Prince Charming: The young, free and single Charles

Prince Charming: The young, free and single Charles

HE MIGHT not recognise the description of his youthful self as ‘buff’ but at the time Charles was the world’s most eligible bachelor

01 Prince Charming The young free and single CharlesWhen he was young, Prince Charles was considered as the world’s most eligible bachelor [REX]
To Prince Charles buff is the colour of those envelopes they stuff official letters in. It reminds him of the porridge they serve up at Balmoral. So his bafflement at hearing the description applied to himself was rather endearing, as was his son’s reassuring, “Pa, you should be pleased!” At 65 and officially a pensioner Prince Charles still has a trim waistline but there is no denying the thinning hair and deepening wrinkles. If there was ever a time when he was considered a pin-up those days are long gone.Fortunately there are archives bursting with evidence to remind everyone that in his youth the Prince of Wales was indeed a fine figure of a man. Obviously the prefix “prince” in front of one’s name is like catnip where women are concerned but credit where it’s due: Charles’s lean, athletic form was all his own work.And unlike Prince William, who chose to wear a wetsuit at the ceremony to mark him taking over his father’s presidency of the British Sub Aqua Club and has never knowingly stripped off in public, Prince Charles was never shy of peeling off his shirt and showing a hairy chest and toned pecs.

During his 20s his relentless daredevilry, which included parachuting, along with hours spent in the saddle playing polo or galloping with the hunt, honed his physique and earned him the nickname Action Man. Judging by the parade of beautiful women he squired (officially or not) Casanova would have done almost as well.

Some of the female attention was a stunt. It was no coincidence that when model Jane Priest pounced on the Prince as he emerged from the Australian surf in 1979 it was right in front of a handy bunch of photographers. Or that his spirited samba with a troupe of scantily clad lovelies in Brazil in 1978 made the TV news at home.

On Charles’s official visit to the US in 1970 it became embarrassingly clear that President Richard Nixon was trying to pair him off with his daughter Tricia, who was 24 to his 21.

According to royal biographer Anthony Holden: “Seating plans constantly had Charles and Tricia side by side while the programme had them spending all of each day together, even to being left alone with each other in various parts of the White House.”

Any matchmaking hopes were doomed, however, because Charles was “distinctly annoyed” and found Tricia “plastic and artificial”.

02 Prince Charming The young free and single CharlesCharles dated Sabrina Guinness in 1979 [GETTY]
His genuine liaisons were conducted discreetly but even so the sheer number that became public knowledge still astounds.
His first girlfriend is generally acknowledged to have been Lucia Santa Cruz when he was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. The daughter of the Chilean ambassador she was research assistant to Rab Butler, the master of the college who gave Charles his own key to the Master’s Lodge.As Butler’s wife Mollie put it, Charles “cut his teeth” on Lucia. Their relationship lasted from 1968 to 1970 but they remained friends and Lucia was invited to his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles.For the next decade Charles had relationships of varying lengths and seriousness with at least two dozen women. Every week another name would surface as the new royal girlfriend followed by the inevitable analysis of the woman as a potential royal bride.

But if the Prince was searching for a suitable woman to marry he did not always look in the right places.

Mostly he courted girls from titled families or the higher echelons of the upper classes

Actress Susan George and Three Degrees singer Sheila Ferguson were among his flirtations. Both have spoken warmly of Charles without ever defining the nature of their friendships with him.When serving on HMS Bonnington with the Royal Navy, Charles dated Janet Jenkins, a receptionist at the British consulate in Montreal.She was his secret lover and confidante throughout the 1970s and allegedly even met up with him after he had married Diana. In 2009 six letters the Prince wrote to Janet were sold on eBay for £20,000.They included a note suggesting a romantic tryst (“I would have thought your apartment is the quietest place.”) In another he apologises for “ruining a gloriously cosy evening” by rushing off.

Before Janet, Charles had romanced Laura Jo Watkins, the daughter of a US admiral, whom he had met when his ship HMS Jupiter called at San Diego.The admiral was unable to make it to the welcome party and sent his daughter instead. A beautiful California blonde Laura Jo went on several dates with Charles and wrote to him afterwards but as a Roman Catholic she could never be a serious contender.Mostly he courted girls from titled families or the higher echelons of the upper classes. They included Sibylla Dorman, daughter of the governor of Malta, Lady Jane Grosvenor, daughter of the Duke of Westminster, Lady Camilla Fane, daughter of the Earl of Westmorland who was the Queen’s master of the horse.

Then there was the Duke of Grafton’s daughter Lady Henrietta Fitzroy, whose mother was the Queen’s mistress of the robes, Lady Angela Nevill whose father was private secretary to Prince Philip and Lady Sarah Spencer, daughter of former equerry Earl Spencer and sister of Diana.

Even the career women had blue blood. Documentary maker Cindy Buxton was the daughter of Lord Buxton of Alsa, founder of Anglia TV, while Jane Wellesley, a BBC press officer who later formed her own production company, was the Duke of Wellington’s offspring.

03 Prince Charming The young free and single CharlesCharles with Tricia Nixon daughter of the US President, attending an event at RFK stadium [GETTY]