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Saturday, 7 July, 2001, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Charles: Prince with passion
"All I do as Prince of Wales is make the most of it as I see it," Prince Charles once said.
Nevertheless, faced with this blank canvas of a career, Charles, a keen watercolours artist, can look back at 52 and feel he has contributed more than a few brush strokes.
Charles is filled with a sense of duty to his country. His lasting achievement has been to combine this upper-class conscience with causes close to his heart.
His views are often forthright, but Charles is no-one's puppet and this independence grants an insight into his character.
When it comes to spinning good news without fear of backlash, the Prince of Wales publicity machine can best rely on his work with young people.
Since the Prince's Trust was formed in 1976, 33,000 disadvantaged youngsters have been helped to start their own business.
The 100 most successful businesses supported by the Trust now collectively turnover £60m a year and employ more than 2,000 people.
The Prince's Trust projects Charles in the sort of benevolent light that Diana achieved so effortlessly with the causes she championed.
And since the backlash against perceived Royal impassiveness which followed Diana's death, he has strived to pursue a warmer public image, especially in his relationship with his two sons.
As well as supporting William in interviews and buying him a car for his birthday, he recently revealed how his sons tease him for his old-fashioned ways and admitted he tries to "pull their legs" in return.
His relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, to which there was considerable opposition at first, has gradually emerged into the spotlight in recent years.
Charles, who has fiercely protected Camilla throughout, has gently introduced her to the world in stages, taking care not to offend public sentiment.
And public perception of the romance has mellowed, as people see Charles and Camilla as two people evidently at ease with, and in love with, one another.
Prince Charles' tough standing on environmental issues ought to be just as populist.
He first argued for the benefits of organic farming long before it became a mass consumer issue; while his outspoken attacks on genetically modified crops reflect widespread public scepticism about the practice.
For his views, he has all too frequently been portrayed as a crank.
Charles is the future sovereign who talks to his plants, is not averse to hunting and likes taking long, solitary walks to ponder his thoughts.
He set up a charity, Duchy Originals, to sell organic food from his Highgrove farm.
But Charles' environmental principles are not stuck in farming and the countryside. He has been a high-profile supporter of urban regeneration projects.
His Urban Task Force, which works on regeneration projects throughout the world, is seen as one of his most effective initiatives.
However Charles has also been branded an arch conservative for his architectural opinions.
It was hugely influential, and while other major European states pushed ahead with radically modernist building programme, Britain played it safe with neo-Georgian design.
But his comment undoubtedly tapped into a seam of public sentiment. He impact has been to widen the debate so that 17 years on architecture is a mainstream subject of conversation, which regularly features in the national press.
Elsewhere, his efforts to shape Britain's urban landscape have been less assured.
His Institute of Architecture was reportedly so desperate to fill classrooms that it paid students to attend, while his "visionary" architecture magazine, Perspectives, folded in 1998.
Poundbury, the Prince's "model" architectural village in Dorset, has also struggled to establish the mixed housing and business development he aspires to.
Defender of faith
But any attempt to pigeonhole Charles as a narrow-minded conservative seeking some mythical Olde England ignores his liberal, progressive views on religion.
This demonstrated how whole-heartedly he has embraced multi-racial, multi-cultural Britain, and is a sign of how Charles hopes to unite the British people.
Although he personally subscribes to the faith he was born to, he has expressed broad interest in spirituality.
He has shown deep interest in religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.
Brave sentiments indeed, for a monarchy that has been plunged into identity crisis more than once in recent years. But whether Charles will ever get to be his kingdom's Defender of Faith remains to be seen.
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