near as much as a Time journalist might expect from a President or Prime Minister,” she writes.

Of the criticism, Ms Mayer said: “I assume Kristina is responding to claims I didn’t make. I never said I conducted multiple interviews with Charles. Naturally the book has been filleted for headlines. It’s the nature of serialisation for people to see sexed-up headlines and then talk about what they claim you said.”

“When they read the book I think they might be pleasantly surprised. It is actually sympathetic in many ways and balanced.”

The book claims that the Queen is concerned about the potential style of the monarchy under her son (PA)

Some of the most revealing comments Charles made in his interview with Ms Mayer “ended up on the cutting-room floor” under an agreement that he could review his quotes before publication. Oddly so did some utterly innocuous remarks. “Monarchy moves in mysterious ways,” the author noted.

The Charles presented in the book is driven to involve himself in national affairs because of the “guilty” privilege of his birth. Far from being eager for Queen Elizabeth to shuffle off the throne, he dreads the idea of the death of his parents and suffers at times from “profound despondency”.

Such psychological insights might help “move the dial” on the public’s perception of Charles. “I told them from the start that it was not my job to write a piece of puffery. I do highlight the interesting work that Charles does. I explain the very elaborate philosophy that he lives by, which is a driver for action and the good things he does.”

Just how revelatory is the book? Ingrid Seward, the royal author and editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said: “The picture of Charles is quite similar to the one [biographer] Penny Junor painted 30 years ago. The difference is the Palace response. They must feel Charles has been misrepresented in some way.”

Some have attacked the presumption of an American weighing in on the Royals. Ms Seward said: “The British are very possessive of the royal family. We can criticise them but we don’t like anyone else coming in to criticise them.”

Ms Mayer, married to Andy Gill, founder member of the Marxist Leeds post-punk band Gang of Four, said: “As people can tell from my accent I’ve lived in Europe and the UK longer than anywhere else. The idea that people have criticised me for being American is a funny one.”