In Season 3 of The Crown, Prince Charles is a young man happily attending Cambridge University in England when his mother coldly dispatches him to Wales to learn the language from a Welsh tutor named Edward Millward (this post will contain spoilers from the Season 3 episode on Millward).
Charles’ mother and British PM Harold Wilson want the young prince to be able to use the Welsh language in his investiture speech as Prince of Wales in a bid to stop a surge in Welsh nationalism. However, when Charles (played on Netflix by Josh O’Connor) arrives in Wales for the tutoring, he finds himself paired with an initially opposed Millward, a Welsh language professor and nationalist who wants self-determination for the Welsh people and nothing to do with Britain’s Prince.
The series shows Millward gradually taking a sincere liking to the earnest and friendless Prince, who takes his language lessons seriously and comes to see the struggles of the Welsh people as symbolic of his own isolation within the Royal Family, where his desires and interests (such as acting) are subjugated to the ruling authority of the Crown. However, is it true? Did Prince Charles really have a Welsh tutor named Edward Millward? Did he really anger his mother by slipping subversive language into his investiture speech?
Charles described the experience in real life in a documentary, according to Telegraph, which quotes him as saying, “Every day I had to go down to the town where I went to these lectures, and most days there seemed to be a demonstration going on against me. With a counter demonstration usually by splendid middle aged ladies who got out of a bus.”
Of Welsh, he added, “I did my utmost to learn as much as I could. But in a term it’s quite difficult, and I’m not as brilliant a linguist as I’d like to be.” Charles described the Welsh countryside as “magical.”
Yes, Edward Millward was real. Yes, Prince Charles was tutored in the Welsh language by him. Newspaper articles from the 1960s tell the real story. There were some embellishments in The Crown. For example, it’s not clear whether Millward ever invited Charles home for family dinners.
The Netflix show highlights Charles giving a speech that mentions support for the Welsh cause. You can read Charles’ actual speech here.
According to BBC, the Welsh Secretary did accuse the Prince of Wales of making speeches which “boosted Welsh nationalism.” He complained that Charles was talking about a “cultural and political awakening in Wales” that could be used by Welsh nationalists. He blamed Charles’ tutor, saying, “He was subjected to concentrated attention by Welsh Nationalists. His tutor, his neighbour in the next room, and the Principal were all dedicated Nationalists.” It’s not clear what the Queen said about it to Charles, though.
You can see photos of the real Millward here.
Here’s what you need to know:
Millward Was Assigned to Tutor Charles But the Welshman Made Comments Welcoming the Lessons Against a Backdrop of Security Tensions
Millward spoke to the Guardian about his Welsh lessons with Charles in 2015, saying, “By that point I was a well-known nationalist, so I was a little surprised when the university asked me if I would teach Welsh to Prince Charles, for a term, in 1969. This was ahead of his investiture as Prince of Wales in July.”
He added: “He had a one-on-one tutorial with me once a week. He was eager, and did a lot of talking. By the end, his accent was quite good. Toward the end of his term, he said good morning – ‘Bore da’ – to a woman at college; she turned to him and said: ‘I don’t speak Welsh!’ His presence caused a bit of a stir. Crowds would gather outside the college as he drove up in his sports car.”
An Associated Press story in the Daily Oklahoman reported on January 26, 1969 that Prince Charles was receiving “a crash course in the Welsh language.”
According to the AP, Edward Millward was quoted as saying, “There is a real possibility that he will emerge with a Welsh lilt.”
Millward was described as a “38-year-old Welsh language tutor” who was the man “who will put Charles through his paces.” Millward stated that he would keep “politics out of his language lessons” even though he was “a member of the home-rule-seeking Welsh Nationalist Party.”
The Prince was studying history at Cambridge University when he was sent to Wales, in real life just like the show. The article noted the difficulties of learning the Welsh language, which was described as a language “full of l’s and f’s and little in between.”
As the Netflix show reveals, the AP reported that “Charles will sit like the other language students in a small booth with headphones on and be fed Welsh on tape by Millward sitting at a control panel.”
The language lessons unfolded in a “90-year-old neo-Gothic building, on Aberystwyth seafront, which was built as a hotel then converted into a college.” Charles was to live in a men’s student hotel.
“I hope Charles will be able to move around and meet people,” Millward said. “If the security is too strict the whole purpose of his six-week visit here – to get to know about the Welsh – will be defeated.”
The article describes Millward as a Welsh Nationalist who condemned violent extremists to achieve those means and explained that Charles’ crash course also included Welsh affairs and history.
“A lot of people will be glad to see Charles here, and I’m hoping there won’t be any trouble,” said Millward.
Charles Was at Risk From Welsh Nationalists & Bombing Threats
If anything, the Netflix show downplays the dangerousness of the times. According to a May 16, 1969 article in the Calgary Herald, six weeks before Prince Charles was to have his investiture, bomb attacks caused concern for his safety.
Four days before Charles arrived to start studying at Aberystwyth University College, a suitcase containing an “extremely dangerous device” was found at the Queen Street Station, 75 miles southeast of that time. A 20 year old student from Cardiff was charged.
Five days after that a time-bomb “blasted the headquarters of Cardiff’s Central Electricity Generating Board.” In the three years before, there were 11 other bombings, according to the article.
The article labels Edward Millward as “Prince Charles’ Welsh language tutor” and vice president of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Party. But it says that he strongly condemned the bombings, saying, “One reads with dismay and disgust at this kind of thing. It gives our political opponents the chance to indulge in irrelevant political slanging.”
A June 1969 article in the Orlando Evening Star reported that Millward commented, “We have a tradition dating back to our earliest history in Wales called ‘Y Mab Darogan,’ the prophesied son who will come to save the nation.”
King Arthur was the first in the tradition, and next came Owain Glyndwr, “who led a 15th century rebellion against English rule.”
Millward stated that, in present times, that mantle fell to Plaid Cymru.
“The prince is not the prophesied son even though there is great affection for him. Everybody realizes that he will have no political power,” Millward said.
The comment came in an article by Reuters that reported that “Welsh nationalism is giving nightmares to British security agents working to make sure nothing mars the fairy tale atmosphere of the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.”
The queen had announced back in 1958 that Charles would be installed as Prince of Wales in Caernarvon’s 13th century castle.
The article stated that a bomb had been discovered “behind a monument built to mark the spot where Charles first set foot on Welsh soil in 1958.” There were accusations the Free Wales Army was planning to assassinate Charles at Caernarvon castle.
The newspaper also mentions Princess Anne, who is featured in the episode with Charles. It says that she stated, “I want a real career but I bet I don’t get one” and was described as an “uninhibited teenager who manages to be royal without being stuffy about it.” She was described as bright, imaginative, and independent-minded.