Charming, Approachable And A Great Dancer: From Naomi Campbell To Joan Collins, Friends Of Vogue On The Real King Charles III
by Vogue, May 3, 2023
Photography by Nick Knight
Ahead of the Coronation, designers, supermodels, activists and public figures share their personal recollections of the new monarch, and their hopes for his reign.
“Approachable” is how I would describe His Majesty King Charles III. We first met at the then Rothschild family home, Waddesdon Manor, for Donatella Versace’s It’s Fashion charity gala, in 2001, and since then our paths have crossed a few times. Meeting him in Lagos was a highlight. I remember him being at his most charming there. I have respect for the fact that he cares to visit Africa and is passionate about what is happening on the continent. I give people credit when they get up and take action – go to places and see with their own eyes. That’s what he did. So, I think he understands the importance of what the African continent is, and will be, in the future, and how important it is to include the continent on the global stage. I wish him a great reign and all the success.
King Charles has a gentle side that is very precious and rare for a man in his position. I know, personally, that we share a great love of nature and biodiversity, wild flowers and gardens. He is also a true leader, not only for our country but for our planet. From all the work that he has done with the Terra Carta to his presence at the G7, King Charles has not only been at the forefront of the climate conversation, but has used the incredible position he was born into to make impactful change – both in global politics and economics. When I was privileged enough to join him in signing the Terra Carta at Clarence House in 2021, I felt like I was part of something truly historic. These moments are so rare, when you experience being part of a greater cause, which unites the worlds of business, politics and all the people of Mother Earth. It was one of the true honours of my life.
Humour is a big part of my relationship with King Charles. We’ve known each other for years – I even make suits for his sons – and he always makes me laugh. But there’s a more thoughtful side too. He’s also always responsive and open to listen, which I think is really important. His Majesty is definitely demonstrating a new way of thinking, through his philanthropy. The definition of what the monarchy represents needs to evolve and the language associated with the Commonwealth, as it stands, needs to change. We’re in a new world and in a Britain that is multicultural, multifaceted. There’s an openness to look to the future – I believe that he will embrace that.
Datuk Jimmy Choo
I am forever grateful to King Charles. In 1986, one of his initiatives (now The Prince’s Trust) gave me £40 per week to help me to launch my label, Jimmy Choo. I remember thinking that I couldn’t disappoint Prince Charles! The money gave me the encouragement to believe in myself and work incredibly hard to achieve my dreams. Years later, I was able to thank His Majesty when I had the pleasure of meeting him in Kuala Lumpur. He was (and is) so kind and down to Earth, taking time to chat to everyone and make them feel comfortable. His sense of duty, generosity and deep appreciation for the value of the younger generation will give reassurance to all of us throughout his reign.
Historically, I have been dubious of the monarchy, and I wouldn’t consider myself to be a royalist at all, but I think the Coronation is a real opportunity for King Charles to speak to a new generation and to hopefully change the trajectory of intolerance in this country. We’ve seen it from him in other instances, such as with his approach to Islam – he’s got a much more inclusive stance on Islam than the actual government. Hopefully that’s not just a selective interest in certain communities but a general interest in moving the consciousness of the country forward into a mindset that actually includes all people. What I would love to see is much more acknowledgement of the adversities that the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community, are facing right now. Traditionally, the monarchy steers away from standing on one particular side, and I think that, in the world that we’re in right now, no one can afford to sit on the fence when it comes to social issues such as racism, transphobia and homophobia.
My parents were great friends of the late King and Queen Mother, and Prince Charles used to stay a lot at Holkham, my family home, as a boy. He was so charming and sweet. We would make pottery together. My mother taught him to drive and my father taught him how to fish for eels. When my parents went to cook them, I always remember Charles saying that he found it awful when the eel started to jump out of the frying pan. But, because he’s so polite, he thought that he must eat a little bit because my father had been so kind to him. He’ll be a wonderful King. Just look at all he has done for the environment and young people. He’s very compassionate and cares about things very much. And you can see people really enjoy talking to him. It bodes very well, I think.
Richard E Grant
I’ve known King Charles for a quarter of a century. Having stayed at both Sandringham and Highgrove House, I’ve got to know the private man and seen, first hand, how much he cares about everything: the countryside, the environment, the arts and music. His Majesty’s approach to the countryside is hands-on. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and a passion for preserving age-old traditions, such as willow hurdles and maintaining hedgerows, in tandem with his determination to farm organically, which he was pursuing decades before it became fashionable. Likewise, his musical tastes are broad and eclectic, ranging from classical to Barbra Streisand. His profound compassion was perfectly expressed when he asked to visit my wife, a few weeks before she died in 2021. He arrived at our cottage with roses from his garden and mangoes, knowing they were her favourite fruit. He sat beside her and talked philosophically about life and death, with enormous sensitivity and humour. It lifted our spirits immeasurably.
Like millions of others around the UK, I inherited my sense of patriotism from my parents. Even though they were not born here, they always held deep affection for the Royal Family, and when I became a member of the Privy Council my mother almost burst with pride. King Charles has lived a life of service. His Majesty’s tireless work with The Prince’s Trust as well as his unwavering commitment to protecting the natural world have helped inspire many of us to support conservation initiatives and live more sustainable lives.
I admired King Charles’s concern for the environment long before he became King. I first met him when I became a Dame in 2003. Afterwards, I sent him my book on primate research, In The Shadow of Man, and he invited me to visit his farm at Highgrove – though I couldn’t attend. I am delighted that our monarch is passionate about climate change. I wish him a long, successful reign.
His Majesty King Charles has always been charming, with a wonderful voice and a dry, dry sense of humour. I met him for the first time at the charity ball that Armand Hammer gave in Palm Beach, Miami, in the 1980s, when he was the Prince of Wales and first married to Princess Diana. We had a little dance together, which was very nice. He’s quite a good dancer! And he wrote very flattering words about it in his book.
