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Prince Charles has led an eventful life while waiting to be king. On subjects dear to his heart, like architecture, organic farming, alternative-therapy healing and homeopathic medicine, he can be as outspoken as his father. He has had a career in the Armed Forces, he's been a single parent, and was the first-ever member of the Royal Family to learn Welsh. He paints, he writes books, and he raises £100 million annually with his charities.
Prince of Edinburgh
Prince Charles of Edinburgh, firstborn son of Their Royal Highnesses Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born at Buckingham Palace, London, at 9.14pm on 14 November, 1948. At the time of his birth, his mother was Heir to the throne of the United Kingdom. Prince Charles was raised mostly by nannies due to his parents' royal duties.
The King is Dead, Long Live the Queen
Princess Elizabeth was proclaimed HM the Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 25, when her father, King George VI, died aged 56 on 6 February, 1952. On the Queen's accession to the throne, because he was the Sovereign's eldest son, Prince Charles, aged three years, became Heir apparent. He attended his mother's coronation, sitting attentively between his grandmother Queen Elizabeth (who became known as the Queen Mother) and his great-grandmother, the Dowager Queen Mary1.
The Prince of Wales
Prince Charles was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by the Queen on 26 July, 1958. Prince Charles has a sister, Princess Anne, now the Princess Royal (born in 1950) and two brothers; Prince Andrew (born in 1960), now the Duke of York, and Prince Edward (born in 1964), now the Earl of Wessex. The two younger princes were the first children to be born to a reigning monarch since Queen Victoria.
On 1 July, 1969, Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales by the Queen in a colourful ceremony at Caernarfon Castle, North Wales, during which he made a speech in Welsh. His titles were now: Prince of Wales; Earl of Chester; Duke of Cornwall2 (under a charter of King Edward III in 1337); (Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland in the Scottish peerage).
The Prince of Wales has spoken of his pride in being Heir to the throne in a multi-racial society. He is committed to tolerance and mutual respect and has attended services of many religions and denominations. Pope Leo X bestowed the title Fidei Defensor, or Defender of the Faith, on King Henry VIII in 1521, a title which the reigning sovereign inherits to this day; although Prince Charles has stated that he would like to be known as Defender of the Faiths when he is King.
Prince Charles fulfils many engagements both in Britain and abroad - he carried out 500 from April 2004 to March 2005, including 103 overseas visits. He also holds many private seminars involving people from all walks of life, he meets with local community groups and people involved in the projects of his organisations, and he has regular contact with Government ministers. The Prince made his maiden speech in the House of Lords in 1974.
It had been traditional for royal children to have a tutor at Buckingham Palace, but the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh wanted their son to mix with children from non-royal backgrounds, so on 7 November, 1956, Prince Charles started his education at Hill House School in West London. A year later he became a boarder at Cheam School, the preparatory school in Berkshire. In April 1962, he began his first term at Gordonstoun, the school near Elgin in Eastern Scotland which his father had attended. Prince Charles was later to remark that he hated his time at this school. In 1966, he spent two terms as an exchange student at Timbertop, a remote outpost of the Geelong Church of England Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia. Prince Charles loved the life there and vowed to return.
When he returned to Gordonstoun for his final year, Prince Charles was appointed Head Boy. He attained six 'O'-Levels and took his 'A'-Levels in July 1967, being the first heir to the throne to sit them. He was awarded a grade B in History and a grade C in French. He went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1967, to read Archaeology and Anthropology. In the Spring of 1969, he spent a term at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth, where he learned to speak Welsh. Prince Charles changed courses to History for the second part of his degree, and was awarded a BA3 in 1970. Prince Charles was only 19 years old when he first piloted an aircraft, albeit a dual-control one, at RAF Tangmere in Sussex. He passed the exams required for a Private Pilot's Licence in 1970. During his second year at Cambridge, the prince received flying instruction from the The Queen's Flight team of the RAF, gaining his 'wings' on 20 August, 1971. Prince Charles received his Master's Degree from Cambridge in 1975.
