November 6, 2014
What’s being left out of the US edition of the new Prince Charles biography?
by Sal Robinson
Charles, Prince of Wales, is not a man whose inner depths inspire great speculation. If you opened up the top of that extremely long head, the odds are good that inside you’d find a rind of old cheese, some rancor, and the memory of an extremely large prize-winning pig he saw at a fair in 1994. And books, as we know, are all about inner depths. Therefore, it seems unnecessary to write a book about Prince Charles, but someone has done it anyway.
Inner depths be damned, says Catherine Mayer, a journalist and previously author of Amortality: The Pleasure and Perils of Living Agelessly. There is a story here and it will be told. But not to all of us in the same way.
Because, as Publishers Weekly reported today, Mayer’s biography of Charles, Born To Be King: Prince Charles on Planet Windsor, will be shorter in its US edition, which will be published by Henry Holt, than in the UK, where it’ll be published by WH Allen.
Which raises the burning question: What has Holt seen fit to take out and why? It can’t be a legal issue. It’s easier to win a libel case in the UK than it is in the US (which is why the British are famously ready to cry “libel” at the drop of a corgi) so it seems unlikely that the material that’s been cut in the American edition is particularly revelatory or scandalous—say, the secret history of Charles’s days in disguise as a Panamanian prize-fighter or dishy details on his obsession with the insteps of women named Eustace.
Given the tone of this book, which you can get a sense of from Mayer’s 2013 Time profile of Charles (memorable lines: “Who knew the secret of how he stays awake during speeches? Or what he’s like on the dance floor?”; only reasonable response: I don’t know, and I don’t care), I can only assume that the Holt editorial staff have, in their infinite wisdom, excised passages that are simply way too boring for the average American reader.
But we at MobyLives believe in freedom of speech and the unvarnished truth. If it was 1928, we would have published Lady Chatterley’s Lover with all the naughty parts left in and probably some added for good measure. And we would have given it to your mother. So, in that spirit, stolen from the desk of a WH Allen editor who was actually put to sleep by the contents of Chapter 3 of Born To Be King, “Just a Lad: School Days,” here is an exclusive peek at all that American audiences will be missing come February 2015.
- An illustrated essay on biscuits and where they come from, in which Charles takes Mayer on a tour of the Duchy Original biscuit-making facilities and shares the fruits of his decades of thinking about oaten cakes. It’s been a long road. The Telegraph once reported that:
“For the oaten biscuit, he sampled over 100 different products before agreeing on the right combination of crumbly and buttery, savoury but sweet. “He works much harder than most people realise,” explains Walker [joint managing director of Walkers Shortbread]. “At the start he ate a lot of biscuits.””
- A manifesto on architecture, except “manifesto” isn’t really the right word, because it’s a 47- page lament for the lost art of thatching with a nasty dig at Zaha Hadid at the end.
- A long interlude about fly-fishing. A really, really long interlude. Charles is basically standing in a river staring at a rock for most of it. Jesus, how did Mayer write this? She has to come up with seven or eight different ways to describe water flowing over a rock. She is a National Hero.
Sal Robinson is a former Melville House editor. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.