As the heir to the throne, there are few opportunities for the Prince of Wales to indulge in a little rebellion. But it appears he may have embraced his mischievous side at the age of 11 when, he told nurses, he dabbled in smoking.
The Prince told a group of respiratory nurses he had "tried a few cigarettes behind a chicken coop" as a youngster, reassuring them it had been the end of his smoking career. His comments were made during an event to celebrate the work of nurses at Clarence House. Paul Watson, a 39-year-old teacher and respiratory nurse from Peterborough who attended the event, said: "There was a few of us that are respiratory nurses, and he asked whether we deal with a lot of smokers.
"He said: 'I gave up at 11 when I had a few cigarettes behind a chicken coop'. I believe it was tongue in cheek.'' The Prince has previously told schoolchildren about his brief habit. Speaking in 1999 to a group of Slovenian pupils, he advised them: "The good thing is to give them up when you are young." The 11-year-old Prince Charles attended Cheam Preparatory School in Berkshire, before moving to Gordonstoun in the north-east of Scotland. The Prince also used yesterday's (Wednesday's) event to hail the dedication and hard work of nurses, saying they give "exceptional care" to patients. Writing in the Nursing Times ahead of the reception at Clarence House, for nominees and winners of the magazine's annual awards, he said he believed nurses' care and kindness were "vital", and stressed the importance of a holistic approach to those who are sick.
The Prince, who is patron of more than 30 health care organisations, said his visits to hospitals over the past 40 years had shown him just how pivotal a role nurses play. He wrote: "In all these instances, together with many others, it was clear to me just how important the emotional connection between patients and skilled, hardworking nurses actually was. "Quite apart from the medical expertise that nursing staff provide, the reassurance and simple human kindness that they can also dispense is, I believe, vital and must surely impact positively on the recovery of individuals.
"Human kindness, reassurance and sympathy are age-old qualities, yet they are as important today as they have ever been." He said a holistic approach - treating the whole person, rather than just the symptoms of disease - was vital. "When this is combined with the best of conventional medicine, and adopted by the whole health care team, with scrupulous attention to every aspect of the patient's personal, medical and nursing needs, great progress can be made."