The Action Man Prince
Prince Charles trained as a helicopter pilot, and entered the RAF as Flight Lieutenant The Prince of Wales due to his flying experience. He made his first parachute drop in 1971, and became Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment in 1977. As well as serving in the Royal Navy for several years in the 1970s, including command of HMS Bronington, a minehunter, from February 1976 until December 1976, his career earned him the nickname 'The Action Man Prince'.
In 1988, Prince Charles was almost killed on a holiday in Klosters, Switzerland when an avalanche hit the royal skiing party. His close friend, Major Hugh Lindsay, was killed and another friend, Patti Palmer-Tomkinson, was seriously injured. In 1990 the prince broke his right arm when he fell off his horse during a polo match. In January 1998 he broke a rib after falling from his horse during a fox hunt. A few weeks later he went trekking in the Himalayas on an official tour of Nepal.
Hobbies and Interests
Fortunately, the Prince also has more genteel hobbies. The Healing Garden he designed in memory of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002), won a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. In the previous year, his Islamic garden had also scooped a silver medal. The design inspired schoolchildren from St Mary the Virgin Primary School in Butetown, Cardiff, to transform a barren area of the school playground with the aim of promoting racial harmony.
Prince Charles is a talented watercolour artist, and has exhibited and sold a number of paintings. He promotes alternate therapy healing and supports organic farming. Prince Charles is a published author of the following books:
- A Vision for Britain
- The Garden at Highgrove
- Highgrove: Portrait of an Estate
- The Old Man of Lochnagar4.
The Duchy of Cornwall bought Highgrove House and estate in Gloucestershire in 1980, on behalf of Prince Charles, to give him an income independent of the monarch. It has been his country residence ever since, and he has developed the gardens into a showpiece. The home farm of over 1000 acres is a model of organic farming, and home to a number of rare breeds of farm animals. The garden at Highgrove House is open to visitors5. Anyone interested in a visit must apply in writing to: The Prince of Wales Office, St James's Palace, London, SW1A 1AA. Be prepared for a long wait though - there is a waiting list of between three and four years.
Prince Charles once performed an impromptu dance - in front of the assembled media - in a mock-dole-office line-up reminiscent of a famous scene from the Oscar-winning smash-hit British film The Full Monty.
Prince Charles is such a fan of The Goon Show that he made his own spoof film while in the air force (where he showed himself capable of a confident impression of one of Spike Milligan's characters) and later leapt to write a letter of congratulations to Spike when he was given a lifetime achievement award (a letter Spike responded to by calling him a 'grovelling little s**t').
Prince Charles has long been a critic of modern architecture. In 1984, he called a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London a 'monstrous carbuncle' and the term has been widely-used by the media ever since. He is keen to stress how the notion of healing should be applied to our natural environment, as well as to the individual. His Foundation for the Built Environment has been working with the NHS to improve the quality of the structure of new hospitals and the view from the windows:
Something as simple as the view from a hospital ward may release the need for painkillers and the length of stay for patients who have had surgery. We need to relax our somewhat obsessive preoccupation with treating specific symptoms of diseases in isolation. Instead we need to look at the whole - the person, the street, the town and city and our natural inheritance - together.
I agree with Prince Charles's sentiments but, if anything, he's generalising too much. The architectural profession cares a lot about these issues and he must make allowance for the good things that have happened as well as the bad. I believe there has been an enormous shift in attitude within the profession and the trend encouraged by the Royal Institute of British Architects is towards making good places rather than iconic buildings.
- George Ferguson - Royal Institute of British Architects.
Prince Charles has developed a wide range of interests which are reflected in The Prince's Charities, a group of 16 non-profit-making organisations of which the Prince is President, 14 of which were founded by the Prince himself. The group is the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the United Kingdom, raising over £100 million annually. Furthermore, the Prince is President or Patron of around 360 organisations. The most well-known is The Prince's Trust which was founded in 1976. The Trust encourages unemployed persons to start up their own business and aids them with a low-interest loan. There is also help available to assist young offenders, through mentoring and/or sport with the objective of giving them a goal in life.
