After a lifetime of preparation, Prince Charles ascends the throne; will be known as King Charles III


LONDON — Prince Charles has been preparing for the crown all his life. Now, at 73, that moment has finally arrived.

Charles, the oldest person to ever accede to the British throne, became King Charles III on Thursday following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. No date has been set for his coronation.

After an apprenticeship started as a child, Charles embodies the modernization of the British monarchy. He was the first uneducated heir at home, the first to graduate from college, and the first to grow up under increasingly intense media scrutiny as deference to royalty faded.

He has also alienated many with his messy divorce from beloved Princess Diana, and by straining the rules that prohibit the royal family from intervening in public affairs, getting into debates on issues such as that the protection of the environment and the preservation of architecture,

“He finds himself now, if you will, in the fall of his life, having to think carefully about how he projects his image as a public figure,” said historian Ed Owens. “He’s nowhere near as popular as his mother.”

Charles must figure out how to generate the “public support, a sense of affection” that characterized the relationship Elizabeth had with the British public, Owens said.

In other words, will Charles also be loved by his subjects? It’s a question that has overshadowed his entire life.

A shy boy with an overbearing father, Charles has grown into a sometimes awkward and quiet man who is nonetheless confident in his own opinions. Unlike his mother, who refused to publicly discuss her views, Charles has given speeches and written articles on issues close to his heart, such as climate change, green energy and alternative medicine.

His accession to the throne is likely to fuel debate over the future of Britain’s largely ceremonial monarchy, seen by some as a symbol of national unity and by others as an obsolete vestige of feudal history.

“We know the monarch and certainly the monarch’s family – they’re not supposed to have political voices. They’re not supposed to have political opinions. And the fact that he’s flexed, if you will, his political muscle is something something he will have to be very careful with…lest it be deemed unconstitutional,” said Owens, who wrote “The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932-53.”

Charles, who will be the head of state of the UK and 14 other countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, defended his actions.

“I always wonder what interference is, I always thought it was motivating,” he said in “Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70,” a 2018 documentary. “I’ve always been intrigued if it’s meddling to worry about city centers like I did 40 years ago and what was happening there or not, the conditions in which people lived. If it’s interference, I’m very proud of that.”

In the same interview, however, Charles acknowledged that as king he would not be able to speak out or meddle in politics as the role of sovereign is different from being the Prince of Wales.

Charles said he intended to reduce the number of working royals, cut spending and better represent modern Britain.

But tradition matters too for a man whose office previously described the monarchy as “the focal point of national pride, unity and allegiance”.

It meant a life of palaces and polo, drawing criticism that Charles was out of touch with everyday life, being ridiculed for having a valet who allegedly squeezed toothpaste on his brush.

But it was the disintegration of his marriage to Diana that had many questioning his suitability for the throne. Then, as he got older, his handsome young sons stole the show from a man who had a reputation for being as gray as his Saville Row suits.

Biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Unlikely Life”, described him as being constantly overshadowed by other family members, despite his fate.

“I think the frustrations aren’t so much that he had to wait for the throne,” Smith told PBS. “I think his main frustration is that he’s done so much and…he’s been kind of massively misunderstood. He’s kind of caught between two worlds: the world of his revered, now loved mother; and Diana, the one whose ghost continues to accompany her; then her incredibly glamorous sons.”

It took many Britons years to forgive Charles for his admitted infidelity to Diana before ‘the people’s princess’ died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. But public mood softened after his marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 and she became the Duchess of Cornwall.

Although Camilla was a big part of Charles and Diana’s breakup, her self-deprecating style and earthy, salty sense of humor ultimately won over many Brits.

She helped Charles smile more in public by tempering his reserve and making him seem approachable, if not happier, as he cut ribbons, visited places of worship, unveiled plaques and awaited the crown.

Her service was rewarded in February 2022, when Queen Elizabeth II publicly stated that it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla be known as the “queen consort” after her son succeeded her, once responding for any questions about his status at the Royal Family.

Prince Charles Philip Arthur George was born on November 14, 1948 at Buckingham Palace. When his mother acceded to the throne in 1952, the 3-year-old prince became Duke of Cornwall. He became Prince of Wales at 20.

His school years were unfortunate, with the future king being bullied by his classmates at Gordonstoun, a Scottish boarding school that prides itself on building character through vigorous outdoor activities and educated his father, Philip.

Charles studied history at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, where in 1970 he became the first member of the British royal family to graduate from university.

He then spent seven years in uniform, training as a Royal Air Force pilot before joining the Royal Navy, where he learned to fly helicopters. He ended his military career as commanding officer of HMS Bronington, a minesweeper, in 1976.

Charles’ relationship with Camilla began before he went to sea, but the romance soured and she married a cavalry officer.

He met Lady Diana Spencer in 1977 when she was 16 and he was dating her older sister. Diana apparently didn’t see him again until 1980, and rumors of their engagement swirled after she was invited to spend time with Charles and the royal family.

They announced their engagement in February 1981. A certain awkwardness in their relationship immediately became apparent when, during a television interview about their engagement, a journalist asked them if they were in love. “Of course,” Diana replied immediately, while Charles said, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”

Although Diana laughed at the response, she later said that Charles’ remark “utterly upset me”.

“God, that absolutely traumatized me,” she said in a recording made by her voice coach in 1992-93 and featured in the 2017 documentary “Diana, In Her Own Words.”

The couple married on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a ceremony televised around the world. Prince William, now heir to the throne, was born less than a year later, followed by his brother Prince Harry in 1984.

The public fairy tale quickly crumbled. Charles admitted adultery to a TV interviewer in 1994. In an interview of her own, Diana called attention to her husband’s relationship with Camilla, saying, “There were three of us in this marriage.”

The revelations tarnished Charles’ reputation among those who celebrated Diana for her style as well as her charitable work with AIDS patients and landmine victims.

William and Harry were caught in the middle. While the princes revered their late mother, they said Charles was a good father and praised him as an early advocate for issues such as the environment.

Tensions persist within the royal family, underscored by the decision of Harry and his wife, Meghan, to step back from their royal duties and move to California in 2020. In a television interview, they later said that a The royal had raised ‘concerns and conversations’ about their baby’s skin color before it was born. The explosive revelation forced William to publicly state that the family were not racist.

Charles persevered, increasingly replacing the queen in her twilight years. In 2018 he was named the Queen’s designated successor as head of the Commonwealth, an association of 54 nations with links to the British Empire. The process accelerated after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, on April 9, 2021.

As Elizabeth refused, he sometimes intervened at the last moment.

On the eve of the official opening of Parliament on May 10, 2022, the Queen asked Charles to preside, delegating one of her most important constitutional duties to him – proof that a transition was underway.

Camilla said in a 2018 documentary that Charles was comfortable with the prospect of being king.

“I think his fate will come,” she said. “He always knew this was coming, and I don’t think it weighs on his shoulders at all.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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