Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George, born 14 November 1948) is the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II. Known alternatively in Cornwall as Duke of Cornwall and in Scotland as Duke of Rothesay, he is the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, having held the position since 1952. He is also the oldest person to be next in line to the throne since Sophia of Hanover (the heir presumptive to Queen Anne), who died in 1714 at the age of 83.
Charles was born at Buckingham Palace as the first grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. He was educated at Cheam and Gordonstoun Schools, which his father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had attended as a child, as well as the Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, Charles served in the Royal Navy from 1971 to 1976.
In 1981, he married Lady Diana Spencer and they had two sons: Prince William (born 1982), later to become Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry (born 1984). In 1996, the couple divorced, following well-publicized extramarital affairs. Diana died in a car crash in Paris the following year. In 2005, Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles.
Charles’s interests encompass a range of humanitarian and social issues: he founded The Prince’s Trust in 1976, sponsors The Prince’s Charities, and is patron of numerous other charitable and arts organisations. Charles has long championed organic farming for which he established the Duchy Home Farm, run by the Duchy of Cornwall, which produces ingredients for the Duchy Originals brand, which he founded in 1990. Charles has sought to raise world awareness of the dangers facing the natural environment, and was an early advocate for action to combat climate change. As an environmentalist, he has received numerous awards and recognition from environmental groups around the world. His support for alternative medicine, including homeopathy, has been criticised by some in the medical community. He has been outspoken on the role of architecture in society and the conservation of historic buildings. Subsequently, Charles created Poundbury, an experimental new town based on his theories, in Dorset in 1993. He has authored a number of books, including A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture in 1989 and the children’s book The Old Man of Lochnagar in 1980.
Charles was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on 26 July 1958, though his investiture as such was not conducted until 1 July 1969, when he was crowned by his mother in a televised ceremony held at Caernarfon Castle. He took his seat in the House of Lords in 1970 and made his maiden speech in June 1974. Charles also began to take on more public duties, founding The Prince’s Trust in 1976, and travelling to the United States in 1981.
In the mid-1970s, the prince expressed an interest in serving as Governor-General of Australia; Commander Michael Parker explained: “The idea behind the appointment was for him to put a foot on the ladder of monarchy, or being the future King and start learning the trade.” However, because of a combination of nationalist feeling in Australia and the dismissal of the government by the Governor-General in 1975, nothing came of the proposal. Charles accepted the decision of the Australian ministers, if not without some regret; he reportedly stated: “What are you supposed to think when you are prepared to do something to help and you are told you are not wanted?”
Charles is the longest serving Prince of Wales, having surpassed the record held by Edward VII on 9 September 2017. He is the oldest and longest-serving British heir apparent, the longest-serving Duke of Cornwall, and the longest-serving Duke of Rothesay. If he became monarch at present he would be the oldest person to do so; the current record holder is William IV, who was 64 when he became king in 1830.