Until he was in his early thirties, Prince Charles enjoyed the status of world's most eligible bachelor to the fullest degree. He couldn't chat to a female without photographs of them being plastered over the front pages of the next days' newspapers, and her 'suitability for Queen' being scrutinised. Even with this drawback, it didn't cramp his 'knife through butter' style. He dated society beauties, millionaires' daughters and a Hollywood film star.
Marriage and Children
Prince Charles was under immense pressure to find a suitable6 girl to marry and produce an heir. From a shortlist of names, the final choice7 for future Queen was Lady Diana Spencer, a children's nanny. When the couple announced their engagement in early 1981, Diana was 19 years old. A canny photographer managed to catch her out while she was holding a child on her hip; she didn't realise that the sunlight behind her caused her skirt to become see-through and the photo was published, much to Diana's mortification. Prince Charles brushed off the incident by stating:
I didn't know you had such great legs.
The wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, which took place on 29 July, 1981, is described in detail in the edited entry on Princess Diana.
Princess Diana became pregnant quite soon after the wedding and she gave birth to the next heir to the throne, Prince William of Wales, on 20 June, 1982. Prince William's healthy birth was much celebrated.
On a tour of Australia, Prince Charles and Princess Diana insisted they take the infant Prince William with them, instead of following protocol and leaving him behind with a nanny, guaranteeing the tour was a resounding success. The Australian population were delighted by the Royal couple and their adorable blonde-haired, blue-eyed inquisitive toddler whom they nicknamed Willy Wombat, and the hugely popular visit set the anti-Royal brigade back ten years.
Princess Diana gave birth to a second son, Prince Henry (Harry) of Wales, on 15 September, 1984. She joked to friends that she had done her duty for her country and produced an 'heir and a spare'.
The marriage between the Prince and Princess of Wales broke down and they officially separated in 1992, their divorce being finalised in 1996.
The Death of Diana
On 31 August, 1997, in Paris, France, a car crash killed Princess Diana, her boyfriend Dodi al-Fayed and their chauffeur Henri Paul. Prince Charles flew to Paris with Diana's two sisters Sarah and Jane, to bring her body back to England for burial. This was against the wishes of the Queen, who no longer regarded Diana as a member of the Royal Family, and as such, her funeral should have been organised by her blood family, the Spencers.
Prince Charles took with him the Royal Standard to drape over her coffin, acknowledging in death her status as a member of the Royal Family, even though she had been stripped8 of her title 'HRH' by the Queen the previous year, when the Prince and Princess had divorced.
After Diana's death, Prince Charles started wearing his wedding ring again, on his little finger. He removed it on the day of his wedding to Camilla.
Prince Charles met Camilla née Shand in 1970. At that time the prince was about to enter the Royal Navy and he did not propose to Camilla, as she was unsuitable to be considered a candidate for future queen. While he was away, Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles. Despite the marriage, the Prince and Camilla remained friends and Prince Charles was asked to be godfather to the couple's son. When his own marriage broke down, Prince Charles started seeing Camilla again. When Prince Charles admitted adultery on Panorama it was the death-knell for both marriages and Prince Charles and Camilla have been together ever since.
TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall
Now the Duchess of Cornwall is a member of the Royal Family, she can and does accompany Prince Charles on royal engagements, and when he represents the Queen. As the wife of the heir to the throne, the Duchess is now the second highest-ranking female in the Royal Family, behind the Queen.
Prince Charles's second marriage has the support of his two sons9. They were both seen to kiss their new stepmother after the wedding had taken place, and in an interview on 15 September, 2005, his 21st birthday, Prince Harry said:
The Duchess of Cornwall is a wonderful woman and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing. William and I love her to bits.
The Duchess helped her husband unveil the new memorial for Battle of Britain pilots at the Victoria Embankment in London, and attended a service at Westminster Abbey, on 18 September, 2005.