Another time, in the 2000s, we sat together at the Safeway Picnic concert in aid of The Prince’s Trust, where Diana Ross and Shirley Bassey performed, of whom he’s a great enthusiast. He loves modern music and was jiving along. He said he hoped Ross would sing his favourite song, “Baby Baby”.
I was a teenager during the late Queen’s Coronation. I had a bunch of friends with me and we all went galloping to Oxford Street to catch a glimpse of the Queen’s coach. It was so fabulous because it was bright gold going through the shabby old torn streets of London, only five or six years after the war had ended, with bomb sites everywhere. Those were cold, dark days in Britain still, so it was incredibly exciting. Everybody felt that they were at the dawn of a new, young, renaissance world.
I think King Charles will be a very good leader. He’s learnt great instincts from his wonderful mother. The Queen was supremely loved, so she’s a hard act to follow, as they say in showbiz, but he will be able to climb that mountain, I am sure.
Perhaps my most vivid memory of my almost-10 years working for the King, then the Prince of Wales, [as his communications secretary] was a remarkable trip I took with him to Afghanistan in 2010. Throughout the two-and-a-half days we spent in the country, he was never once bothered by the security risk or the obvious dangers involved in travelling around what was still a very active combat zone; more than anything, he just wanted to meet soldiers and learn about their experiences at the sharp end of military service.
At one point, when we were visiting troops in Helmand province, our helicopter flight back to Kabul was delayed by a couple of hours due to technical difficulties. While people around us were worrying over how to get Prince Charles out of there, he just said, “Let’s go and have a cup of tea with the boys.” So we sat around drinking tea, eating biscuits and listening to stories of life on the front lines, amid plenty of banter and laughter. He was just so at ease with the troops, and them with him.
On the same trip, we met Afghan craftsmen and women at a charity project in downtown Kabul, and again the King sat down to share tea with them and to hear about their lives and their hopes for the future. As with the soldiers, he was able to relate to them in a way that many observers would have believed impossible, given the vast difference in their upbringings and lives. That’s the thing about the King – he just “gets” people in a way that you would never expect.
King Charles refers to me as his favourite director. It’s something that always tickles me. We’ve met a few times, in connection with the British Asian Trust, of which he is patron. When I made my film Viceroy’s House on his uncle Lord Mountbatten and the last months of British rule in India, it was His Majesty who suggested I read The Shadow of the Great Game by Narendra Singh Sarila. It got me to look at the partition and independence of India from a new light. The King’s greatest quality is that he has his own, firmly held, progressive opinions on culture, race and the future of a diverse country. I only hope he will be allowed to share them as he would like.
I had so much admiration for the Queen, and I don’t think King Charles will disappoint. I love his values on sustainability, the environment. It’s a new era in Britain: one to look forward to and that brings hope.
I have always been inspired by the heritage, traditions and culture of Britain and the historic relationship our two countries have shared. To have had the honorary KBE presented to me personally by His Majesty King Charles III, then the Prince of Wales, at Buckingham Palace, was an honour I humbly accepted and will never forget. The Coronation will be an inspiring moment as the world watches the traditions of the United Kingdom continue.
I’ve just finished writing my second book with King Charles. We’ve been working on simple Ladybird guides to climate change together. They’re short but you’d be surprised by the amount of effort they take to write – and he’s such a hard worker. Many people, by his age, would be long since retired and he just continues to be so committed. Recently, I met with His Majesty at Clarence House and took with me some icicle examples from Antarctica, in a frozen canister. We use them to recover bubbles of ancient air that can prove there’s been a long-term change in climate. He was fascinated, and knowledgeable, on a different level to the interactions I would expect to have with people outside of the scientific community. As a climate scientist, I’ve spent all my career trying to warn people of the scale of the threat of global heating. It can be really frustrating when it feels as though those warnings haven’t been heard by world leaders. King Charles has listened in a way that many others have not. I expect he’ll continue to be a leader on the issue.
I chair the Sustainable Markets Initiative Fashion Task Force, founded by King Charles. His pioneering vision has united the world’s leading luxury labels in an unprecedented alliance to join forces for an urgent cause: the planet.
Both the King and I share a mantra of “buy better buy less”. When we initially met five years ago, we spoke of his shoes, and we quite literally found a common thread. He told me his footwear was probably about twenty years old, and I own a pair of shoes I still wear ten years on. His style combines the longevity of his clothes with quality craftsmanship and underlines the need for less waste. This is a true sustainable manifesto to live by.
I had the honour of meeting King Charles during a visit to London, and it was truly a pleasure to be in his presence. His long-term commitment to promoting culture, education, and sustainable development is an inspiration, and his dedication to public service is a model for us all. His Coronation is a momentous occasion and I wish him all the best as he takes on this new role.
King Charles has such insight into the importance of creating contemporary design around traditional craft, in order for these skills to continue and for these vital heritage traditions, so often linked to a sense of identity and pride, to have a place in the fashion market. He has always supported and pushed for this with the arts charity Turquoise Mountain. I am so proud to have worked with them since 2008.
I have only had the pleasure of meeting him three times but was astounded by the keen interest he took in the materials, makers, designs and origins. His eyes seemed to light up on spotting a new design. He was keen to know where the collections were being sold and how they were being received. At his 2018 Prince & Patron show at Buckingham Palace he pointed out an ancient emerald piece that was part of the royal collection and said that he’d always been fascinated by it as a child, as we discussed the emerald piece we had recently made in Kabul. Like him, I studied anthropology and that interest in people and cultures seems deeply alive in him.
Originally published in Vogue