Charles, Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales

The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor) (born 14 November 1948), is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He is heir apparent to the thrones of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth Realms. He has held the title of Prince of Wales since 1958 and is styled HRH The Prince of Wales, and in Scotland, HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay. Constitutionally he is the first in line to the throne, but third in order of precedence, following both The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

The Prince of Wales is well known for his extensive charity work, particularly for the Prince's Trust. He also carries out a full schedule of royal duties and increasingly is taking on more royal roles from his aging parents. The Prince is also well known for his high-profile marriages to the late Lady Diana Spencer and subsequently to Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall.


Styles of
The Prince of Wales
Reference style His Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Royal Highness
Alternative style Sir

The Prince of Wales was born on November 14, 1948 at Buckingham Palace, London. His father is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, eldest son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. At the time of his birth, his mother was The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, the elder daughter of King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. His mother was first in the line of succession to the British throne at the time of the Prince's birth. The Prince was baptised in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace on 15 December 1948 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher and his godparents were: King George VI, Queen Mary, Princess Margaret, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, Hon. David Bowes-Lyon, Lady Brabourne, King Haakon VII of Norway (for whom the Earl of Athlone stood proxy) and Prince George of Greece (for whom Prince Philip stood proxy).

Under letters patent issued by the Prince's great grandfather, King George V, the title of a British prince and the style His Royal Highness was only available to the children and grandchildren in the male-line of the sovereign and the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. As Charles was a female-line grandchild of the sovereign, he would have taken his title from his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and would have been styled by courtesy as Earl of Merioneth. However the title of Prince and Princess, with the style HRH was granted to all the children of Princess Elizabeth by new letters patent issued by King George VI. In this way the children of the heiress presumptive had a royal and princely status not thought necessary for the children of King George VI's other daughter, Princess Margaret. Thus from birth Charles was known as His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh.

Early life

In 1952, his mother assumed the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles immediately became Duke of Cornwall under a charter of King Edward III, which gave that title to the Sovereign's eldest son, and was then referred to as HRH The Duke of Cornwall. He also became, in the Scottish Peerage, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

The Duke of Cornwall was now the heir apparent to the throne. He attended his mother’s coronation at Westminster Abbey, sitting with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and his aunt, The Princess Margaret. In his early life, his ears were so big that his great grand uncle, Lord Mountbatten, proposed having the problem surgically "fixed."


British Royal Family


As with royal children before him, a governess, Catherine Peebles, was appointed to look after the Prince. The governess was responsible for educating the Prince between the ages of 5 and 8. In a break with tradition, Buckingham Palace announced in 1955, that the Prince would attend school, rather than have a private tutor, the first heir apparent to do so. He first attended Hill House School in West London, and later the Cheam preparatory school in Berkshire which the Duke of Edinburgh also attended.

The Prince finished his education at Gordonstoun, a private boarding school in the north east of Scotland. His father, the Duke of Edinburgh, had previously attended Gordonstoun, becoming head boy. It is often reported that the Prince despised his time at the school, where he was a frequent target for bullies. The Prince would later send his own children to Eton College rather than Gordonstoun.

In 1966 Charles spent two terms at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia during which time he visited Papua New Guinea on a history trip with his tutor Michael Collins Persse. On his return to Gordonstoun he followed in his father's footsteps by becoming head boy. In 1967 he left Gordonstoun with two A levels, in history and French.


Traditionally, the heir to the throne would go straight into the military after finishing school. However, in a break with tradition, Charles attended university at Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied anthropology and archaeology, and later history, earning a 2:2 (lower second class degree). Charles was the first member of the British royal family to be awarded a degree. He also attended the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he went specifically in order to learn the Welsh language—the first English-born Prince (of Wales) ever to make a serious attempt to do so.

Created Prince of Wales

Queen Elizabeth formally invests The Prince of Wales with the Prince of Wales crown
Queen Elizabeth formally invests The Prince of Wales with the Prince of Wales crown

He was created The Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1958, though his actual investiture did not take place until 1 July 1969. This was a major ceremony, held at Caernarfon Castle in north Wales, a place traditionally associated with the creation of the title in the 13th century. Previous investitures had taken place at various locations, including the Palace of Westminster, the seat of Parliament. The Welsh borough of Swansea was granted city status to mark the occasion.

The investiture also aroused considerable hostility among some Welsh nationalists, and there were threats of violence and a short bombing campaign, although these acts were generally more related to the greater nationalist campaign for Welsh independence and the rights of the Welsh language. The nationalist campaign against the investiture culminated with an attempted bombing by two members of the Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru on the eve of the investiture that resulted in the two bomber's deaths.

In the late 1970s, The Prince of Wales established another first when he became the first member of the royal family since King George I to attend a British cabinet meeting, being invited to attend by Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan so as to see the workings of cabinet government at first hand.

