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The Outspoken And Understated New King

Charles has seen it as his duty to help improve the lives of his mother’s subjects. (File)


Charles has waited almost all his life to succeed his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, even though he took on more of her duties and responsibilities as she grew older.

But the late monarch’s eldest son, 73, made the most of his record time as the longest-serving heir to the throne by forging his own path.

“The problem is, there’s no job description, so you’d rather make it up as you go,” he once said.

Manically active on a range of topics – though often under the radar – Charles sees himself as a “dissident” who goes against the prevailing political consensus, an ex-assistant revealed in 2006.

As he took on the burden of expectations, his life was plagued by low self-esteem, but driven by a relentless urge to do the right thing.

Charles has seen it as his duty to help improve the lives of his mother’s subjects, and has been outspoken on issues close to his heart, especially architecture, the environment, agriculture, faith and alternative medicine.

His views were often dismissed and mocked as eccentric or old-fashioned, but others think he is leading the way.

In January 2020, he warned business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos about global warming and environmental damage.

“What good is all the extra wealth in the world that ‘business as usual’ gives you if you can’t do anything with it but watch it burn in catastrophic circumstances?” he said.

He put his principles into practice by building a new town in the south west of England and launching an organic food range.

He bombarded ministers with lobbying letters on subjects ranging from inadequate military equipment to the fate of the Patagonian toothfish.

A 10-year struggle for press freedom culminated in the publication of the letters in May 2015 described by one commentator as “a plaintive sigh of woe over a world running to the dogs.”

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British satirical magazine Private Eye nicknamed him “Brian” after comparing a 1969 BBC documentary about the daily family life of the royal family to a soap opera.

Charles’s unwavering worldview — and his belief in recycling — is reflected in his sartorial style.

He has maintained the same side parting from the age of five, shoes from 1968 and jacket from 1985 and wears flawless double-breasted suits from Anderson and Sheppard.

– ‘Action man’ –

Charles Philip Arthur George was born on November 14, 1948 in Buckingham Palace.

He was second in line to the throne and became the heir apparent when his grandfather King George VI died on February 6, 1952 and his mother became Queen Elizabeth II.

As a boy, his governess, Catherine Peebles, described him as “oversensitive, lonely, extremely shy and given to quiet pursuits such as reading and painting”.

With his parents often on long overseas journeys, he grew close to his grandmother, King George’s Dowager Queen Elizabeth, and his mentor, his great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten.

To his dismay, he was named Prince of Wales in 1958 at the age of nine – the title reserved exclusively for the heir apparent since the early 14th century.

At age 13, Charles was sent to Gordonstoun, the grim Scottish boarding school his father attended. Desperately lonely, he hated it and described his years there as “absolute hell”, a “prison sentence” and “Colditz in kilts”.

However, during two enjoyable spells at an Australian high school in 1966, he matured and blossomed out of his shell.

He attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge and became the first heir to the throne to earn a degree, graduating in 1970 with a lower second-class distinction.

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Charles learned Welsh for a term before his inauguration as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

He served in the Royal Navy from 1971 to 1976, and while he was in the Caribbean for eight months, his girlfriend Camilla Shand married her longtime boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles, much to Charles’s chagrin.

A qualified pilot, the prince amassed an “Action Man” image, surfing and jumping from airplanes.

He launched the Prince’s Trust with his £7,400 severance package and the charity had helped more than 825,000 underprivileged young people find a calling by his 40th birthday.

“I was always raised to worry about everyone,” he said. “I’ve always tried to do it right and do the right thing by everyone.”

– Marriage Pressure –

In his personal life, girlfriends came and went in the seventies. Encouraged by Mountbatten, he proposed to his mentor’s granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull, in 1979, but she declined.

Under increasing pressure to find a wife, the 32-year-old prince proposed to 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer in February 1981 after a brief courtship.

Their “fairy tale wedding” on July 29 of that year at St Paul’s Cathedral in London was televised worldwide and was one of the biggest state events of the century.

Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, followed by Prince Harry in 1984.

The marriage was already shaky then, as Diana struggled with the pressures of royal duty.

Both strayed from the marriage — Charles rekindled his relationship with old flame Camilla.

Six months after a book was released in June 1992 depicting a vengeful Diana’s version of events, the couple broke up.

Charles refused to take revenge in the so-called “War of the Waleses”.

But in 1994, while speculation continued, he said the marriage breakdown was “the last possible thing I ever wanted to happen.”

– Visibly happier –

After Diana’s explosive BBC interview in November 1995, his mother urged the couple to divorce, which they did on August 28, 1996.

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When Diana was killed in a car accident in 1997, Charles repatriated her body from Paris and insisted that she be given full royal honors upon death.

Camilla was gradually introduced to an initially hostile audience as Charles’s non-negotiable companion.

Their engagement was announced in 2005, with polls showing support for the marriage. They were married in Windsor Guildhall in a civil ceremony on 9 April 2005. She became Duchess of Cornwall.

Charles has since made a visibly happier figure with his “cute wife” by his side and has become a grandfather.

In 2022, the Queen settled the thorny issue of what Camilla would become when Charles is king, granting her the blessing of being called “queen consort”.

The pair said they were “very aware of the honor my mother’s wish represents”, with Charles praising Camilla for his “firm support through the whole matter”.

William’s son George arrived first in 2013, followed by Charlotte in 2015 and Louis in 2018. Harry’s son Archie was born in 2019, then daughter Lilibet in 2021.

Charles is very interested in their development, although he is said to have become estranged from Harry after he left royal life and moved to the United States.

From there, he has voiced a range of criticisms, including how his father and brother were trapped in the confines of royal life, and how he hadn’t spoken to his father in months.

In March 2020, when Britain and the rest of the world were in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced that Charles had tested positive but had only mild symptoms.

In February 2022, he contracted the virus again.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)


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