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Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears No Crown Too: What Will Prince Charles Do with Himself?

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It’s you!” gasped the startled Welsh traveler as she passed a clutch of VIPs in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. “My God, it’s you!” The young man grinned in acknowledgment. “Having nice weather?” he asked. “Hope they’re not overcharging you!” His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was paying his first visit to a Communist country, and the trip was a lot like any tour—mostly trotting alongside official guides, admiring manmade marvels and natural beauties and trying to be civil.

As always, Prince Charles performed with grace. When a small British child on holiday suddenly bit his hand, he politely told the mortified mother, “You’ve got her well trained.” At his official luncheon with Marshal Tito, 86, matters got off to a shaky start when the prince turned down a proffered cigar. (“I gave up smoking at school,” he explained.) A warming trend was evident as the six-course meal progressed, however, and by the bombe surprise and champagne, monarchy’s pup had impressed the gruff old dictator with his self-possession and knowledge of foreign affairs.

As traveling salesman for England and Queen Elizabeth II, the personable prince is superb. That is just as well, considering there are few other occupations open to him now that he has completed his basic training as king-in-limbo. After graduating from Trinity College, where he was a C-plus student but the first member of the royal family to earn a degree, Charles served nearly six years in the RAF and the Royal Navy. He also performed with distinction as chairman of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal. Now he must take his place on the sidelines. Since Elizabeth at 52 seems in robust health and shows little disposition to abdicate, his wait may be a long one indeed. (Whatever the strains, mother and son are quite close and often breakfast together at Buckingham Palace.)

Prince Charlie is no longer a bonnie lad. The heir apparent turns 30 this week—an excellent age, he once said, for a man to take a wife. “I’ve fallen in love with lots of girls,” he admits, but shows no sign of settling for one. The current Fleet Street speculation is that he will marry either Princess Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg or Princess Nora of Liechtenstein. Since Marie-Astrid is no more than a nodding acquaintance and both young women are Roman Catholics—a sticky wicket for the defender of the Anglican faith—the conjecture seems improbable. At Cambridge recently, Charles fielded the inevitable marriage question after a student asked him mischievously, “To what do you attribute your incredible success with women?”

“I do not know how the idea got about that I have any,” replied His Highness gravely. “My constant battle is to escape. I often think my best way out is to announce my engagement to someone called Gladys Thrumm, and when all the wedding presents arrive I would call it off and then carry on meeting all types of people.” Until the real Gladys Thrumm comes along, Charles will doubtless carry on as the most eligible royal bachelor in the world.