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Charles, Prince of Wales

Prince Charles Dan Marsh

Photo: Dan Marsh

A Prince of Firsts

Royal Family 1950's BiblioArchive

The Royal Family in 1957. Photo: BiblioArchive

Charles Phillip Arthur George, Prince of Wales (also known as the Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Chester, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland) is probably best described as a “Prince of Firsts,” since so many of his actions are either record-breaking or never before attempted in the British Royal Family. Charles is currently the longest running heir-apparent (successor to the throne) and is soon to be the oldest heir in British history. Should he ascend the throne tomorrow, Charles would also be the oldest monarch to take the title. Around the time he was born in 1948, British law stated that no son of the female heir-apparent could be named a prince at birth, but Charles’ grandfather King George VI had the law amended to make Charles the first child of a female heir to be a prince from birth.

Charles, Prince of Wales was also the first British prince to attend school rather than be educated by a private tutor. According to the headmaster’s wishes and Her Majesty’s consent, Charles did not receive special treatment at his schools. Charles was also the first prince to attend secondary school before enlisting in the British military. He was accepted into Trinity College in Cambridge and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970—making him the first heir-apparent to earn a university degree.

Charles, Prince of Wales and the Community

Prince Charles’ best selling book on environmental awareness.


When it comes to public service, Prince Charles is one of the most active members of the Royal family. The Prince’s well invested charities supposedly raise over £100 million every year, and encourages development in education, environmental awareness, and responsible business practices. The collection of organizations Charles funds—collectively known as “The Princes Charities”—have helped save and improve lives around the world. In the aftermaths of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, Charles helped fund five-million measles-rubella vaccines to be sent to the Philippines, which had suffered an outbreak due to the devastating storm. According to the International Health Partners, the vaccines helped immunize five-million children under the age of five.

Facing Scandal

Charles and Diana's Marriage Piano Piano!

The marriage portrait of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Image: Piano Piano!

Of course, there is one aspect of Prince Charles that is by no means new to the royal family: extramarital affairs. While married to Princess Diana, Charles was caught having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. The resulting scandal led to Diana and Charles’ divorce. In 2005 Charles married Camilla in a civil ceremony, the first royal wedding to do so.

It appears that Prince Charles’ married life raises the most controversy over his title as heir-apparent. Cheating on one’s wife is discouraged in all ranks of society, but especially in upper classes and celebrities, where a hidden camera always seems to be waiting to turn private sins into public shame. Charles’ marriage to Camilla might cause even more problems, since they were married by a judge instead of a clergyman and Charles will soon be the head of the Anglican Church. Even though the marriage was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury immediately after the ceremony, it still raises strong political issues over the legitimacy of the monarch’s religious authority.

The Prince’s Dilemma

One school of thought claims that Charles may be preparing to make a decision his great-uncle Edward VIII faced in 1936: does he ascend the throne and face the intense political and religious controversies over his reign, or does he abdicate in favor of his son William to be with the woman he loves?

Cambridge.com is not affiliated with the University of Cambridge.

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