Charles Charming's Challenges on the Pathway to the Throne
"Clive James has long been impressed with Prince Charles as a potential epic hero. Who else but the Heir to the Throne has been in the Army, Navy and Air Force, has studied at Gordonstoun and Timbertop, can fly aircraft, navigate ships, drive tanks, tell jokes and swim under ice? Who else has been a focus for the adoration of untold numbers of young women, yet had to set his face like flint against the blandishments of the unworthy?
"But time which changes everything has finally changed the life even of this paragon among men. The perfect bride was discovered, by a process of selection which this poem reveals exclusively for the first time. After undergoing the harsh ordeal by media she has now joined the Prince, to be always at his side. The biggest choice of his life has been made. But for Prince Charles have there ever been any real choices apart from this one? 2001 lines long, this poem is the one last light word before the seriousness begins. But even beneath its airy tone can be heard the firm tread of destiny. Charles Charming's Challenges is a tribute to a young man who was conscripted and yet trained himself to be a volunteer - the Prisoner in the Velvet Mask.
"With his three previous epic protagonists - Peregrine Prykke (in the Literary World), Felicity Fark (in the Land of the Media) and Britannia Bright (in the Wilderness of Westminster) - Clive James launched into a satirical world which Richard Boston, writing in the Guardian, has called 'a comic masterpiece'. Now in Charles Charming we have a hero truly epic, illustrated by the redoubtable Marc in a poem that is longer, funnier and even more compelling than its predecessors - and may be worth a King's ransom to all concerned."
Of Life and Love and Liberty I sing
And of the PRINCE 0F WALES our future King.
But Wales is not his last name. First things first.
At birth the boy was blessed, some might say cursed,
With the august surname Charming, family handle
Of Princes from Cockaigne to Coromandel,
Who all descend directly from a Greek
Ship-owning house of which I will not speak
Except to say that if you trace it back
To when the Persians sailed to the attack
At Salamis, you'll find the vivid sea
Signed with the honour of that dynasty
Who groomed their sons for marriage, not for slaughter,
And always steered towards the eldest daughter.
Suffice to note it was a Charming boy
Who wed ELIZABETH and brought her joy,
A fiery Greek with clean-cut Danish fair
Good looks, perhaps a wee bit short of hair.
His name was PHILIP. Proudly he now stood
Beside the crib and found the contents good -
A bright new flowering on a family tree
That went back to at least the Odyssey.
The KING and QUEEN had come to take a look
And leave a gift. It was a Ration Book,
For this was still the era of Austerity
When every luxury was still a rarity.
No wonder, then, news of the Royal Birth
Threw instantly a girdle round the Earth.
The fountains in Trafalgar Square ran blue.
The gutters in Calcutta did so too,
Or sort of blue. The Empire might and main
Strove to forget that it was on the wane.
From the Jonathan Cape hardback edition, 1981.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Clive James page.
Last modified: January 9, 2002.