10/24/2013 at 09:05 AM EDT
He's ready to serve, he's been wanting to serve, but when
will Britain's heir apparent serve?
That is the question that has dogged Prince Charles practically his entire 64 years. But now, with his mother, Queen Elizabeth, slowing down at 87 (yet with no intention of abdicating), and his son Prince William
and daughter-in-law, Kate
, keeping the spotlight on the monarchy blazing hot, Charles discusses the issue of succession and other personal matters in an exclusive new cover story for Time
Of his unique role in the world, Charles tells the magazine's Catherine Mayer, "I've had this extraordinary feeling, for years and years, ever since I can remember really, of wanting to heal and make things better. … I feel more than anything else it's my duty to worry about everybody and their lives in this country, to try to find a way of improving things if I possibly can."
Titled "The Forgotten Prince," no doubt in light of William and Prince Harry
's celebrity and even 3-month-old grandson Prince George
's swiftly rising star
, the article presents the royal as unsurprisingly staid, yet thoughtful, proactive and as delightfully proud of his sons and new grandson as any older relative would be.
"Much of what you think you know about the prince is wrong," writes Mayer, who describes him as, contrary to popular belief, "not itching to ascend the throne, but impatient to get as much done as possible before, in the words of one member of his household, 'the prison shades' close" – which will force him to ease up on the work he loves, tending to his charities, initiatives and causes.
His concerns have been, and primarily remain, what's ahead for the planet, "everything from climate change to community architecture, integrated medicine to interfaith relations," writes Mayer, noting that Charles describes the earth as "this miraculous entity floating around in space that is linked with the extraordinary harmony of the universe."
Yet, personalizing his perspective, Charles sums up how he frets about the future by pointing to one person in particular: his new grandson.
George, says the prince, is "what this is all about."
The story also acknowledges the public-relations disaster that was Charles's marital breakup with Princess Diana, as well as notes that Britons are no longer upset with his second wife, Camilla. It further reports that the prince has found happiness late in life with his "wonderful wife" (Charles's words) and "thriving sons and baby grandson" (Time
Finally, about that decade-old rumor that the crown shall skip over Charles and pass directly on to the head of William, it is suggested that Charles's old-fashioned conservation instinct would have him leaving the order of succession just as it is.
"If you chuck away too many things," he tells Time
, "you end up discovering there was value in them."