Ian Lloyd marks Prince Charles’s milestone birthday
As the Prince of Wales approaches a landmark birthday, Ian Lloyd takes a look at his life.
UNBELIEVABLY, the Prince of Wales turns seventy this month. Even more amazingly, his mother is still our monarch, and working as hard as ever at ninety-two, so that Charles remains – in the words of his friend, Spike Milligan – “trainee king”.
The prince was born at Buckingham Palace on November 14, 1948, the first baby to be born there since Queen Victoria’s day.
A sensitive child, he wasn’t as close to his parents as his sister Anne, or brothers Andrew and Edward. Instead, he sought comfort and security from his beloved granny, the Queen Mother, and his nanny, Mabel Anderson, who lives on the Windsor estate, and whom he sees as often as he can.
After school at Gordonstoun and three years at the University of Cambridge, he entered the armed forces, spending a total of five years with the RAF and the Royal Navy.
He married Lady Diana Spencer when he was thirtytwo, and the couple had two sons, William and Harry, before the marriage broke down in the mid1980s. Twenty years later, he married his long-time partner, Camilla Parker Bowles.
A lot has happened to the prince since he celebrated his last milestone birthday 10 years ago. He is still the hardest-working member of the royal family, averaging between 500 and 600 engagements a year.
Over the years he has founded 18 charities, which now operate under the one umbrella of “The Prince’s Charities”. They reflect his wide range of interests, from aiding disadvantaged young people to education and the environment.
In addition, he is patron of another 350 organisations.
He has also launched individual efforts such as the Cambrian Mountain Initiative, which helps the economy in the Welsh uplands, and the Pakistan Recovery Fund, designed to give aid after that country’s disastrous floods in 2010.
Four years later, his charities spent £5 million on vaccines to combat a measles epidemic in the Philippines.
When he celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday, he is said to have donated his state pension to an unnamed charity that supports elderly people in the UK.
Over the past decade, he has been assisting the Queen more and more. With the retirement of his father in 2017, Charles is now his mother’s escort at many high-level events.
The Queen no longer undertakes long-haul journeys, meaning it is Charles and Camilla who represent the British monarchy abroad.
For instance, in April he opened the Commonwealth Games in Australia. The Commonwealth is very close to the Queen’s heart, and last summer she told a meeting of its 53 leaders than she very much hoped her eldest son would succeed her as its head.
The members followed her advice and voted him to the post, though in theory any of the many leaders could have been offered the job.
Over the past decade, Charles has grown in confidence thanks to the love and support of Camilla. The two have a great rapport, and a terrific sense of humour – you only have to think of them stifling giggles on a visit to the Arctic Circle in Canada, where they were given a demonstration of traditional Inuit throat singing.
The Duchess never seeks to overshadow the prince, and she has certainly given him some much-needed self belief.
Those agonising pauses in his speeches and interviews seem to have disappeared, and she has encouraged him to loosen up.
She happily praised her husband to Ant and Dec when the television duo interviewed her, William and Harry to mark the 40th anniversary of the Prince’s Trust in 2016.
Inevitably the legacy and life story of Princess Diana still fascinates people, and Camilla’s seventieth
birthday was overshadowed by the twentieth anniversary commemorations of Diana’s death.
But Charles and Diana’s lasting legacy is, of course, their two sons.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed two hugely popular weddings.
In 2011 William married long-term love Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey. The couple have gone on to have three children: George, Charlotte and Louis.
Newspapers often speculate that the Cambridges are closer to Kate’s family than William’s. The truth is, however, that it is much easier for the Middletons to slot into William and Kate’s schedule of engagements than it is for Charles to do so, with his own packed diary always a problem.
A sign that he is close to his sons and grandchildren came last summer, when the prince chose a series of images marking his birthday for the annual summer exhibition at Buckingham Palace.
In pride of place were two studies of William and Harry in their Army uniforms by artist Nicky Philipps. These were later used as the basis for a joint painting of the brothers.
Also on display was a photo of three generations of the family, with Charles holding George, watched by a proud William. Before this summer, no-one had ever seen it.
This year we had the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and the couple are now expecting their first child.
Half a century ago, the very fact Meghan was an actress would have stunned the British establishment. It is a sure sign of how royal life is slowly changing.
Charles and Camilla have been on hand to give support to Meghan, who has moved to a new country.
When Meghan’s father was unable to travel to Windsor for the wedding, it was Charles who offered to walk his soon-to-be daughter-in-law down the last part of the aisle.
Harry’s grateful “Thanks, Pa!” was one of the most intimate gestures on that special day.
The Prince of Wales has had more than his share of criticism over the years, especially in the papers, but through his charitable works he has brought a lot to this country.
He once said he would only really be appreciated when he’s no longer around, and many would agree.
Perhaps his seventieth birthday is a time to give him a regal pat on the back. ■
Charles as a baby with his mother.
Prince Charles with newborn William.
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Charles and Harry enjoying a joke.