King Charles III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was born at 21:14 (GMT) on November 14, 1948, during the reign of his maternal grandfather, King George VI. He was the first child of Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (later Queen Elizabeth II), and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His parents would have three additional children, Anne (born 1950), Andrew (born 1960) and Edward (born 1964). On 15 December 1948, at four weeks old, he was christened in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher.
In February 1952, upon the death of his grandfather and the accession of his mother as Queen Elizabeth II, Charles became the heir apparent. Under a charter of King Edward III in 1337, and as the monarch’s eldest son, he automatically assumed the traditional titles of the Duke of Cornwall and, in the Scottish peerage, the titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. On June 2, 1953, Charles attended his mother’s coronation at Westminster Abbey.
Charles was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on July 26, 1958, by his mother though his investiture was not held until July 1, 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 he made his maiden speech in June 1974, the first royal to speak from the floor since the future Edward VII in 1884. He spoke again in 1975. Charles began to take on more public duties, founding the Prince’s Trust in 1976, and travelling to the United States in 1981.
Charles first met Lady Diana Spencer in 1977 while he was visiting her home, Althorp. He was the companion of her elder sister, Sarah, and did not consider Diana romantically until mid-1980. While Charles and Diana were sitting together on a bale of hay at a friend’s barbecue in July, she mentioned that he had looked forlorn and in need of care at the funeral of his granduncle Lord Mountbatten.
Soon, according to Charles’s chosen biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, “without any apparent surge in feeling, he began to think seriously of her as a potential bride”, and she accompanied Charles on visits to Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House.
Charles proposed to Diana in February 1981; she accepted and they married in St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 July 29 of that year. The couple lived at Kensington Palace and at Highgrove House, near Tetbury, and had two children: Princes William (b. 1982) and Henry (known as “Harry”) (b. 1984). Charles set a precedent by being the first royal father to be present at his children’s births.
In December 1992, British prime minister John Major announced the couple’s legal separation in Parliament. Charles and Diana divorced on August 28, 1996, after being formally advised by the Queen in December 1995 to end the marriage. The couple shared custody of their children. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31 of the following year; Charles flew to Paris with Diana’s sisters to accompany her body back to Britain.
The engagement of Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles was announced on February 10, 2005; he presented her with an engagement ring that had belonged to his grandmother. The Queen’s consent to the marriage (as required by the Royal Marriages Act 1772) was recorded in a Privy Council meeting on March 2.
The marriage was scheduled to take place in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle, with a subsequent religious blessing at St George’s Chapel. The venue was subsequently changed to Windsor Guildhall, because a civil marriage at Windsor Castle would oblige the venue to be available to anyone who wished to be married there.
Four days before the wedding, it was postponed from the originally scheduled date of April 8 until the following day in order to allow Charles and some of the invited dignitaries to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the service of blessing and later held a reception for the newlyweds at Windsor Castle. The blessing, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, was televised.
In 2008, The Daily Telegraph described Charles as the “hardest-working member of the royal family”. He carried out 560 official engagements in 2008, 499 in 2010, and over 600 in 2011.
During his time as Prince of Wales, Charles undertook official duties on behalf of the Queen. He officiated at investitures and attended the funerals of foreign dignitaries. Charles made regular tours of Wales, fulfilling a week of engagements each summer, and attending important national occasions, such as opening the Senedd. The six trustees of the Royal Collection Trust met three times a year under his chairmanship.
In May 2022, Charles attended the State Opening of Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech on behalf of his mother as a counsellor of state for the first time.
Charles acceded to the British throne on September 8, 2022, following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Charles was the longest-serving British heir apparent, surpassing Edward VII’s record on April 20, 2011. When he became monarch at the age of 73, he was the oldest person to do so, the previous record holder being William IV, who was 64 when he became king in 1830.
Plans for Charles’s coronation have been made for many years, under the code name Operation Golden Orb. Reports before his accession suggested that Charles’s coronation would be simpler and smaller in scale than his mother’s in 1953, with the ceremony expected to be “shorter, smaller, less expensive and more representative of different faiths and community groups – falling in line with the King’s wish to reflect the ethnic diversity of modern Britain”. Nonetheless, the coronation will be a Church of England ceremony and will require a coronation oath, the anointment, the delivery of the orb and the enthronement.
There had been speculation as to what regnal name Charles would choose upon his succession to the throne. In 2005, it was reported that Charles had suggested he might choose to reign as George VII in honour of his grandfather George VI, and to avoid associations with previous royals named Charles.
Charles’s office said at the time that no decision had yet been made. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Clarence House confirmed that Charles would use the regnal name “Charles III”.
King Charles III gave his first speech to the nation on September 9 at 18:00 BST, in which he mourned his late mother and proclaimed his elder son, William, Prince of Wales.
On September 10, 2022, Charles was publicly proclaimed King of the United Kingdom by the Accession Council. The ceremony was televised for the first time. Attendees included Queen Camilla, The Prince of Wales, then-British prime minister Liz Truss, and her predecessors John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. Charles was also proclaimed king of each of his other realms by the relevant privy or executive council.
The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla is due to take place on May 6, 2023 at Westminster Abbey.