Charles, prince of Wales


Charles, prince of Wales
▪ 1998

      During the 1990s Great Britain's monarchy was subject to more criticism—and more doubts about its future survival—than at any other time during the 20th century. In the eye of the storm was Charles, prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and heir to her throne. In particular, 1997 proved to be a turbulent year, in which he struggled with the aftermath of a difficult divorce, the death of his former wife, Diana, princess of Wales, and his attempts to secure public acceptance of his long-standing relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.

      Prince Charles Philip Arthur George was born at Buckingham Palace, London, on Nov. 14, 1948. He was the first heir to the British throne to go to school, as distinct from being educated by private tutors. Following five years of enduring the rigours of the Gordonstoun School in Scotland (1962-67), he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1970 with an honours degree in history. From 1971 to 1976 he served in the Royal Navy. On July 29, 1981, he married Lady Diana Frances Spencer. Their elder son, Prince William of Wales, became second in line to the British throne at his birth on June 21, 1982; Prince Henry, third in succession, was born on Sept. 15, 1984.

      For a time Charles's marriage to Diana seemed the perfect match for a modern royal family, and the princess's glamour appeared to complement the prince's seriousness. Charles sought to widen the limits imposed by royal protocol, involving himself in those public debates in which he could participate without being seen as politically partisan. As president of the charity Business in the Community, he spent time in some of Britain's most deprived urban areas, coaxing companies into activities that would help to solve local problems. He also established a charitable foundation, the Prince's Youth Business Trust, to support mainly young people with the kind of entrepreneurial ideas that the banks seldom backed.

      By the late 1980s strains in the marriage had become apparent, and they were increasingly widely reported in the media. In December 1992 Prime Minister John Major announced that Charles and Diana would separate. In February 1996 the couple agreed to divorce; their marriage formally ended on Aug. 28, 1996, with the decree absolute. By this time both Charles and Diana had admitted, in separate television interviews, that they had committed adultery during their marriage, in Charles's case with Parker Bowles.

      The death of Diana in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, brought intense new pressures to bear on Charles. Opinion polls showed his reputation to be at a low ebb, with a majority of the British people wanting the crown to pass straight to Prince William when the reign of Elizabeth II came to an end. Charles, however, proved resilient in adversity. His dignity following Diana's death and his sensitive handling of her funeral, as well as a successful and widely publicized trip to southern Africa in November (accompanied by Prince Harry on his first overseas tour), helped to begin the process of restoring his appeal. By the end of the year, opinion polls were showing that Charles's standing in the U.K. had begun to improve.

PETER KELLNER

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▪ British prince
in full  Charles Philip Arthur George, prince of Wales and earl of Chester, duke of Cornwall, duke of Rothesay, earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland  
born November 14, 1948, Buckingham Palace, London, England

      heir apparent to the British throne, eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh.

  After private schooling at Buckingham Palace and in London, Hampshire, and Scotland, Charles entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1967. He took a bachelor's degree there in 1971, the first ever earned by an heir to the British crown. He also spent a term at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, learning Welsh in preparation for his investiture as prince of Wales on July 1, 1969, at Caernarvon Castle. He then attended the Royal Air Force College (becoming an excellent flier) and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and from 1971 to 1976 took a tour of duty with the Royal Navy. Later he became an outspoken critic of modern architecture. He expressed his views on the topic in A Vision of Britain (1989). In 1992 he founded the Prince of Wales's Institute of Architecture, which later evolved into the BRE Trust, an organization involved with urban regeneration and development projects.

  On July 29, 1981, Charles married Lady Diana Frances Spencer (see Diana, princess of Wales), daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer; the royal wedding was a global media event, broadcast live on television and watched by hundreds of millions of people. The couple's first child, Prince William of Wales (William of Wales, Prince), became at his birth (June 21, 1982) second in line of succession to the throne. Their second child, Prince Henry Charles Albert David (Harry of Wales, Prince) (known as Harry), was born on September 15, 1984. Charles's marriage to Diana gradually grew strained amid intense scrutiny from the tabloid press and rumours of infidelity. On December 9, 1992, it was announced that Charles and Diana had decided to separate but would continue to fulfill their public duties and to share the responsibility of raising their sons. The couple divorced on August 28, 1996. A year later Diana died in an auto accident, and popular feeling for her, stronger even in death than in life, served to jeopardize the traditional form of monarchy that Charles represented. He subsequently spent much effort in modernizing his public image as the heir apparent. On April 9, 2005, he married Camilla Parker Bowles (Camilla, duchess of Cornwall) (born 1947), with whom he had a long-standing relationship; after the wedding, Parker Bowles took the title of duchess of Cornwall.
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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