King Charles III: The Early Years
King Charles was born in Buckingham Palace in November 1948, just three years after the end of World War II. He was christened at the Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
He became heir apparent in 1952 at three years of age when his mother acceded to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II.
The then Prince Charles was proclaimed Prince of Wales in 1957 at the age of nine. This is a title traditionally bestowed on the heir apparent and is now held by Prince William.
The King was formally invested as Prince of Wales by Her Majesty the Queen in Cardiff in 1969. The strength of the King’s connections with Wales will be acknowledged during his coronation ceremony, part of which will be conducted in Welsh.
As a four-year-old, the then Prince attended his mother’s coronation – though not all three hours of it – in June 1953. He sat between his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and his aunt, Princess Margaret, watching proceedings from a few metres away in the royal box at Westminster Abbey.
The young Prince had received a unique, hand-painted illustrated invitation to the ceremony.
When Prince Charles reached school age, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip decided to break with tradition and send him to school rather than have him privately tutored.
He briefly attended a prep school in West London and was a boarder at Cheam School in Hampshire and then Gordonstoun School near Elgin in northern Scotland, which Prince Philip had also attended. The education programs of both Cheam and Gordonstoun emphasised the development of robust self-reliance.
For six months in 1966 Prince Charles attended Timbertop, a remote campus of Geelong Grammar in the Victorian Alps. His Majesty has spoken glowingly of his time there, calling it the most enjoyable part of his education to that date.
(It was later suggested that the Prince had helped smuggle cherry brandy into the campus. In response, the now King is reported to have said: ‘Don’t believe everything you read’.)
During his most recent visit to Australia, in 2018, the then Prince Charles was able to meet both his former French teacher and his former schoolmaster at Geelong Grammar at a reception in his honour at Government House Brisbane. The Prince wore a Geelong Grammar school tie for the occasion.
Following his secondary education, the King attended Trinity College Cambridge, beginning with studies in archaeology and anthropology but switching to history later in his course. He graduated from Cambridge in 1970 as the first heir to the throne to hold a university degree.
The King had earlier studied Welsh for a term at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth in preparation for his investiture as Prince of Wales.
During his second year at Cambridge, the Prince had received flying instruction from the Royal Air Force and in 1971 flew himself to an RAF base in Lincolnshire to begin training as a jet pilot.
After receiving his ‘wings’, His Majesty took up a naval career, following in the footsteps of his father Prince Philip, and grandfather, George VI. He trained at the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartford in 1971 and served on the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk and on the frigates HMS Minerva and HMS Jupiter.
The then Prince also qualified as a helicopter pilot, serving on the carrier HMS Hermes.
In 1976, he took command of the coastal minesweeper HMS Bronington for 10 months. During this time he entered a beard-growing contest with the crew – and won.
One member of the ship’s crew later spoke of the crew’s respect for their commander but also revealed that the Prince was often seasick when he was on the bridge in rough weather.
The Prince ended his active service in the Royal Navy in 1976 but later received honorary senior naval ranks including Admiral of the Fleet in 2012.
It has been speculated that the King will wear his Admiral’s uniform to the coronation in acknowledgment of his long-standing links with the Royal Navy.