Charles III: The Longest-Serving Heir to the Throne Is Now King of Britain

Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73. Here's a look at the life of the new King of the United Kingdom.

4 min read
Edited By :Saundarya Talwar

Video Producer: Aparna Singh

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam

(This story is being republished from The Quint's archives in light of King Charles III's coronation.)

Charles, the longest-serving heir apparent to the British throne, was proclaimed on Saturday, 10 September, by Britain's new monarch in a historic ceremony of the Accession Council that was televised for the first time in history.

The former Prince, who lost his father Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in April last year, travelled to Balmoral on Thursday, after being informed about his mother's condition.

With a long history of triumphs and scandals, the Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73. Here's a look at the life of the King of the United Kingdom.


First British Heir to Get a Degree

Charles Philip Arthur George was born in Buckingham Palace to Elizabeth and Philip on 14 November 1948 – he was their first child. At the time, Elizabeth was a Princess and her father George VI was the King.

King George VI died in 1952 and Elizabeth became the Queen at the age of 25. As her eldest son, Charles became Heir to the Throne – a title he would hold for 70 years – at the age of three.

After private schooling at Buckingham Palace, the former Prince attended various schools in London, Hampshire, and Scotland.

Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73. Here's a look at the life of the new King of the United Kingdom.

Charles during his school days.

(Photo Courtesy:

He went to Cambridge University in 1967 to study Archaeology and Anthropology at Trinity College. In his second year of college, he received flying lessons from the Royal Air Force (RAF).

In 1970, he became the first British heir to have graduated college. He also spent a term at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, learning to speak Welsh before he was invested as Prince of Wales by the Queen on 1 July 1969.

On 11 February 1970, Charles took his seat in the House of Lords.


Military Career

In March 1971, the former Prince, already a capable pilot, flew himself to RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, to train as a jet pilot. He then attended the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

From 1971 to 1976, Charles took a tour of duty with the Royal Navy on the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk and two frigates. In 1974, he qualified as a helicopter pilot and joined 845 Naval Air Squadron, which operated from the Commando carrier HMS Hermes.
Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73. Here's a look at the life of the new King of the United Kingdom.

Charles at the Royal Naval College

(Photo Courtesy:

On 9 February 1976, The former Prince took command of the coastal minehunter HMS Bronington for his last nine months in the Navy. Charles didn't give up flying until he crash landed an aircraft in 1994, for which he was found negligent.


A Broken Marriage

On 29 July 1981, Charles married Lady Diana Frances Spencer, daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer. The royal wedding, held in St Paul's Cathedral, was broadcast live on television and watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The former Prince and Diana, Princess of Wales, had two children together. Prince William was born in 1982 and Prince Henry (known as Harry) was born two years later.

In the age of broadcast media and tabloids, Charles and Diana were practically a celebrity couple, and were under constant public scrutiny amid rumours of infidelity. This, along with a near 13-year age difference, began to put a noticeable strain on the marriage.

Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73. Here's a look at the life of the new King of the United Kingdom.

Charles and Diana with the Reagans.

(Photo Courtesy: White House)

In 1992, the British press published transcripts of a telephone conversation between Charles and his former girlfriend Camilla Rosemary Shand from 1989. The then Prince later confirmed his infidelity.

Charles and Diana formally separated in December 1992 and announced that they would continue to fulfil their public duties and to share the responsibility of raising their sons. The two eventually admitted that their marriage was broken.

The former Prince and the Princess divorced in 1996.

Diana died in a car crash in Paris in the August of next year. Charles, along with Diana's sisters, accompanied her body back to the UK.

He, along with his mother the Queen, was subsequently brought up by many in the conspiracy theories around Princess Diana's death. He was even questioned by the police in this regard, though nothing ever came of it.

In 2005, eight years after Diana's death, Charles married Camilla, who then took the title of Duchess of Cornwall. They are still together and Camilla is now Queen Consort.

Charles ascended the throne at the age of 73. Here's a look at the life of the new King of the United Kingdom.

Charles and Camilla

(Photo Courtesy:


Royal Responsibilities

While there is no established constitutional role for the Heir to the Throne, as Prince of Wales, beginning in the 1970s, Charles undertook official duties on behalf of the Queen.

This involved activities like officiating investitures, attending the funerals of foreign dignitaries, attending important national occasions, traveling abroad on behalf of the United Kingdom etc.

In 2010, for example, Charles represented the Queen at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The Prince has also been regularly involved in charity. Since founding The Prince's Trust in 1976, he has established 16 more charitable organisations, which collectively raise more than £100 million annually.

With the decline in the Queen's health, Charles assumed more responsibilities in recent years. Upon her death he inherited the Sovereign title and job as head of the Commonwealth, along with other assets such as land and property.

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