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HM King Charles III

Charles, then Prince Charles, was born at Buckingham Palace on 14 November 1948, and was christened Charles Philip Arthur George.

When, on the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1952, he became heir apparent, Prince Charles automatically became Duke of Cornwall under a charter of King Edward III dating back to 1337, which gave that title to the Sovereign’s eldest son. He also became in the Scottish Peerage, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

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Early Life

Prince Charles lived in Buckingham Palace, where he was born, until he was eight months old.

His parents, Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh, then moved to Clarence House.

Princess Anne, now The Princess Royal, was born on 15 August 1950. 

King George VI died on 6 February 1952, and his elder daughter Princess Elizabeth became Queen. The three-year-old Prince was now Heir to the Throne.

The Prince’s new status made him The Duke of Cornwall. He was also automatically given the Scottish titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

Attending the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Shortly after Easter 1952, The Queen and her family moved back to Buckingham Palace. On 2 June 1953, The Prince attended his mother’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey.

He sat between The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret and later joined The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Later Education

On 14 August 1957, Buckingham Palace announced that The Prince would attend Cheam, the preparatory school at Headley, near Newbury, Berks, which had been attended by his father from 1930 to 1933. The Prince began his first term on 23 September 1957.

During five years at Cheam, The Prince played cricket for the First Eleven, joined in school games of football and rugby, and took part in amateur dramatics. He was appointed head boy in his final year. The Prince had started his time at Cheam as the eight-year-old Duke of Cornwall. He left on 1 April 1962 as the 13-year-old Prince of Wales.

Buckingham Palace announced on 23 January 1962, that The Prince of Wales would attend Gordonstoun, the public school on the shores of the Moray Firth in Scotland. The Prince’s father, The Duke of Edinburgh, had been among the first pupils when the school was opened in 1934.

On 1 May 1962, The Prince was taken to Gordonstoun by The Duke of Edinburgh, who piloted a Heron of the Queen’s Flight from Heathrow to RAF Lossiemouth before the final drive to the school.

From February to July 1966, The Prince of Wales spent two terms at Timbertop, a remote annexe of Geelong Church of England Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia.

While attending Timbertop, The Prince joined in a school trip to Papua New Guinea, led by his history tutor Michael Persse. After seeing examples of the folk art of the Papuan people, The Prince expressed concern in an essay that traditions there were being allowed to wither, a theme he took up later in his life.

When The Prince returned to Gordonstoun for his final year, he was made school guardian, or Head Boy and, after years of communal living, was given his own study bedroom.

In March 1967 he played the Pirate King in a school production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance.

Taking his exams

The Prince, the first Heir to The Throne to sit public examinations, took his GCE O Levels at the age of 16, passing English language, English literature, Latin, French and history – and later mathematics.

He took his A Levels in July 1967, getting a B in history and a C in French, also gaining a distinction in an optional special paper in history.

Going to University

The Prince went on to university, rather than straight into the Armed Forces, and in Autumn 1967 he arrived at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Prince’s grandfather, King George VI, had studied history, economics and civics for a year at the same college, from October 1919.

The Prince chose to take a first year course in archaeology and physical and social anthropology and arrived at Trinity College on 8 October 1967.

In March and April 1968, The Prince of Wales spent time studying archaeological sites in France and taking part in excavations in Jersey.

On 8 April 1968, it was announced that The Prince had decided to change from archaeology and anthropology to history from the next academic year starting in October.

In his first examination at Cambridge, the results of which were published on 14 June 1968, The Prince was awarded a 2:1 in the first part of the archaeology and anthropology exams.

In April 1969, The Prince of Wales left Cambridge to spend a term at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, where he studied Welsh and the history of the Principality.

The Prince left the University College of Wales in June 1969, a week before his Investiture as Prince of Wales by The Queen at Caernarfon on 1 July.

