Prince Charles

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is one of Britain's more outspoken royals, and – although members of the royal family do not traditionally voice opinions on political matters – he is wont to speak out on issues close to his heart such as architecture, genetically modified crops and the plight of underprivileged young people.

The first-born son of the Queen and Philip, Charles Philip Arthur George was born on November 14, 1948.

He was educated in Britain and Australia, and went on to read archaeology, anthropology and history at Trinity College, Cambridge, before earning his wings as a pilot in the RAF. The royal heir took up his first service appointment in 1969, bidding farewell to active military life seven years later.

Upon his return to civvie street, Prince Charles came under increasing pressure to find himself a bride. He was linked to many society beauties, including one Camilla Shand, whom he'd met in the early Seventies, but he eventually chose Lady Diana Spencer, a shy, 19-year-old kindergarten teacher.

The wedding, in St Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981, was watched by 750 million viewers worldwide. Two sons followed – Prince William, born on June 21, 1982, and Prince Harry, born on September 15, 1984.

For several years, the state of the couple's marriage was the subject of fierce scrutiny, and in 1992 they finally announced their separation. It was an intensely difficult time for Prince Charles, and the monarchy in general as the media began questioning the royal family's place in British society. In a 1994, following his wife's famous "three in this marriage" interview, Charles admitted in a television documentary that he had a relationship with his former girlfriend by that time Camilla Parker Bowles.

The summer after the decree nisi came through in 1996 Diana was tragically killed in a Paris road accident. Again, the monarchy came under fire. However in the years that followed the public came to see the future King as a devoted father as he gently supported his sons through their grief.

Meanwhile,Camilla, who had taken on a more prominent role over the course of time, became Charles' inseparable companion. The divorcée was given private offices at Clarence House, the Queen Mother's former home, when the Prince moved into the 19th-century building in 2003, and some of her personal costs were listed in Charles' official accounts the following year.

In February, 2005, it was announced that the couple would tie the knot.

Two months later, on April 9, they finally walked down the aisle. A civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, witnessed by a small group of friends and family members, was followed by a prayer service attended by 700 invitees at St George's Chapel.

The marriage has clearly given him stability and happiness. Both his sons have grown into their respective roles and he is now a proud grandfather, beaming whenever he has a chance to talk about Prince George.

Charles has offices and apartments at Clarence House in London, but loves to spend time at his Highgrove home, a beautiful Cotswold estate which is farmed organically, in line with the Prince's beliefs. He also takes a keen interest in architecture, young people, the environment and health, believing people should have access to both complementary and orthodox medicine.

In time his views, which were often seen as eccentric, have entered mainstream thinking. And the man who, all being well, will become Charles III is seen as an energetic, thoughtful and caring champion of a wide range of worthy causes.

Speaking about his role in public life, the Prince has said: "The most important thing will be to have concern for people and give some form of leadership.

"It's a fascinating job and I'm looking forward to the future."

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