Why King Charles' Leaky Pen Moment Was So Significant, Says Tom Jennings - Exclusive

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022, Prince Charles became King Charles III. Since then, Charles has taken over the duties previously carried out by his mother, but his road to the crown has been far from smooth. In fact, on September 14, 2022, mere days into his new role, Charles wrestled with a leaky pen during a visit to Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland (via the BBC). For better or worse, a video clip of the new king getting angry about pen ink leaking over him went viral. Now, a new National Geographic documentary examines Charles' life to date, including everything from his marriage to Princess Diana to his rocky relationship with Prince Harry to his anger at that pen.

While working on "Charles: In His Own Words," executive producer Tom Jennings came to understand the depth of the media's obsession with the former Prince of Wales. "He has no normal life," Jennings told The List during our exclusive interview. "One of the main themes, if not the main theme [of the documentary], is his relationship with the media, how the media treats him, how he uses the media to his advantage."

During our conversation, Jennings further discussed King Charles III's relationship with the press, and in particular, how that moment with the leaky pen illustrates the scrutiny the royal has been under throughout his whole life.

King Charles can't escape the spotlight

Everything King Charles does is followed closely by people all over the world, which is exactly why executive producer Tom Jennings decided to start his new documentary "Charles: In His Own Words" with the now-infamous "leaky pen" moment. "We picked [the moment with the leaky pen] not because it's humorous — in a way it is, of course — but it showed that no matter what he does, no matter what he says, big or small, whether it's a pen or commenting about wars in the world or architecture, environment, it's more than noticed," Jennings told The List. "That particular moment blew up."

When Charles showed his frustration with a leaky pen, he was attending an official royal engagement just days after his mother's death. It's hard to imagine the pressure the royal must have been facing at that moment. But media interest in a seemingly innocent stationery mishap proved that Charles is constantly in demand. "No matter what he does, large or small, it's going to be noticed and amplified in ways that a normal human being would never have something in their lives amplified," Jennings explained. Basically, King Charles rarely leaves the news cycle. Even an innocuous moment with a faulty pen gets caught on camera and circulated for the world to see.

"Charles: In His Own Words" premieres on National Geographic on Friday, April 28, at 10:00 ET/9:00 CT. Stream the documentary on Hulu from Saturday, April 29, and on Disney+ from Friday, May 5.