by Susan Flantzer
Charles Philip Arthur George was born at Buckingham Palace in London, England on November 14, 1948. He is the first child of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born a Prince of Greece and Denmark).
The children of a daughter of a British sovereign, in this case, the then Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, would not have been accorded the style Royal Highness or the titles Prince/Princess as in the case of the children of Anne, Princess Royal. However, on October 22, 1948, Charles’ grandfather King George VI issued letters patent allowing the children of his eldest daughter and heiress presumptive, to use the style and title of a royal prince or princess. Therefore, Charles was His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh at birth.
Charles was baptized a month after his birth using water from the Jordan River. His grandparents were:
- King George VI of the United Kingdom, his maternal grandfather
- King Haakon VII of Norway (for whom the Earl of Athlone stood proxy), a cousin via both his parents’ descent from King Christian IX of Denmark
- Queen Mary, his maternal great-grandmother
- Princess Margaret, his maternal aunt
- Prince George of Greece and Denmark (for whom the Duke of Edinburgh stood proxy), his father’s uncle
- Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, his father’s grandmother born Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine
- Lady Brabourne, his father’s first cousin, born Patricia Mountbatten later 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma
- The Honorable David Bowes-Lyon, his mother’s uncle
The infant Charles and his parents lived at Buckingham Palace until he was eight months old. The family then moved to Clarence House, a short distance from the palace. On August 15, 1950, when Charles was 1 1/2 years old, his sister Princess Anne was born. Two nannies, Helen Lightbody and Mabel Anderson, were in charge of the children.
When King George VI died on February 6, 1952, his elder daughter Princess Elizabeth became Queen and three-year-old Charles became heir to the throne. Upon his mother’s accession to the throne, Charles automatically became Duke of Cornwall and also the Scottish titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. The title Prince of Wales is not automatic and must be conferred by the sovereign.
Charles attended his mother’s coronation in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953 and he sat between his grandmother, The Queen Mother and his aunt, Princess Margaret. Along with his sister Anne, Charles later joined his parents and other members of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Charles started his early education with a governess, Catherine Peebles. In 1955, Buckingham Palace announced that Charles would go to school, and not be educated by private tutors as had been the case with heirs to the throne in the past. On November 7, 1956, a week before his eighth birthday, Miss Peebles accompanied Charles to Hill House School, a preparatory day school in Kinghtsbridge, London. Charles then attended two schools that his father had also attended: Cheam School in Berkshire, England and Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland.
In October 1967, Charles was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge University, where he studied anthropology, archaeology, and history. During his second year, Charles attended the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, Wales where he studied Welsh history and language for a term. He graduated from Cambridge with a 2:2 Bachelor of Arts in 1970, and was the first heir apparent to earn a university degree. Read more about Charles’ education here.
Charles had been created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1958. His formal investiture as Prince of Wales was held on July 1, 1969 at Caernarfon Castle in Wales where Charles gave his replies and speech in both Welsh and English.
Prince Charles has served in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. During his university years, he started his training in the air force and after university he enrolled at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell to train as a jet pilot. Charles then enrolled at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth and served on the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk (1971–1972) and the frigates HMS Minerva (1972–1973) and HMS Jupiter (1974). He qualified as a helicopter pilot at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in 1974 and then joined the 845 Naval Air Squadron aboard the HMS Hermes. On February 9, 1976, Charles took command of the HMS Bronington, a coastal minehunter, for his last ten months of active service in the Royal Navy. Read more about Charles’ military career here.
Charles reached the age of 30 without getting married and was considered the world’s most eligible bachelor. Among the women Charles had been linked to include Georgiana Russell, daughter of the British Ambassador to Spain; Lady Jane Wellesley, daughter of the 8th Duke of Wellington; Davina Sheffield; Lady Sarah Spencer; and Camilla Shand, who later became his second wife. Charles’ great-uncle Lord Mountbatten, encouraged a marriage with his granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull. Supposedly, Charles did propose to Amanda Knatchbull sometime after the IRA bombing deaths of her maternal grandfather Lord Mounbatten, her paternal grandmother, and youngest brother Nicholas, but after the deaths of her family members, Amanda was reluctant to join the royal family.