In the early 1980s, Charles privately expressed an interest in becoming Governor-General of Australia. By this time, however, Australian opinion had shifted firmly behind the view that the Governor-General should be an Australian, and nothing came of the proposal.


The Prince of Wales's love life has always been the subject of speculation and press fodder. He has been linked to a number of women including Georgiana Russell (daughter of the British Ambassador to Spain), the Lady Jane Wellesley (daughter of the 8th Duke of Wellington), Davina Sheffield, Penthouse model Fiona Watson, actress Susan George, the Lady Sarah Spencer, the Lady Tryon (wife of the 3rd Baron Tryon), and divorcée Jane Ward, among others. Yet, none of them were ever considered marriage material.

The Prince of Wales, on the cover of Time in 1978
The Prince of Wales, on the cover of Time in 1978

As heir-apparent to the Throne, the Prince of Wales had to choose a bride who was both a virgin and a Protestant (ideally, a member of the Church of England) who had an impeccable background in terms of both lineage and comportment. Reportedly, it was Camilla Shand, his second wife, who helped him select 19-year-old nursery assistant Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and younger sister of the Lady Sarah Spencer. Buckingham Palace announced their engagement on 24 February 1981.

First marriage

On 29 July 1981, The Prince of Wales and the Lady Diana were married at St Paul's Cathedral before 3,500 invited guests and an estimated 750 million people around the world. All of Europe's crowned heads attended (except for Juan Carlos I of Spain, who was advised not to attend because the couple's honeymoon would involve a stop-over in the disputed territory of Gibraltar). So, too, did most of Europe's elected heads of state, with the notable exceptions of Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis of Greece, who declined to go because Greece's exiled King, Constantine II, a personal friend of the Prince, had been described in his invitation as "King of Greece", which is viewed as a disregard of the current Greek constitution and Ireland's Patrick Hillery, who was advised by Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey not to attend because of Britain's role in Northern Ireland.

By marriage to the heir apparent, the Lady Diana received both a title (Princess of Wales) and the style of "Her Royal Highness". She was popularly known as Princess Diana, although her correct title was, until the couple's divorce, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. The couple made their home at Highgrove, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire and at Kensington Palace. Almost immediately, the Princess of Wales became a star attraction, chased by the paparazzi, her every move (including every change in hairstyle) closely followed by millions.

The Prince and Princess of Wales return to Buckingham Palace following their wedding in St Paul's Cathedral.  Source: BBCNews archive
The Prince and Princess of Wales return to Buckingham Palace following their wedding in St Paul's Cathedral. Source: BBCNews archive

However, the marriage soon became troubled. Critics of the Princess of Wales alleged that she was unstable and temperamental; one by one she sacked each of the Prince of Wales's longstanding staff members and fell out with numerous friends (her father, her mother, her brother, The Duchess of York, Elton John, her own staff, many of whom quit after rows). The Prince of Wales, too, was blamed for the marital troubles. Within five years of the wedding the fairytale marriage was already on the brink of collapse. Ironically, the Prince and Princess of Wales were similar in some respects: Both had had troubled childhoods. Both took their public roles seriously and devoted much of their time to charity work, becoming highly regarded for it. (The Princess of Wales notably devoted much time to helping AIDS sufferers, while The Prince of Wales devoted much effort to marginalised groups in urban centres through The Prince's Trust charity and to victims of mines).

Both partners subsequently admitted to extra-marital affairs, he with Camilla Parker-Bowles (the former Camilla Shand), she with an army officer. Though they remained publicly a couple, they had effectively separated by the late 1980s, he living in Highgrove, she in Kensington Palace. The media noted their increasing periods apart and their obvious discomfort at being in each other's presence. Evidence and recriminations of infidelity aired in the news media. By 1992, it was obvious that the marriage was over in all but name. The couple formally separated, with media sources taking different sides in what became known as the War of the Waleses.

The marriage of The Prince and The Princess of Wales formally ended in divorce on 28 August 1996. It had produced two sons, Prince William of Wales, and Prince Henry of Wales who is known as Harry.

Death of Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a spectacular car accident while being chased by paparazzi in Paris in 1997. The Prince of Wales was praised by some for his handling of the events and their aftermath, in particular his over-ruling of palace protocol experts (and indeed the Queen) who argued that as Diana, Princess of Wales was no longer a member of the Royal Family, the responsibility for her funeral arrangements belonged to her blood relatives, the Spencers. The Prince of Wales, against advice, flew to Paris to accompany his ex-wife's body home and insisted that she be given a formal royal funeral; a new category of formal funeral was specially created for her. His role as a single father earned much sympathy, in particular in how he handled a crisis when it was revealed that his younger son, Prince Harry, had dabbled in soft drugs.

Relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles

During a 1994 television interview Charles admitted that he had committed adultery "once it had become clear my marriage was over". It was later confirmed that the third party was Camilla, ending years of speculation. In fact in 1993, the British tabloids got hold of tapes (still unexplained) of a 1989 mobile telephone conversation allegedly between Prince Charles and Mrs. Parker Bowles, in which Prince Charles professed expressed regret for all the indignities she endured because of their relationship.

After his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales, The Prince of Wales's relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles eventually became openly acknowledged, and she became his unofficial consort. However, with the death of Diana in 1997, Camilla's gradual emergence in the public eye came to a temporary halt. However, in 1999, after a party celebrating the 50th birthday of Camilla's sister Annabel Elliott, Charles and Camilla were photographed in public together. Many saw this as a sign that their relationship was now regarded as "official". In a further effort to gain acceptance of the relationship, in June 2000 Camilla met the Queen. Eventually in 2003, Camilla moved into Charles' homes at Highgrove and Clarence House, although Buckingham Palace points out that public funds were not used in the decoration of her suites.

Marriage remained elusive, with two main issues requiring resolution and acceptance. As future Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the prospect of his marrying Mrs. Parker Bowles, with whom he had had a relationship while both were married, was seen as controversial by some. Both the Prince and Camilla had divorced their spouses, but as her former husband was still alive (although re-married to his long-time mistress), her remarriage was likely to be problematic. Over time, opinion—both public and within the Church—shifted somewhat to a point where a civil marriage would be acceptable.

Second marriage

The Prince of Wales with HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, leaving St. George's Chapel, Windsor, following the blessing of their marriage.
The Prince of Wales with HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, leaving St. George's Chapel, Windsor, following the blessing of their marriage.

On 10 February 2005, it was announced by Clarence House that the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles would marry on 8 April of that year, in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle, with a subsequent religious blessing at the castle's St George's Chapel. Subsequently, the location was changed to the Guildhall in Windsor, possibly because of the discovery that Windsor Castle might have to become available for other people's weddings, should theirs be performed there. On Monday 4 April, it was announced that the wedding would be delayed for one day to 9 April to allow the Prince of Wales and some of the invited dignitaries to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II. It should be noted that Charles did not originally intend to alter his wedding date. It was not until pressure had been placed on him by both Catholic and non-Catholics who also wanted to pay their respects to a highly influential and popular Pope that the announcement of change of date was made.

It was announced that, after the marriage, as the wife of the Prince of Wales, Mrs Parker Bowles would be styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and that upon the Prince's accession to the throne, she would not be known as Queen Camilla but as Her Royal Highness The Princess Consort. This form of address is believed to be based on that used by Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, who was styled as Prince Consort.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall spent their first wedding anniversary in Scotland.

Personal interests

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are greeted by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush on a November 2005 visit to the United States
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are greeted by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush on a November 2005 visit to the United States

The Prince of Wales is a horseman and huntsman. He served in the Royal Navy, commanding HMS Bronington, a minehunter, from February 1976 until December 1976. He is also a watercolour artist and a published writer. He has exhibited and sold a number of paintings. The Prince's Trust, which he founded, is a charity that works mainly with young people, offering loans to groups, businesses and people (often in deprived areas) who had difficulty receiving outside support. Fundraising concerts are regularly held for the Prince's Trust, with leading pop, rock, and classical musicians taking part

He claims to "care deeply about issues such as the environment, architecture, inner-city renewal, and the quality of life."

To put his ideas on architecture and town planning into practice, the Prince of Wales is developing the village of Poundbury in Dorset. Prior to commencing work on Poundbury he had published a book and produced a documentary entitled A Vision for Britain, both being a critique of modern architecture. In 1992 he also established The Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture and began the publication of a magazine dealing with architecture, but the latter has since ceased independent operation after being merged with another charity to create The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment in 2001. The Prince is also keen on growing and promoting organic food, although he drew some ridicule when he joked about sometimes talking to his houseplants. The Prince of Wales is President of 16 charities, and raised over £100 million for charity in 2004.

The Prince of Wales is also highly regarded by some on the international stage as an effective advocate for the United Kingdom. On a visit to the Republic of Ireland, for example, instead of simply using a standard foreign office speech, he delivered a personally researched and written speech on Anglo-Irish affairs which was warmly received by Irish politicians and the media.

Charles is a supporter of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan freedom movement, and publicly snubbed a state dinner for Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1999 to protest the Chinese government's repressive policies in Tibet.

One of the Prince's greatest areas of interest continues to be philosophy, especially the philosophy of Asian and Middle Eastern nations, as well as so-called New Age theology. He had a friendship with author Sir Laurens van der Post, whom outsiders called the "guru to Prince Charles," starting in 1977 until van der Post's death in 1996.

While his popularity has fluctuated, he remains the most active Prince of Wales in centuries, and has devoted his time and effort to charity work and working with local communities.

