Few authors have ventured as deeply into the lives of the British royal family as Sally Bedell Smith. Drawn to writing comprehensive profiles as a former reporter for The New York Times, the bestselling author and historian wrote her first biography on CBS founder Bill Paley, before moving on to other notable figures including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth II. She also worked as a consultant to British film writer Peter Morgan on his play, The Audience, which led to his hit Netflix series, The Crown. Smith will discuss her latest book, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, at the Archangel Fund’s Art of Giving luncheon on January 31 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.
NI: What drew you to write about British royalty?
Bedell Smith: Two days after the death of Princess Diana, I got a call from Random House asking if I’d like to write a biography about her. I arrived in London the day before her funeral and watched the procession from the third-floor window of a building across from Westminster Abbey. After, I moved on to the Kennedy White House and the Clinton White House before I was asked if I’d like to write about the queen preceding her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. It took me about half a second to agree.
NI: What made you want to take on Prince Charles as your next subject?
Bedell Smith: He seemed a logical choice after his mother and, for a biographer, the more complicated and compelling the character, the better. There’s a stereotype about him that was fueled during his turbulent marriage to Diana, so I take a closer look at him. He’s human; he has faults and he has made mistakes, but I put it all in perspective to see what the future king is all about and what sort of king he may be. What were you most surprised to learn about him? The extent of his impact around the world through his various philanthropies. Nearly a million young people have been helped by him, from underprivileged youths in the UK to as far away as Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.