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King Charles III, the 62nd British monarch to serve over the past 1,200 years, ascended to the throne on September 8, 2022, following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. At age 73, British history’s longest-serving heir-apparent was officially proclaimed king two days later at a ceremony at St. James’s Palace near Buckingham Palace, making him the oldest person to assume the title.

King Charles III's Early Life

Born November 14, 1948, at Buckingham Palace, Prince Charles Philip Arthur George was the first child of then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip and grandson of King George VI. On February 6, 1952, at the age of 3, he became heir-apparent when his mother ascended the throne.

At age 4, Charles was famously shown seated between the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret at Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony and continued to spend his life in the public eye.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles with Princess Margaret Rose shown in the royal box at Westminster Abbey during the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles with Princess Margaret Rose in the royal box at Westminster Abbey during the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II.

According to Royal.uk, the official website of the British royal family, Charles's parents chose to send him to school, making him the first heir to receive an outside education, rather than one from private tutors. He attended several schools, including a private boarding school in Scotland and two terms as an exchange student in Melbourne.

Charles was also the first heir to the British crown to earn a bachelor’s degree, attending Trinity College, at Cambridge University from 1967-1970. He studied archaeology, anthropology and, eventually, history. It was during this time, in 1969, that, at age 20, he was titled Prince of Wales.

Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfathers, Charles served in the Royal Navy from 1971-1976 where he flew helicopters, first training as a Royal Air Force pilot and eventually serving as commander of the minesweeper the HMS Bronington.

Marriage and Divorce

Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day, July 29, 1981.

Charles began dating Lady Diana Spencer in 1980 when she was 19 and he was 31. Charles had met Diana three years earlier while dating her older sister, Sarah. In February 1981, their engagement was announced, causing a media frenzy over their relationship. When asked during a TV interview if they were in love, Diana responded, “Of course,” while Charles said, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”

They were married on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a ceremony witnessed by a record-breaking 750 million TV viewers across the globe. The day was declared a national holiday in Great Britain. Diana became the first English woman since 1660 to marry an heir to the throne.

The couple’s first son, Prince William, was born June 21, 1982, and Prince Harry was born two years later on September 15, 1984.

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) riding in a sleigh with Prince William and Prince Harry during a skiing holiday in Lech, Austria, 30th March 1993.

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) riding in a sleigh with Prince William (left) and Prince Harry during a skiing holiday in Lech, Austria, March 30, 1993.

Beloved by the public for her beauty, grace and humanitarian work that included working with HIV/AIDS and leprosy patients and advocating for landmine removal and homelessness causes, Diana had the support of the public when the couple separated in 1992. This became especially true following Charles’s admission that he had engaged in a long-running affair with Camilla Parker Bowles during a 1994 interview. “There were three of us in this marriage,” Diana later responded. Charles and Diana divorced in 1996. Tragically, on August 31, 1997, Diana was killed in a car wreck in Paris, along with her companion, Dodi Al-Fayed and driver, Henri Paul.

In 2004, Charles and Parker Bowles announced their engagement, and wed the next year with Parker Bowles given the title Duchess of Cornwall.

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Ascension and Coronation

When Queen Elizabeth died at age 96 after serving as Britain’s longest-serving monarch on September 8, 2022, Charles immediately became king, with an official proclamation taking place on September 10.

“My mother gave an example of lifelong love and of selfless service,” he told the Assession Council. “Even as we grieve, we give thanks for this most faithful life. I am deeply aware of this great inheritance and of the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty which have now passed to me.”

King Charles III attends the Committal Service for Queen Elizabeth II at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on September 19, 2022 in Windsor, England.

King Charles III attends the Committal Service for Queen Elizabeth II at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on September 19, 2022 in Windsor, England.

A coronation date has yet to be announced, but will likely occur in 2023 at London's Westminster Abbey, where he will become the 40th monarch crowned there in the 900 years the ceremony has been held at the landmark. As king, Charles is head of the Commonwealth, which includes 54 countries, including 14, plus the United Kingdom, in which he is also the head of state.

With Charles’s ascension, his son William inherited his father’s former title, Prince of Wales and became the heir to the throne. Camilla’s title changed to Queen Consort. Charles has five grandchildren: Prince George (next in line to the crown after William), Princess Charlotte and Prince Louie, all born to Prince William and Kate Middleton; and Archie and Lilibet, children of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Causes and Interests

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, playing polo, circa 1980.

King Charles III, then Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, playing polo, circa 1980.

As a younger man, Charles took part in polo, playing around the world, was a competitive jockey and was often photographed surfing, skiing and taking part in other sports, meaning him the nickname of “action man.”

According to Royal.uk, he has helped establish more than 20 charities, which include The Prince’s Trust, The Prince’s Foundation and The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. Causes he has publicly supported include those related to the environment, sustainability and climate change, health care and alternative medicine, education and the arts.

Sources

"King Charles III, the New Monarch," September 19, 2022, BBC News.

"After a lifetime of preparation, Charles takes the throne," September 9, 2022, Associated Press.

"Key dates in the life of Charles, Britain’s new king," September 8, 2022, Associated Press.

"The King," Royal.uk

"Charles III, Britain's Conflicted New Monarch," September 8, 2022, Reuters.

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