Prince Charles shares childhood memory of his 'splendid' mentor at Buckingham Palace

Prince Charles and Princess Anne learned a lot from this very special royal employee

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, is seen during the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering at Buckingham Palace on December 03, 2019 in London, England
(Image credit: Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prince Charles has opened up about his childhood mentor at Buckingham Palace, and how their advice has continued to affect him to this day. 


The Prince of Wales has opened up about how one of the Queen's chief employees helped him find his passion for one of his lifelong pastimes—gardening. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, the heir to the British throne revealed that he and Princess Anne loved to experiment with horticulture in their youth—even when their green-fingered endeavors didn't go entirely to plan. 

"My sister and I had a little vegetable patch in the back of some border somewhere,” he told host Simon Armitage on The Poet Laureate has gone to his shed. “We had great fun trying to grow tomatoes rather unsuccessfully, and things like that.” 

Fortunately for the novice fruit farmers, they had some expert help on hand to lend some advice. The Queen's children were supervised by a 'splendid' royal staff member—with a fitting name—who offered them guidance and inspiration when things got a little prickly. 

23rd April 1954: Princess Anne and Prince Charles sitting on a picnic rug in the grounds of the Royal Lodge at Windsor. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)

Princess Anne and Prince Charles loved spending time in the garden as children 

(Image credit: 23rd April 1954: Princess Anne and Prince Charles sitting on a picnic rug in the grounds of the Royal Lodge at Windsor. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images))

"There was a wonderful head gardener at Buckingham Palace, he was called Mr. Nutbeam, rather splendidly," Charles added. “He was splendid, and helped us a bit, my sister and I, with the little garden we had.” 

This beloved mentor was Sussex native Fred Nutbeam, and, just as the Prince said, he held an important position at the Queen's headquarters during his tenure. According to renowned royal gardener Jim Buttress, the talented horticulturist was "devoted" to Her Majesty, always going above and beyond to ensure her wishes were met. 

"They were thick as thieves," he wrote in his 2016 book, The People's Gardener. "Anything she wanted, Fred would get." 

Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Princess Anne, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles with a wheelbarrow in the gardens of Windsor Royal Lodge in 1954 

(Image credit: by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images))

Mr. Nutbeam, who worked tirelessly for the Queen from the 1950s until the late '70s, also kept her four children entertained when he wasn't busy teaching them the basics of gardening. "Fred told me he used to push Charlie, Anne, Andrew, and Edward around in the wheelbarrow when they weren't at school!" Buttress added. 

Mr. Nutbeam died in 1997, but his words of wisdom have stuck with Charles to this day. The future King has long been an avid supporter of sustainable food production, regularly encouraging the British public to adopt a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Prince Charles was even labeled ‘ahead of his time’ after giving an emotive speech last month, in which he lamented his country's diminishing nature and urged industries to prioritize nature over profit. 

LONDON - JULY 17: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are presented with vegetables from the allotment as they visit the 'Dig for Victory' organic allotment in St James' Park on July 17, 2008 in London, England. The Duchess of Cornwall was celebrating her 61st Birthday. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla are presented with vegetables from an organic allotment in London 

(Image credit: LONDON - JULY 17: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are presented with vegetables from the allotment as they visit the 'Dig for Victory' organic allotment in St James' Park on July 17, 2008 in London, England. The Duchess of Cornwall was celebrating her 61st Birthday. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty)

He and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, also run their own organic farm at Highgrove House, where they cultivate a wide range of products using biodynamic agricultural methods. 

"There’s nothing to beat, is there, I think, eating what you have grown?” Charles said.

“This is another reason why I always feel it is so important to find ways of encouraging children to grow vegetables and things at school.”

Emma Dooney
Emma Dooney

Emma is a news writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life. She covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health or lifestyle story. When she's not reporting on the British monarchy and A-list celebs, you can find her whipping up vegan treats and running the roads to cheesy '90s pop music...but not at the same time, obviously.