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King Charles III - Biography

The former Prince of Wales succeeded Queen Elizabeth II as the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms in September 2022.

King Charles III smiling and waving
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
Updated: June 15, 2023
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King Charles III ascended the British throne on 8 September 2022, following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II. The longest serving heir-apparent in British history, Charles, then 73-years-old, was also the oldest person to ever accede the throne. On 6 May 2023, the former Prince of Wales was crowned King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth Realms during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

Early life

The first-born son of the late Queen and former Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, Charles Philip Arthur George was born on 14 November 1948 at Buckingham Palace. As a child, Charles 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. The royal heir took up his first service appointment in the 1970s, but bid farewell to active military life a few years later after also spending some time with the Royal Navy.

Marriage to Diana

Upon his return to civilian duties, King Charles came under increasing pressure to find himself a bride. He was linked to many society beauties, including one Camilla Shand whom he'd met in the early '70s, but he eventually chose Lady Diana Spencer, a shy, 19-year-old nursery teacher. Their eventual wedding, held in London's St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981, was watched by 750 million viewers worldwide. 

Two sons followed – Prince William born on 21 June 1982, and Prince Harry, born on 15 September 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 both and the monarchy in general as the media began questioning the royal family's place in British society. In a 1994, Charles admitted in a television documentary that he was having a relationship with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles.

Charles and Diana divorced the summer after in August 1996. A year later, Diana was tragically killed in Paris in a road accident. Again, the monarchy came under fire. However in the years that followed the public came to see the future King as a devoted father to his sons as he gently supported them through their grief. 

Marriage to Camilla

Over the next few years, Camilla began to take on a more prominent role over the course of time, and eventually 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.

In February, 2005, it was announced the couple would tie the knot, and two months later on 9 April 2005, they finally walked down the aisle for a civil ceremony held at Windsor Guildhall. The ceremony was witnessed by a small group of friends and family members, but was followed by a prayer service attended by 700 invitees at St George's Chapel. 

Charles is now a proud grandfather to his five royal grandchildren Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet. While tensions have risen between the royal family and his youngest son Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Charles' invite for the couple to join him at the coronation suggests all is not completely fractured between the pair. 

Altruism and interests

Throughout his years as heir apparent, Charles' keen interest in topics such as architecture, the environment, and health have showed him to be an energetic, thoughtful and caring champion of a wide range of worthy causes. The King was responsible for establishing The Prince's Trust, The Prince's Foundation and The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF) and worked with many more organizations throughout the year's he was heir to the throne. 

Over this time, views which the King held – such as those which he shared on protecting the environment – went from being seen as eccentric to being on par with mainstream thinking. As the Prince of Wales, Charles became one of Britain's more outspoken royals, and – although members of the royal family do not traditionally voice opinions on political matters – he was wont to speak out on issues close to his heart such as the climate crisis. 

As King, Charles is expected not to continue with his more outspoken ways in order to keep to the expectation that he remain a neutral monarch under Britain's constitutional conventions. However, undoubtedly he will rule with the issues which he cares about still close to heart, and will continue to support the many charities he has worked with and established over his over 60 years of heirdom. Speaking about his role in public life and future role as monarch in 1976, the King said: "The most important thing will be to have concern for people and give some form of leadership. It's a fascinating job and I'm looking forward to the future."

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