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”.
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
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.