Charles first met Lady Diana Spencer in 1977 while visiting her home, Althorp, while dating her elder sister Sarah. During the summer of 1980, Charles first became seriously interested in Diana as a potential bride when they were guests at a country weekend. The relationship continued to develop as Charles invited Diana for a sailing weekend aboard the royal yacht Britannia. Then an invitation to Balmoral followed for Diana to meet Charles’ family during a weekend in November of 1980. Diana was well received by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen Mother. The couple continued to see each other in London. Charles proposed on February 6, 1981, and Lady Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks until it was officially announced on February 24, 1981. The wedding was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981. 3,500 invited guests attended the ceremony at St. Paul’s, 600,000 people lined the streets of London, and 750 million people watched on television. Read more about the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer here.
Unfortunately, Charles and Diana’s marriage was not the fairy tale marriage it was expected to be. Within five years, the couple’s incompatibility and age difference of almost 13 years, as well as Diana’s concern about Charles’s previous girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, became visible and was damaging to their marriage. Diana exposed Charles’s affair with Camilla in a book by Andrew Morton, Diana, Her True Story. Audio tapes showing evidence of her own extramarital affairs also surfaced. In December of 1992, British Prime Minister John Major announced the formal separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales in Parliament. Charles and Diana divorced on August 28, 1996. Tragically, Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. Charles flew to Paris with Diana’s sisters to accompany her body back to London.
In 1994, two years after the Prince and Princess of Wales had separated, Charles finally spoke about his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles in a televised interview with Jonathan Dimbleby. He told Dimbleby, “Mrs. Parker Bowles is a great friend of mine…a friend for a very long time. She will continue to be a friend for a long time.” The same year Charles admitted in The Prince of Wales: A Biography written by Dimbleby that his relationship with Camilla rekindled after his marriage had irretrievably broken down in 1986. In 1995, Andrew Parker-Bowles and Camilla, who had been living apart for quite a while, announced their divorce.
Following both Charles and Camilla’s divorces, Charles let it be known that his relationship with Camilla was “non-negotiable.” Charles knew that the relationship was causing much negative publicity and he had Mark Bolland, his Deputy Private Secretary, work on the rehabilitation of Camilla’s image which occurred from 1999 until 2005. Camilla was occasionally seen with Charles at unofficial events, then at some public events, and then Camilla accompanied Charles on some public engagements. Camilla met the Queen at the 60th birthday party for former King Constantine II of Greece in 2000 and this meeting was seen as the Queen’s approval of the relationship. Camilla attended events related to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. In 2003, she moved into Clarence House which had become Charles official residence that same year. By 2004, Camilla was accompanying Charles on almost all of his official engagements.
On February 10, 2005, the couple’s engagement was announced and polls conducted in the United Kingdom showed support for the marriage. Charles and Camilla married on April 9, 2005 in a civil ceremony held at the Guildhall in Windsor. Prince William and Tom Parker Bowles, Camilla’s son, served as the witnesses to the civil wedding ceremony. Later that afternoon, a Service of Prayer and Dedication was held at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, presided over by The Archbishop of Canterbury. Read more about the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles here.
The Prince of Wales, who has no constitutional role, seeks, with the support of his wife The Duchess of Cornwall, to do all he can to make a positive difference in his country and internationally. To do this, he undertakes royal duties in support of The Queen, works as a charitable entrepreneur, and promotes and protects national traditions, virtues and excellence.
The Prince of Wales is Patron or President of over 400 charitable organizations. The full list at the Prince of Wales’ official website: http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/the-prince-of-wales/patronages In addition, Prince Charles has his own organizations to support various charities. See The Prince’s Charities.
Prince Charles has two organizations to support a number of areas:
The Prince’s Trust: provided training programs, mentoring support and financial grants to build the confidence and motivation of disadvantaged young people
The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation: uses the profits from the sale of Duchy Originals from Waitrose and Highgrove Enterprises to support the environment, responsible business and enterprise, young people and education, and global sustainability
Clarence House in London is the Prince of Wales’s current official residence. He also has two private homes: Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, England and Birkhall near Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Highgrove is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, having been purchased for his use in 1980, and which Prince Charles rents for £336,000 per year. The Prince of Wales’ primary source of income comes from the Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate established in 1337 which funds the public, charitable, and private activities of the Prince of Wales and his family. The Duchy of Cornwall owns 133,658 acres of land, including farming, residential, and commercial properties, as well as an investment portfolio.
For more information about the Prince of Wales, see his official website.
Read more about the British Royal Family here.