Born to rule. Prior to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III — who assumed the throne in September 2022 upon his mother’s death — had been the heir apparent to the British throne for seven decades. In fact, he held the position longer than anyone in the monarchy’s history. While waiting for his ascension, he served his country as the Prince of Wales and started a family of his own.
The queen 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 his future queen consort, 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.”
Nearly four years later, it was Charles’ turn to pay tribute to the queen — first at her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022, which honored her 70 years on the throne, and the following September, after died at age 96.
“And to my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you,” the monarch concluded his inaugural speech as king, one day after Elizabeth’s death. “Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years. May ‘flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’”
Charles’ royal coronation took place in May 2023 at Westminster Abbey, the same place his mother was crowned as queen. While kneeling before the altar, he gave his official oath as king: “I, Charles, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law,” he said.
The former Prince of Wales continued: “Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace.”
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Scroll through the gallery below to relive Charles’ life in photos.