LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son has taken his late mother’s place on the British throne after a reign of more than seven decades.
Charles, Prince of Wales, is the first child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. When Elizabeth died on September 8, Charles succeeded her as king.
Charles, 73, was born at Buckingham Palace in London in 1948. He was just 3 when he became heir apparent when his mother acceded to the throne as Queen, following the death of his father, King George VI. He is the first heir to see his mother crowned, according to a biography published on the royal family’s official website.
Charles attended school rather than receiving private lessons at the family palace. In 1970, he graduated from Cambridge University with a Bachelor of Arts, becoming the first heir apparent to earn a university degree. Cambridge then awarded him a Master of Arts.
Elizabeth made her eldest son Prince of Wales in 1969, among other royal titles, after serving a term at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, where he learned to speak Welsh. Two years later, Charles took his seat in the House of Lords, the upper house of the United Kingdom’s parliament.
Charles then spent the next few years serving in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, following in his father’s footsteps.
In 1981 Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, who became Princess of Wales. The couple had two sons, William and Harry, who are second and sixth in line to the throne.
A 1994 biography authorized by Charles – ‘Prince of Wales’, by Jonathan Dimbleby – revealed that he felt pressured by his father to marry Diana and was never in love with her. According to the book, Charles began having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles in 1986. The two had met at a polo match several years prior.
Charles and Diana agreed to separate at the end of 1992 and their marriage was dissolved around four years later, according to the royal family’s official website.
A 1992 biography of the Princess of Wales, ‘Diana: Her True Story’, in which she collaborated with author Andrew Morton, revealed further details about the troubled marriage, including suspicion and jealousy of Diana on Charles’ clandestine romance and how she came to see Camilla as the “third person” in their relationship.
In 1997 Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. The driver of the car and Diana’s boyfriend, Egyptian socialite Dodi Fayed, who was another passenger, also died. A mob of motorcycle paparazzi chased their vehicle minutes before the driver lost control and crashed. An investigation later revealed the driver was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, and the paparazzi did not cause the crash.
In 2005 Charles married Camilla, known as the Duchess of Cornwall. The couple live together at Clarence House, a British royal residence on The Mall in London, according to the royal family’s official website.
Charles has five grandchildren from his two sons.
Charles and Camilla, 75, are set to be crowned side by side, at Elizabeth’s request that Camilla become queen consort – the title given to the wife of a reigning king.
As the longest serving Prince of Wales, Charles has led a number of initiatives and charities over the years, with a particular focus on global sustainability.
For example, he launched an initiative in 2007 called “Mosaic,” which offers mentorship programs to young people growing up in disadvantaged communities. He also launched the “Campaign for Wool” in 2010 to promote awareness of the environmental benefits of wool and expand the market for British sheep farmers struggling to make ends meet.
Charles also participated in various sports, including horse racing, sailing and scuba diving. He raised money for charity by playing polo until late 2004 when he decided to retire from the game after playing it for more than 40 years, according to a biography on the Prince’s official website. .
In his spare time, Charles enjoys painting. Lithographs of his works are on sale with all proceeds going to the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation. He also enjoys gardening and laying hedges, particularly in his organic garden at Highgrove House, his home near Tetbury in Gloucestershire.