Charles, The Alternative Prince: An Unauthorised Biography by Edzard Ernst

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Charles, The Alternative Prince: An Unauthorised Biography by Edzard Ernst

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Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An evidence-based examination of Prince Charles' support for alternative medicine. It's readable and very thought-provoking.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 210 Date: February 2022
Publisher: Societas
ISBN: 978-1788360708

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For over forty years, Prince Charles has been an ardent supporter of alternative medicine and complementary therapies. Charles, The Alternative Prince critically assesses the Prince's opinions, beliefs and aims against the background of the scientific evidence. There are few instances of his beliefs being vindicated and his relentless promotion of treatments which have no scientific support has done considerable damage to the reputation of a man who is proud of his refusal to apply evidence-based, logical reasoning to his ambitions.

Over time, I have come to believe that Prince Charles is full of goodwill and there are areas where he has had considerable success such as the Prince's Trust, which has helped many young people into employment. I've always thought that some of the Prince's ideas were outlandish but there have been occasions - such as his championing of organic farming - when he's been proved to be ahead of the curve. Then, in 2015, I read Edzard Ernst's A Scientist in Wonderland: A Memoir of Searching for Truth and Finding Trouble and began to wonder if some of the heir to the throne's beliefs and causes were rather more than 'outlandish' but the chapters which related to Charles were a relatively small part of the book. I wanted to know more and now Ernst has obliged.

It's worth making clear that there is no love lost between Professor Ernst and Prince Charles but Ernst is adamant that he does not want his 'personal discord' to get in the way of objectivity, to be dismissive of Charles and his ambitions, to disrespect anyone's deeply-held convictions or to weaken the standing of the royal family. He aims to examine Charles' support for alternative medicine, to examine the thinking, motivation and logic of supporters of alternative medicine, compare the published evidence with the Prince's beliefs and encourage people to think critically about the subject.

Ernst looks at the different treatments which Charles has supported (I counted seventeen in total) and for each one looks at Charles' aims, the scientific evidence and the consequences of his actions. The subject is approached with academic thoroughness (you'll find all the relevant citations) and there's an excellent glossary but Ernst is a skilled communicator and there's none of the dryness which you might expect from such a book. I read it in two sittings which would have been enjoyable if it were not for the fact that there are people who will place their faith in what the heir to the throne says. Ernst says that Charles is entitled to hold whatever views he wishes but he is wrong to give them public support when they are not based on scientific evidence or logical reasoning. He has said that he will not continue the support when he becomes king but it's undeniably sad that we will only be relieved of the problem by the Queen's death.

We're not against natural remdies at Bookbag Towers: we loved The Wilderness Cure by Mo Wilde.

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