As part of the social side of university life The Prince joined Trinity’s drama group, the Dryden Society, in November 1968 and appeared in two of the society’s annual revues. In the 1970 revue, Quiet Flows the Don, The Prince played a sports commentator, an antiques expert and a weather forecaster and in another played the part of a church padre in the society’s production of Joe Orton’s black comedy Erpingham Camp.

On 10 March 1970, The Prince flew from Heathrow Airport to visit New Zealand, Australia and Japan, returning on 15 April in time for the start of his final term at Trinity. Other royal duties during The Prince’s final year at Cambridge included attending the State Opening of Parliament, being formally introduced into the House of Lords and attending his first Privy Council.

On 12 May 1970, The Prince of Wales raised in public some of his concerns about the environment and conservation which were to remain central to his thinking over the coming decades. In his debut at a Cambridge Union debate, he spoke to the motion that “This house believes that technological advance threatens the individuality of man and is becoming his master”.

On 23 June 1970 The Prince of Wales, the first Heir to The Throne ever to take a degree, was awarded a 2:2.

On 2 August 1975 His Royal Highness, piloting a Royal Air Force helicopter, returned to Cambridge to receive his MA.

Becoming Prince of Wales

The Prince was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on 26 July 1958, becoming the first Prince of Wales since 1936. Although investitures of Princes of Wales were traditionally held in front of Parliament, and not all Princes of Wales have been invested, the investiture of the present Prince of Wales (like that of his predecessor Prince Edward, later Edward VIII, in 1911) was a State occasion.

It took place in a Welsh setting before the Welsh people, at Caernarfon Castle on 1 July 1969. The Welsh regalia (Crown Jewels associated with the Princes of Wales) used at the investitures in 1911 and 1969 are on loan to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

Armed Forces

Supporting the Armed Forces

The Prince, and now as King, is a strong supporter of Britain’s Armed Services. 

His Majesty’s relationship with the Armed Services is based on four themes:

  • promoting the role of the Forces within national life, through operational visits and ceremonial duties such as medal presentations
  • focusing on the professionalism and excellence of training
  • supporting the welfare of service personnel and their families, especially those who are injured or bereaved
  • helping to maintain the history and heritage of the Services through regimental links and veterans groups.

The King attends the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph, and other commemorative events in this country and abroad, to pay tribute to those who have fallen during the course of battle.

As Prince he was Patron of a number of charities and organisations which help to look after the welfare of soldiers and their families, including the Airborne Forces Security Fund, War Widows, British Forces Foundation, Royal Naval Benevolent Trust and the White Ensign Association. 

The Prince has a special relationship with 12 regiments in this country and 10 in the Commonwealth.

He also meets injured soldiers on a regular basis at The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Headley Court and Selly Oak Hospital.

The Prince’s career in the Armed Services

As Prince of Wales, his majesty held the ranks of Admiral in the Royal Navy, Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force and General in the Army.

His Royal Highness began his own career in the Armed Services in March 1971, when he started a four-month attachment with the Royal Air Force at Cranwell, Lincolnshire.

Charles had already gained his private pilot’s licence, and flew himself to Cranwell on 8 March, in a twin-engined Basset of The Queen’s Flight, to start advanced training to qualify as a jet pilot.

Flight Lieutenant The Prince of Wales was awarded his RAF wings at Cranwell on 20 August 1971.

On 15 September, The Prince joined the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, under the graduate entry scheme, as Acting Sub-Lieutenant. The Duke of Edinburgh, and his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, had both been at Dartmouth.

During the next two and a half years, The Prince attended a four-month course at Portsmouth and served on four more ships. A 1974 Pacific voyage on the frigate HMS Jupiter included calls at Singapore, New Zealand, Tonga, Western Samoa, Honolulu, San Francisco, Acapulco and Bermuda. On 1 May 1973, The Prince of Wales was promoted to Acting Lieutenant.

On 2 September 1974 The Prince joined the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton for helicopter flying training before being assigned to 845 Naval Air Squadron as a pilot on board the commando carrier HMS Hermes.

