It’s not everyday that an heir apparent turns 70. Prince Charles, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth and next in line to the throne, hit the milestone this year. He has been heir for the longest time in the U.K., and even though the Queen is 92 now, he’s probably still got a while to wait. And the British public are fascinated by him. They pored over the set of new photographs he released for his birthday.
Prince Charles was born in 1948, in Buckingham Palace, before his mother held the title of Queen. Back then, the titles of his parents were “Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh,” and “Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.” But after King George VI passed away in 1952, Elizabeth took the throne. That made Charles next in line after her and granted him some other titles too.
On the accession of Elizabeth, Charles was given the titles Duke of Rothesay, Duke of Cornwall, Baron of Renfrew, Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. The prince was still just a child then, but he was educated by a governess and trained relentlessly in royal protocol and tradition.
With that in mind, it was a difficult life to lead though. Reportedly, pressure from his father caused Charles to marry Lady Diana in 1981. It was a marriage neither of them wanted, but they went ahead anyway and had two children together. Charles was really in love with Camilla Parker Bowles, who remained his mistress even after he made his vows to Diana.
The divorce of Charles and Diana, and the resulting fallout, marked a low point for the royal family. A leaked and explicit phone conversation between Charles and Camilla didn’t help matters either. At that point, the media even suggested that Charles should refuse the crown and pass it down to his son Prince William.
Diana’s post-divorce death in a car crash sparked an outpouring of anger against the royal family. As the public grieved, the royals seemed to them aloof and uncaring. As the mourning died down, Charles reportedly hired high-class PR agents to try and reform his image. Gradually it worked, with Charles gaining popularity as time went on.
These days, Charles is seen as perhaps not as cool as the new generation of royals – William, Harry, their wives Kate and Meghan – but a perfectly acceptable heir to the throne. And for his 70th birthday, a new profile was written about him in The Sunday Times. It contained some interesting details of his private life.
Charles is the busiest royal out there right now, according to the people closest to him. He does at least 600 engagements a year. “The man never stops,” his younger son Harry told the Times. “When we were kids, there were bags and bags and bags of work that the office just sent to him. We could barely even get to his desk to say goodnight.”
However, he also takes time for other things. He enjoys long walks in the countryside, and partakes in a solo one almost every day. He loves raising chickens – he owns several Burford brown and Marans birds, some of which are prizewinners. And then, of course, there’s his relationship with his grandchildren.
The photos released for Charles’s birthday showed him smiling happily with his three grandchildren: George, Charlotte and Louis. George is currently aged 5, while Charlotte is 3, and Louis is still a baby. The photos mark one of the few times the world has gotten to see what the new arrival looks like.
The snaps, taken by Getty photographer Chris Jackson, were absolutely adorable. In one of them, Charles holds Louis tightly while the little baby grins. “It was lovely chaos with the children,” Jackson told the Times. “He is a very hands-on grandfather. He was holding hands with George and Charlotte, and bouncing Louis up and down for a long time.”
In one of the best photos from the shoot, an outtake released on Instagram, little Louis reaches out for Charles’s nose while George sits on his grandfather’s knee. “George was very happy on the prince’s knee. They have a great relationship that’s a little more established, as George is a bit older,” Jackson told The Sunday Times.
The photos were analyzed by body language experts to see if any information could be gleaned about the royal family. Judi James analyzed a new picture of Charles, William and Harry for the Daily Mail. “Harry is known for his sense of humor and that seems to bring out the fun and rather boyish side of [Charles] while William stands much more formally and protectively on his other side,” she said.
Another newly released photo showed Charles reading notes on the (incredibly luxurious) Royal Train. “With his red folders at his side and his glasses perched on the end of his nose Charles looks more like a PM [Prime Minister] here,” James said. “As he peruses his file his right toe is held up vertically, signalling genuine and possibly critical or opinionated interest.”
Charles’s political views have long been discussed in the British press. Royals aren’t supposed to involve themselves in politics – that’s why you never hear about the political views of the Queen, for example. However, the subject was brought up in a documentary made for Charles’s birthday: Prince, Son & Heir – Charles at 70.
An interviewer told Charles that “some people have accused you of meddling” with regards to politics. In the past, Charles had sent letters to politicians on subjects such as military resources, teacher training, and illegal fishing practices. In response to the question, Charles laughed and replied, “You don’t say.”
Charles said on the documentary that he would restrain himself when he became king. When asked if his work in politics would continue, he answered, “No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid. I do realize that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So of course I understand entirely how that should operate.”
Now the Queen is reaching the end of her life, there has been a lot of discussion about what sort of king Charles will make. However, his immediate family seem more interested in a different role of his, that of grandfather. In the documentary, Prince William shared that Charles was “brilliant” with George, Charlotte and Louis.
“He’s the fittest man I know, but equally I want him to be fit until he’s 95,” William said of his father. “Having more time with him at home would be lovely, and being able to you know play around with the grandchildren. Because when he’s there, he’s brilliant. But we need him there as much as possible.”
Charles, and the whole world, will have a lot of adjustments to make when he becomes king. But now that Harry and Meghan are expecting their first child, Charles will shortly have another grandchild to add to the mix. And in ten years’ time, he’ll hopefully be celebrating his 80th birthday with that child and others by his side.