The King celebrated his 75th birthday by busily highlighting causes close to his heart.
Charles and Camilla visited a surplus food distribution centre outside London and met staff and volunteers to hear about how food waste can be used for social good. He then hosted a party for 400 nurses and midwives, saluting the NHS’s 75th birthday.
For good measure, the King also appeared on the cover of this month’s Big Issue, which gives marginalised people the opportunity to earn money.
It’s the sort of day that’s been typical of the King’s first 14 months on the throne.
After the seven-decade reign of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles has rushed to show that the monarchy remains relevant in modern British society.
He’s made three overseas visits, pledged to open the royal archives to researchers investigating the crown’s links to slavery and expressed “sorrow and regret’’ for “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence” committed against Kenyans during their struggle for independence.
Celebrating his milestone birthday, the royal family paid a heartfelt tribute to the King with a 39-second clip posted on the official royal family Twitter/X account, which looks at Charles’s evolution from young prince to elder statesman and later King.
“Wishing His Majesty the King a happy 75th birthday,” the post said. The video photobook looks back on the King’s childhood and some of his accomplishments over the years.
👑🎂 Wishing His Majesty The King a happy 75th birthday. pic.twitter.com/UxvMv8WTAj
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) November 14, 2023
Meanwhile, gun salutes across the UK marked Charles’s birthday, including a 62-gun salute at Tower Wharf, in the Tower of London.
Buckingham Palace marked the birthday with the firing of a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in London’s Green Park.
Charles’s reign has gotten off to a steady start, but he still needs to set out a clear vision for the future, said Ed Owens, an historian and author of After Elizabeth: Can the Monarchy Save Itself?’
“It’s a difficult moment for the monarchy because it’s going through this period of transition, from being adulated as a default position to now being questioned and challenged in new ways,’’ Mr Owens said.
“And I just wish that the King and his heir would set out more clearly what they want to do, rather than take for granted what they think the British public want from the monarchy.
Charles’s long apprenticeship meant he was a grey-haired septuagenarian when he finally took the throne, fueling concerns he would have a hard time connecting with a country that no longer takes deference to the monarchy for granted.
But all those decades also gave him more training and experience to draw upon than his mother, who was just 25 when she became queen.
In another royal first, Charles earned a degree in history from the University of Cambridge. He later spent six years in the Royal Navy before leaving to focus on his duties as heir to the throne.
As Prince of Wales, the future King founded a charity that helps young people get jobs and training. He started an organic food company and dabbled in urban planning. He was also an early advocate for conservation and environmental protection – something that helped him appeal to his younger subjects.
But it is his heir, Prince William, who is now focused on the younger generation, seeking a leading role in the environmental movement with his Earthshot Prize, a global competition to find ways to combat climate change. He is also working on initiatives to fight homelessness and raise awareness of the importance of mental health.
While William may be easing the strain on his father, his younger brother has offered public challenges.
Over the past year, Prince Harry released a Netflix series and a memoir that exposed rivalries within the royal family, criticised the palace’s relations with the media and said that his wife, Meghan, was subjected to racism as a working member of the royal family.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex issued a formal response to media reports suggesting Harry, 39, had turned down an invite to the gathering at Clarence House on Tuesday (14 November). A spokesperson for the couple said there had been “no contact” from Buckingham Palace.
The Independent has contacted a representative for the Sussexes for comment.
“What Harry and Meghan have also done is they provided us with another view onto this institution,” Mr Owens said. “They’ve pulled back the curtain in terms of its inner workings and have revealed what is often a quite poisonous, toxic culture with these competing households.”
As he weathers these storms, Charles has his queen for support.
The biggest controversy of Charles’s life was the breakdown of his first marriage to the late Princess Diana amid stories about his longtime relationship with the woman who would become his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.
Although Diana’s fans initially bridled at the idea of Camilla ever becoming queen, by the time the invitations for the coronation went out, Charles had made his wishes clear: “The Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla.’’