If he ascends to the British throne after September 2013, the Prince, who turned 57 in November 2005, would become the oldest person to do so. Only William IV and Edward VII were older than Charles is now when they became the monarch of the United Kingdom.

Military career

The military training of The Prince of Wales, taking place in the early 1970s, included helicopter pilot flying as well as being qualified as a fighter pilot. During The Prince's years in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, he came to fly the following aircraft (the WWII vintage Spitfire arguably having more of a historical/symbolic value than practical importance):

Prince Charles served in the Royal Navy for five years:

The Prince is also Colonel-in-Chief of the following:

British Army
Canadian Forces
Australian Army
  • Royal Australian Armoured Corps

Official residence

The Prince of Wales's current official London residence is Clarence House, former London residence of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (the eighteenth century building has undergone major restoration and renovation to equip it for use by him, his wife, and their personal and office staffs). His previous official residence was an apartment in St. James's Palace. He also has a private estate, Highgrove in Gloucestershire and in Scotland he has use of the Birkhall estate near Balmoral Castle which was previously owned by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Some previous Princes of Wales resided in Marlborough House. It however is no longer used as a royal residence. Following the death in 1953 of Queen Mary, widow of King George V, its last royal resident, it was given by Queen Elizabeth II for use by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Principal title in use

Personal arms of Prince Charles
Personal arms of Prince Charles

From his birth until his mother's accession in 1952, he was known as:

  • His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh

From his mother's accession until 1958, he was known as:

  • His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall (outside Scotland)
  • His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay (in Scotland)

Since 1958, he has been known as:

  • His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales (outside Scotland)
  • His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay (in Scotland)

In full: His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew and Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

Upon the death of Elizabeth II, if Prince Charles keeps his given name he would become known as King Charles III. Prince Charles has however considered rejecting the title King Charles III when he accedes to the throne because of its associations with Britain's bloody past. The move away from Charles stems from its associations with Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649 following the English Civil War at the start of Oliver Cromwell's short-lived republic. The executed monarch's son, Charles II, spent 18 years in exile and returned to England in 1660 but was nicknamed "The Merry Monarch" because of his string of mistresses. Charles is also associated with the Catholic Bonnie Prince Charlie, an enduring Scottish romantic figure, who claimed the throne as Charles III (the very title Prince Charles would take) in the 18th century. The move would not be a first—three of the past six British monarchs chose regnal title different from their Christian name; for example, George VI was known as Prince Albert. The most discussed alternative has been George VII, in honour of Charles's grandfather.

Media and literature

Charles appears in Tom Clancy's bestseller "Patriot Games" (1987) as the target of an assassination attempt. In the later film version however, the character was extensively rewritten with his name and rank changed to Lord Nottingham.

He and Diana are the models for Mark Helprin's title characters in Freddy and Fredericka.

In 2000, he made an appearance in the UK soap, Coronation Street, to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary on ITV1.

In 2005, Prince Charles appeared as himself in New Zealand adult cartoon series Bro'Town. The episode aired on TV3 on Wednesday 26 October and was the final episode in the second series of the popular show. Prince Charles agreed to record some impromptu audio for Series Two while attending a performance from the shows creators during a visit to New Zealand. After some enthusiastic encouragement from Prime Minister Helen Clark (who also appears in the episode), the Prince gave a royal rendition of the Bro'Town catch-cry "Morningside 4 Life!"

In 2006, a court case was filed by Prince Charles against the Mail on Sunday after publication of his extracts from his personal journals. Lawyers for the Prince argued that he was as entitled to keep private documents as any other person. Various revelations were made including his opinions on the takeover of Hong Kong by the People's Republic of China in 1997, in which he described Chinese government officials as "appalling old waxworks". His ex-private secretary also alleged that the Prince considers himself a dissident, working against political opinion.

On Saturday 20th May 2006, ITV presented the 30th birthday of The Prince's Trust. It included songs from Embrace and their song World at our Feet and Annie Lennox with also an interview with Prince Charles, Prince Harry and Prince William from Ant and Dec.

Prince Charles is sometimes referred to in the popular press as "Chazza" (along the lines of "Gazza", "Hezza" and similar coinages of the 1990s).


  • Dimbleby, Jonathan. The Prince of Wales: A Biography. ISBN 0316910163
  • Paget, Gerald. The Lineage and Ancestry of H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. 2v. Edinburgh: Charles Skilton, 1977.
  • Pierce, Andrew & Gibb, Frances (Feb. 14, 2005). "Camilla might still become Queen". The Times.

Preceded by:
first in line
Line of succession to the British Throne Succeeded by:
Prince William of Wales
Preceded by:
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
United Kingdom order of precedence
Succeeded by:
Prince Andrew, Duke of York

Preceded by:
HRH The Duke of Gloucester
Great Master of the
Order of the Bath
of England

Succeeded by:

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