Born to rule. Prince Charles has been the heir apparent to the British throne for decades. In fact, he has held the position longer than anyone in the monarchy’s history. While waiting for his ascension, he has served his country as the Prince of Wales and started a family of his own.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip welcomed their first child, son Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor, on November 14, 1948. While his mother was still a princess when she gave birth at Buckingham Palace, both of their lives changed when her father, King George VI, died in February 1952. Elizabeth’s accession meant that Charles became her heir apparent at just 3 years old. He also took on the titles Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
Charles attended Elizabeth’s coronation at Westminster Abbey in June 1953. He grew up alongside siblings Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and eventually became Prince of Wales in July 1958. He was crowned by his mother at his investiture in July 1969.
As Charles stepped into adulthood, he was expected to marry. After serving in the military and founding his own charity, he proposed to Princess Diana in February 1981. They tied the knot in a lavish wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral in July of that year. The couple subsequently welcomed two sons, Prince William in June 1982 and Prince Harry in September 1984.
Despite starting a family together, Charles and Diana’s marriage broke down, and then-Prime Minister John Major announced their separation in December 1992. They finalized their divorce in August 1996. The prince became a single parent to their sons after Diana died in August 1997 at age 36 following a car accident.
Charles focused on his kids and his royal duties but ultimately married Camilla Parker Bowles in April 2005. He eventually became a grandfather in July 2013 as he continued to undertake official tasks on behalf of the queen.
His mother lauded him on the occasion of his 70th birthday in November 2018. “Over his 70 years, Philip and I have seen Charles become a champion of conservation and the arts, a great charitable leader — a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history — and a wonderful father,” she said in a speech at the time. “Most of all, sustained by his wife, Camilla, he is his own man, passionate and creative.”
The monarch concluded: “So this toast is to wish a happy birthday to my son, in every respect a duchy original. To you, Charles. To the Prince of Wales.”
Scroll through the gallery below to relive Charles’ life in photos.