Prince Charles

Though generally seen as mild-mannered, the Prince of Wales is one of Britain's more outspoken royals, and - although members of the royal family do not tradi-
tionally voice opinions on political matters - is wont to speak out on issues close to his heart. His stance on subjects as diverse as architecture and genetically modified food have often earned him criticism.

Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton

The first-born son of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip, Charles Philip Arthur George was born on November 14, 1948. He was educated in Britain and Australia, and went on to read archaeology, anthropology and history at Trinity College, Cambridge, before earning his wings as a pilot in the RAF. He took up his first service appointment in 1969, bidding farewell to active military life seven years later.

Upon his return to civvie street, Charles came under increasing pressure to find himself a bride. He had been linked to many society beauties, including the then Camilla Shand, whom he had met in the early Seventies, but he eventually chose Lady Diana Spencer, a shy, 19-year-old kindergarten teacher. The wedding, in St Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981, was watched by 750 million viewers worldwide. Two sons, the "heir and a spare", followed - William, born on June 21, 1982, and Harry, born on September 15, 1984.

For several years, the state of the couple's marriage was the subject of fierce scrutiny, and in 1992 they finally announced their separation. It was an intensely difficult time for Charles, and the monarchy in general as the media began questioning the royal family's place in British society. In a 1994, following his wife's famous "three in this marriage" interview, Charles admitted in a television documentary that he had committed adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles.

The summer after the decree nisi came through in 1996 Diana was tragically killed in a Paris road accident. Again, the monarchy came under fire, Charles especially. Since then the heir to the throne has successfully rehabilitated his image, and is now seen as a caring father, and worthy future monarch.

Charles has offices and apartments at Clarence House in London, but loves to spend time at his Highgrove home, a beautiful Cotswold estate which is farmed organically, in line with the Prince's beliefs. He also takes a keen interest in architecture, young people, the environment and health, believing people should have access to both complementary and orthodox medicine.

In his private life, Camilla, who had taken on a more prominent role over the course of time, became Charles' inseparable companion. The divorcée was given private offices at Clarence House, the Queen Mother's former home, when the Prince moved into the 19th-century building in 2003, and some of her personal costs were listed in Charles' official accounts the following year.

However, despite the increasingly public nature of the longtime relationship, it took many by surprise when, in February, 2005, it was announced that Charles and Camilla would tie the knot.

Two months later, on April 9, the couple finally took a walk down the aisle. A civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, witnessed by a small group of friends and family members, was followed by a prayer service attended by 700 invitees at St George's Chapel.

In the days after the wedding, as Charles and Camilla relaxed on Scottish honeymoon, it was revealed that the Queen would be cutting back on her overseas visits, with the Prince and his wife stepping into those duties. "Her Majesty has always embraced change and been mindful that it may be necessary for Prince Charles to take on more responsibility," said a spokesperson. "It's important that the job of monarch goes on. Any transition, whenever that is, has to be smooth."

The clearest indication of how the Prince feels about his destined role came during a 1976 sojourn in Canada. "The most important thing will be to have concern for people and give some form of leadership," he said. "It's a fascinating job and I'm looking forward to the future."

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