The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Charles, Prince of Wales

For other people known as Charles, Prince of Wales, see Charles, Prince of Wales (disambiguation)

His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor, formerly Windsor), styled HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay in Scotland and HRH The Prince of Wales elsewhere (born 14 November 1948) is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He is heir-apparent to the throne of the British Monarchy and as a result first in line to become King of the United Kingdom and over a dozen Commonwealth Realms.

HRH The Prince of Wales
HRH The Prince of Wales

Birth and titles

He was born at Buckingham Palace to HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh, the elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. From birth, he was known as His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh. 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 Prince of Wales is normally referred to as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, except in Scotland wheren he is styled His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay. His full titles are rarely used; these are: His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland , Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Great Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Member of the Queen's Service Order , Lord of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty.

The Prince of Wales is a Lieutenant General in the British Army, a Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy and an Air Marshal in the Royal Air Force. He is also Colonel-in-Chief of several regiments:

Though the term is commonly used, he ceased to be styled Prince Charles (and technically should not be described as such) following the accession of his mother to the throne in 1952, when he became Duke of Cornwall.

Charles has indicated in the past that when he does ascend to the throne, he will become, in a gesture to his late grandfather, King George VII, rather than King Charles III.

Created Prince of Wales

The Duke of Cornwall was created 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 thirteenth 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 Prince of Wales had studied at Gordonstoun School in Scotland, at Trinity College, Cambridge, a term in Australia at Geelong Grammar's outdoor education campus "Timbertop", and also at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he went specifically in order to learn Welsh -- the first English-born prince ever to make a serious attempt to do so. This won him some popularity in the principality, but the investiture also aroused considerable hostility among some Welsh nationalists, and there were threats of violence. 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.


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, the Lady Sarah Spencer, the Lady Tryon (wife of the 3rd Baron Tryon ), and divorcee Jane Ward, among others. Yet, none of them were ever considered marriage material. As heir-apparent to the Throne, the Prince of Wales had to choose a bride who was of impeccable lineage, a Protestant, and a virgin (it should be noted that, in a concession to modernity, the Queen allowed HRH The Duke of York and Censored page to marry women who were in previous relationships). Reportedly, it was his once and current lover Camilla Shand who helped him select nineteen-year-old kindergarten teacher 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.


On 29 July, the Prince of Wales and the Lady Diana were married at St. Paul's Cathedral before 3,500 invited guests (including Camilla Shand) and an estimated 750 million people around the world. All of Europe's crowned heads (except for Juan Carlos of Spain, who was advised not to attend because the honeymoon would involve a stop-over in the disputed territory of Gibraltar) attended. So, too, did most of Europe's elected heads of state, with the notable exceptions of 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" (the technically correct description of an exiled monarch who hadn't abdicated), which infuriated Greek republicans, and Ireland's Dr Patrick Hillery, who was advised by Irish Pime Minister Charles J. 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, "Her Royal Highness". (Though commonly called Princess Diana, such a form of address was incorrect.) They made their homes at Highgrove in Gloucestershire and Kensington Palace. Almost immediately, the Princess of Wales became a star attraction, chased by the paparazzi, her every move (including changes in hair-style) followed by millions.

However, the marriage soon hit the proverbial rocks. 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, mother, brother, the Duchess of York, Elton John, her own staff—who quit after rows). The Prince of Wales, too, was blamed for the marital troubles. He and Camilla had ended their relationship in the 1970s and now found themselves in unhappy marriages. The restart of their affair in the late 1980s was to destroy what remained of the fairytale Wales marriage, which within five years of the wedding was already on the brink of collapse. Ironically, the Prince and Princess of Wales were similar in some respects: Both 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 his Prince's Trust charity).

Both partners subsequently admitted to extra-marital affairs, he with Mrs Parker-Bowles, she with an army officer. Though they remained publicly a couple, they effectively had 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. 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 Prince of Wales received much of the blame when details of his relationship with Mrs Parker-Bowles were revealed. She and her husband divorced, and her husband remarried, to a woman with whom he had had a long-term relationship during his marriage.


The marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales formally ended in divorce on 28 August 1996. It had produced two sons, HRH Prince William of Wales and HRH Prince Henry of Wales, who is known by the name 'Harry'. Tragically, Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident in 1997. The Prince of Wales earned considerable praise 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. From extreme unpopularity in the early 1990s, the Prince of Wales became one of the more popular members of the Royal Family.

Relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles

The Prince of Wales's relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles is now openly acknowledged, with her becoming his unofficial consort. However, two issues remain. As future Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the prospect of him marrying a divorcée, with whom he had a relationship while both were married, is controversial. (Since Diana, Princess of Wales has died, there is no problem with him marrying a second time. Though Mrs Parker-Bowles is also a divorcée, her former husband is still alive, and her remarriage is more problematical, and likely to be controversial.) However, opinion - both public and within the Church - has shifted somewhat to a point where a second marriage would be accepted. However, he is unlikely to marry until public opinion expects as opposed to merely accepts a remarriage.

Secondly and more sensitively, there remains the issue of Mrs Parker-Bowles's title after marriage. In strict constitutional law, she would automatically assume the title 'Princess of Wales' and the style 'Royal Highness'. Such a development would almost surely be unacceptable, even to those supporting their marriage. Legislation may have to be enacted allowing for a morganatic marriage, whereby she could neither become a princess or queen, and would not be styled HRH, but would use a courtesy title, perhaps 'Duchess of Cornwall'. (He is Duke of Cornwall.) Though her age suggests it is highly improbable, such legislation would also need to state that any children of the union would be excluded from the succession to the throne. Practical issues would also potentially arise over the status of her children by her first marriage, who in the event of a second marriage would become step-children of the future king and step-siblings to Princes William and Harry. (And so the focus of media attention, hence the need for some clarifications, such as inheritance rights to property of the Prince of Wales, police protection, etc.)

Personal interests

The Prince of Wales is an avid horseman and huntsman. He served in the Royal Navy, commanding HMS Bronington , a minehunter, from February 1976 until December 1976. He is also a talented artist and a published writer. 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 support from mainstream lending institutions. The Prince's Trust is believed to have helped thousands of people in poor inner-city areas get jobs and training. In this role, the Prince has become surprisingly popular with many left-wing politicians, who see his charity as helping those who were receiving aid from nowhere else. Fundraising concerts are regularly held for the Prince's Trust, with leading pop, rock and classical musicians taking part.

The Prince of Wales is a complex character: he has admitted to occasional depression, and is a passionate man who cares 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. He is also keen on growing and promoting organic food, although he drew some ridicule when he admitted to sometimes talking to his houseplants.

The Prince of Wales is also highly regarded 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.

He is an accomplished painter, mostly in watercolours, and has exhibited and sold a number of paintings - though his position usually means he does so for charitable purposes. He has also published books of his paintings.

He had a friendship with author Laurens van der Post who outsiders called the 'guru to Prince Charles', starting in 1977 until Laurens 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. Only the issue of his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles (and allegations by one former staff member, as of yet not publicly substantiated, of a sexual relationship with a male aide) remain as complicating factors in his public image and persona.

Naval career

The Prince of Wales served in the Royal Navy for five years in the early 1970s.

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 partner, and their extensive personal and office staffs).

His previous official residence was an apartment in St James's Palace.

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

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

  • His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh

As a child of daughter of the King he did not inherit style and title His Royal Highness Prince. These were granted to all the children of Princess Elizabeth by letters patent. 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.

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)

See also: List of Titles and Honours of Charles, Prince of Wales; British Royal Family




External links

  • Official website of HRH The Prince of Wales

Preceded by:
Line of Succession to the British throne Followed by:
HRH Prince William of Wales

Last updated: 02-19-2005 00:11:29
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55