HRH The Prince of Wales - A life at 70

**This was written two months ago to commemorate the Prince of Wales's birthday, though just now being published today**

November 14, 2018 was the 70th birthday of Charles, Prince of Wales.

The prince was born on 14 November 1948 at Buckingham Palace, the first child of the Duke of Edinburgh and The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, and the first grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. He was named Charles Philip Arthur George, and was baptized at Buckingham Palace – his godparents were his grandfather, King George VI; his great-grandmother, Queen Mary; his other great-grandmother, Victoria, Marchioness of Milford-Haven; his aunt, Princess Margaret; King Haakon VII of Norway (his great-great-uncle, husband of his mother’s great-aunt, Maud of Wales); Prince George of Greece (his great-uncle, brother of his late grandfather Prince Andrew of Greece); Patricia Knatchbull, Lady Bradbourne (his father’s cousin); and David Bowes-Lyon (his great-uncle, brother of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth).

Known from birth as His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh, his early years were spent at Clarence House (currently his official residence), down the Mall from Buckingham Palace. His sister, Princess Anne, was born two years later, and his brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, arrived when Charles was already a teenager. In 1952, when Charles was almost four, his grandfather King George VI died and his mother succeeded as Queen Elizabeth II. From the moment his mother became queen, Charles, as heir to the British throne, received the title Duke of Cornwall. His mother created him as Prince of Wales in 1958 (the title is not automatically inherited and can only be received at the monarch's pleasure).

Prince Charles was the first ever British heir to be educated away from home. At his father’s insistence, he attended school in order to learn about life outside of the palace. He first attended Hill School in London, and followed in his father’s footsteps to Cheam Preparatory School and then Gordonstoun in Scotland. Prince Charles later admitted publicly that he despised his time at Gordonstoun. Upon completing his education in 1967, he enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, and received a Bachelor’s degree and later a Master’s, becoming the first heir to receive a university degree.

In 1971, he enlisted in the British Royal Navy, echoing the naval tradition set down by numerous relatives – including his father; his grandfather, King George VI; and three of his great-grandfathers – King George V, King George I of Greece, and Prince Louis of Battenberg. He also served in the British Royal Air Force.
In July 1969, a special televised ceremony was held at Caernarfon Castle in Wales to formally invest Charles as Prince of Wales (though he had officially held the title since 1958).

As the eldest son of the British monarch, Charles’s romantic life attracted widespread interest from the international media. The press frequently speculated on potential romances, including linking him with women such as his cousin, Amanda Knatchbull, granddaughter of Charles’s great-uncle and mentor, Lord Louis Mountbatten; Lady Sarah Spencer, daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer; and Camilla Shand. His relationship with Camilla Shand proved to be the most significant one of his life. However, she married Andrew Parker-Bowles in 1973 but would eventually become his long-standing mistress. The press mistakenly linked him to foreign princesses, including his cousin, Princess Frederica of Hanover (a niece of the Duke of Edinburgh), and Princess Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg, with whom a marriage would not have been legally possible on account of her being a Catholic.

In 1979, the prince suffered a devastating blow when his great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh and a close confidant of Charles, was assassinated in Ireland. After Mountbatten’s funeral, Charles began to seriously consider settling down into marriage. He began courting Lady Diana Spencer, youngest daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and sister of Lady Sarah Spencer, whom Charles had briefly dated before. Though she was young (not yet twenty when they began courting), her family was one of England's oldest noble families, and she was viewed as a highly suitable candidate to marry the Prince. In February 1981, Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana. Their marriage took place on 29 July 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, with crowned heads and elected leaders from across the world in attendance. The wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales attracted one of the largest television audiences in history and was dubbed “the wedding of the century” by the global media.

Charles and Diana had two sons – Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, born in 1982; and Prince Henry Charles Albert David, born in 1984.

Throughout their marriage, the Prince and Princess of Wales garnered enormous media attention, with particular interest paid to the Princess. Their marriage came under strain following the birth of Prince Harry, and in 1992 Buckingham Palace took the unprecedented step of announcing that Charles and Diana intended to formally separate while legally remaining married.

After their separation, the Prince and Princess of Wales continued to perform duties, both together and separately, and put on a united front in public when it came to matters concerning their children. Before long, however, a feud began to play out in the media that was dubbed “the War of the Waleses”. This led to Charles and Diana acknowledging they had both had extramarital affairs. The princess’s highly controversial 1995 interview on the television program Panorama, saw her directly blaming Charles's ongoing relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles for destroying their marriage, and questioned his suitability to becoming king. The Panorama interview, as well as controversial revelations disclosed in Charles’s own interviews, proved damaging to the monarchy and led Queen Elizabeth II to finally demand that the couple end their marriage. The divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales was finalized in August 1996.

On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident in Paris. It fell upon the Prince of Wales to break the news to his sons, who were staying with him at the royal family’s Scottish estate at Balmoral. The prince went to Paris with his former wife’s two sisters to bring her coffin back to the United Kingdom. At her funeral later that week, the Prince of Wales accompanied his sons as they walked behind their mother’s coffin from St. James’s Palace to Westminster Abbey. The outpouring of public grief in the wake of the Princess's death also fueled negative feelings towards Charles, whom many held responsible for the collapse of their marriage. A number of years passed before his standing with the public began to improve.

Keeping his sons shielded from intrusive media attention in the years after their mother’s death became a top priority for the Prince of Wales. His relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles continued in private, until 2005 when it was announced that they intended to marry. Their wedding was held on 9 April 2005 at Windsor Castle. Upon marriage, Camilla opted to use the title Duchess of Cornwall rather than be known as Princess of Wales, as that title has continued to hold strong associations with her husband’s previous wife. Shortly before the wedding, it was announced that when the time came for the Prince of Wales to succeed as king, Camilla would become Princess Consort rather than Queen. As public opinion of their relationship was still not entirely positive at the time, it is believed that this announcement was made to help ease Camilla’s transition into the royal family. However, English common law states that the wife of a king will always become queen, and no precedent exists for a king’s wife to be known by any other title. The concept of morganatic marriage does not exist under English common law, so for the marriage of the future king to be regarded as such would not be possible. The Duchess of Cornwall has, however, enjoyed an increasingly steady amount of public approval in the years since her marriage, and it looks highly unlikely at this stage that she will become anything other than Queen consort when her husband finally mounts the throne. 

His relationship with his two sons has always appeared to be close, and he has supported them in their professional and personal endeavors. In April 2011, his eldest son, Prince William, married his longtime girlfriend Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey in a ceremony that drew a television audience of millions from around the world. Since their wedding day, William and Catherine are styled as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They have three children – Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, and Prince Louis of Cambridge. In May 2018, Charles's second son, Prince Harry, married the American actress Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. They are now styled as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and will have their first child in the spring of 2019.

The Prince of Wales is renowned for championing causes such as the environment, conservation, architectural preservation, and his charity, the Prince's Trust, aimed at helping provide opportunities for young people. He is already the longest-serving heir to the throne in British history and the longest-serving Prince of Wales in history -- both distincitons previously held by his great-great-grandfather, King Edward VII, who was heir throughout the long reign of his mother, Queen Victoria. When the Prince of Wales finally does succeed to the throne, he will become the oldest person to do so in British history. 


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