There was cheering in the streets on November 14th, 1948, at news of a new royal baby, so today we wish a very happy 70th birthday to His Royal Highness Prince Charles.
The first child of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, he was born at Buckingham Palace at 9-14pm and later christened Charles Philip Arthur George. He would later be joined by younger siblings Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
On the sudden death in 1952 of his grandfather, King George VI, his mother became Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, as her eldest son, became heir apparent to the British throne. As a four-year-old, he attended his mother’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 2nd, 1953. Up the age of eight, he was educated by a governess, but then became the first heir apparent to attend school, initially in London and Berkshire, then as a boarder at his father’s old school, Gordonstoun, in Scotland.
It was renowned for its rigorous regime and jokingly referred to as “Colditz in kilts”, but Charles later praised the place and said it taught him a great deal about himself and his abilities. As heir to the throne, Charles already held several titles, but in July 1969 he was invested as Prince of Wales in a televised ceremony at Caernarfon Castle.
By that time, he was studying for a degree at Cambridge, taking one term out to study Welsh history and language in Aberystwyth. He graduated from Cambridge with a BA in 1970, becoming the first heir apparent to gain a university degree. In line with family tradition, he began military training while at university and in 1971 flew himself to the RAF College at Cranwell to train as a jet pilot.
After that he embarked on a career in the Royal Navy, serving on destroyers and frigates before qualifying as a helicopter pilot. By 1976 he was in command of his own vessel, a coastal minehunter, and still qualifying on other types of aircraft. Even after ending his active military service in late 1976, he continued to pilot several aircraft of The Queen’s Flight until 1994.
Throughout his twenties, Prince Charles was romantically linked to several women, dubbed “the world’s most eligible bachelor” and the subject of frequent press speculation about who he might marry. One of them was lady Sarah Spencer, but it would be her younger sister, Diana, who would eventually marry Charles. They first met in 1977 but did not begin a relationship until mid-1980, getting engaged in February the following year and married just five months later, on July 29th, 1981.
It appeared the perfect fairytale romance and ‘Charles and Di’ fever swept the UK, the popular press whipping up a frenzy of interest in the newlyweds. Their first son, Prince William, was born in June 1982, followed by a brother, Prince Harry, in September 1984. Sadly, the fairytale was not to last and by the late 1980s their marriage was in trouble, with frequent rumours and reports of disintegrating relations and affairs on both sides. Their separation in 1992, divorce in 1996 and Diana’s tragic death in a car crash in August 1997 marked a low point in Charles’ public popularity.
With the benefit of hindsight, many believe the marriage was always doomed, as Charles and Diana were 13 years apart in age and had little in common. On top of that, Charles still held strong feelings for a former girlfriend, Camilla Shand (later Parker-Bowles), and they rekindled their relationship.
After both were divorced, they became engaged to each other in February 2005 and married in a civil ceremony in April that year. While many believe Charles’ first marriage was essentially ‘arranged’ for him, his second was definitely of his own choosing and, in his words, “non-negotiable”. Over the years since, he and his second wife have grown in public popularity, due in no small part to the obvious strong bond between then and with his sons and their young families.
Throughout his adulthood, Charles has been heavily involved in charitable and philanthropic work, especially through The Prince’s Trust, established in 1976. He has also expressed personal views, sometimes controversially, on a wide range of topics, from modern architecture to alternative medicine, the natural environment, conservation and climate change.
As the longest-serving Prince of Wales ever, he maintains a very busy schedule of official duties and is known to be extremely hard-working. In recent years he has taken on more and more of the Queen’s commitments, while also passing some onto his sons in their growing official royal roles. As he enters his eighth decade today, we join with people across the world in wishing Prince Charles many happy returns of the day.