Following a lieutenant’s course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, The Prince was given command of his own ship, the minehunter HMS Bronington, for the final ten months of his active service in the Royal Navy ending on 15 December 1976.

The following January he was promoted to the rank of Commander. He was promoted again on his 40th birthday in 1988, to Captain in the Royal Navy and Group Captain in the Royal Air Force.

On 14 November 1998, the Ministry of Defence announced that The Prince of Wales had been promoted to “2-star” Rank in all three Services of the Armed Forces to coincide with his 50th birthday.

His Royal Highness was again promoted in all three Services on his 54th birthday in 2002 becoming Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy, Air Marshal in the Royal Air Force and Lieutenant General in the Army.

In 2006, The Prince was promoted to Admiral in the Royal Navy, General in the Army and Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force.

The Prince of Wales holds honorary rank and appointments in many branches and regiments of the Armed Services.

On being appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, a few months before he was 30, The Prince asked to take part in their parachute training course so he could understand their important work.

Work and Public Service

The Prince carries out royal duties in support of the Queen bringing people together across all sections of society, representing stability and continuity, highlighting achievement, and emphasising the importance of service and the voluntary sector.

As Prince of Wales, Charles, for more than 40 years has carried out and led charitable work. From creating The Prince’s Trust in the mid-1970s his charitable interests have grown to the point where his 16 charities represent, as a group, the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the UK.

Employing more than 1,800 people between them, The Prince’s Charities are active in a broad range of areas, including the built environment, responsible business, helping disadvantaged young people and international sustainability.

The King, together with his wife The Queen Consort seek to promote and protect, through their work, the country’s enduring traditions, virtues and excellence. They seek to highlight achievements or issues that, without his support, might otherwise receive little exposure, supporting Britain’s rural communities, encouraging sustainable farming, and promoting tolerance and greater understanding between different faiths and communities.

Marriage to Lady Diana Spencer

On 29 July 1981, The Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer in St Paul’s Cathedral who became HRH The Princess of Wales.

The Princess was born on 1 July 1961, at Park House on The Queen’s estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. She lived there until the death in 1975 of her grandfather, the 7th Earl when the family moved to the Spencer family seat at Althorp House in Northamptonshire.

Lady Diana’s father, then Viscount Althorp and later the eighth Earl Spencer, had been an equerry to both George VI and The Queen. Her maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a close friend and lady in waiting to The Queen Mother.

The Prince and Princess of Wales had two sons: Prince William, born on 21 June 1982; and Prince Harry, born on 15 September 1984.

From the time of their marriage, The Prince and Princess of Wales went on overseas tours and carried out many engagements together in the UK.

On 9 December 1992, the Prime Minister, John Major, announced to the House of Commons that The Prince and Princess of Wales had agreed to separate.

The marriage was dissolved on 28 August, 1996. The Princess continued to live at Kensington Palace and to carry out her public work for a number of charities.

When The Princess was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997, The Prince of Wales flew to Paris with her two sisters to bring her body back to London. The Princess lay in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace until the night before the funeral.

On the day of the funeral, The Prince of Wales accompanied his two sons, aged 15 and 12 at the time, as they walked behind the coffin from The Mall to Westminster Abbey.

The Prince of Wales asked the media to respect his sons’ privacy, to allow them to lead a normal school life. In the following years, Princes William and Harry, who are second and third in line to the throne, accompanied their father on a limited number of official engagements in the UK and abroad.

Find out more about Prince William, Prince of Wales 

Find out more about Prince Henry of Wales (Harry)

Marriage to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

When Prince of Wales, Charles married Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles on 9 April 2005 at a civil ceremony at the Guildhall in Windsor, followed by a service of prayer and dedication in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

After the wedding, Mrs Parker Bowles became known as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. On King Charles III’s accession, she became known as  HRH The Queen Consort.

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales