King Charles’s extraordinary story in 76 photos: From little prince to reigning monarch
King Charles III has been waiting to be monarch his entire life. He was just three years old when his grandfather, King George VI died in 1952, making him first in line to the throne before he even started school.
After Queen Elizabeth II died last September, the King ascended the throne aged 73, making him the oldest monarch to take the throne in the 1000 years the British Royal Family lineage can be traced.
From Gordonstoun student, through his tumultuous marriage to Diana Spencer, and his later years spent as an eco-warrior and husband to Camilla, the King’s life has been broken up into distinct chapters. His most prominent - as the crowned King of England - has now begun.
To celebrate Charles's coronation, we’ve taken a look back at His Majesty’s life, with a photo to reflect each of his 75 years to date.
On Saturday May 6, Charles was officially crowned as King of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms - 70 years after he became first in line to the throne.
Charles ascends the throne after Queen Elizabeth II dies on September 8, 2022.
Charles had the busiest royal diary in 2021, with 335 engagements to attend. He carried out 227 of these in person.
Charles tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020 when the pandemic reached British shores. He would later go on to test positive for a second time in February 2022.
Charles became a grandfather for the fourth time in 2019, as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed their first child - Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
In 2018, Charles watched his youngest son Prince Harry marry Meghan Markle. They would soon be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Charles was again crowned the busiest royal in 2017, attending a whopping 546 engagements.
Princess Anne beat out her brother as the busiest royal in 2016, with 179 days of engagements, Charles had just 139 that year in comparison.
Charles would welcome his first granddaughter in 2015, Princess Charlotte. His second, Meghan and Harry’s daughter Lilibet, would be born six years later in 2021.
Charles supported Prince Harry’s Invictus Games venture in 2014. The games is an international sports event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
The Prince and Princess of Wales would give Charles his first grandchild in 2013. Prince George was born on July 22, 2013.
The late Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Charles will use the Diamond Jubilee State Coach during his coronation procession.
In 2011, Charles saw his eldest son Prince William marry Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29. The pair have just celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary.
In 2010, Charles wrote and released a book called Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, which is described as a “blueprint for a more balanced, sustainable world that the human race must create to survive”.
In July 2009, Charles shows his commitment to environmentalism during a speech at St James's Palace in July, where he told a crowd that humanity had just 96 months left to save the world.
The then-Prince of Wales celebrated his 60th birthday in 2008.
Charles celebrated Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's 60th wedding anniversary in 2007. The couple married on November 20, 1947.
Charles and Camilla spent part of 2006 looking for a home to buy in Wales. They ended up purchasing the £1.2m Llwynywermod estate in Carmarthenshire, close to Llanymddyfri in 2007.
Charles and Camilla said “I do” at Windsor Castle on April 9, 2005 - 35 years after they first met.
Charles became the first member of the British Royal Family to enter Iran in 2004, for a one-day visit.
Charles marked the 50th anniversary of his mother’s coronation in 2003 with an image of himself, the Queen and Prince William, marking three generations of monarch and heirs.
The Royal Family suffered two big losses in 2002: his grandmother, the Queen Mother and aunt, Princess Margaret. The mother and daughter pair died just weeks apart, with Margaret’s death on February 9 and the Queen Mother’s on March 30 that year.
2001 saw Charles’ eldest son, Prince William, begin his first year at St Andrews University In Scotland. It is here where William would meet his future wife, Kate Middleton.
The Queen Mother celebrated her 100th birthday in August 2000, an event that was celebrated by all members of the Royal Family including Charles.
Charles and Camilla were photographed together in January 1999 - the first time since Diana’s death. Over the course of the year they would make their relationship more public and attend further events together.
Charles began seriously dating Camilla in 1998, but the late Queen was said to have declined to attend a private 50th birthday for Charles because Camilla would be there.
Just over one year after Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalised, Diana met her untimely death in a car accident in Paris on 31 August 1997.
Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalised on 28 August 1996.
During the controversial 1995 Panorama interview, Diana famously said “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”, referring to Charles’ relationship with Camilla.
During a 1994 royal tour of Australia, the then-Prince Charles was the subject of a fake assassination attempt where the sound of two shots rang out while he was speaking at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
A scandal known as “Tampongate” rocked British society in 1993 when a phone conversation between Charles and Camilla that was recorded in 1989 was released to the press. The explicit six-minute recording saw Charles describe wanting to be one of Camilla’s tampons so he could “live” inside her.
Charles and Diana’s separation was publicly announced on December 9, 1992. It was announced in the House of Commons by then-prime minister, John Major.
In the summer of 1991, Charles and Diana embarked on a “second honeymoon” in Italy aboard Charles's Alexandra yacht. In the fictional Netflix series The Crown this was shown to be a breaking point for Diana in their marriage - whether or not that was the case in real life is unknown.
In June 1990, just days before Diana’s 29th birthday, Charles fell off a polo pony while playing the game and broke his arm. He spent three days in hospital.
In 1989 climate change was already on Charles’ mind. At the Ozone Layer World Conference in London he said that “human beings have been upsetting that balance [of nature], persistently” since the Industrial Revolution.
A bombshell Vanity Fair article from 1988 exposed cracks in Charles and Diana’s marriage, writing: “[Diana] was the love object of everyone in the world except her husband…she was faced in her mid-twenties with something she found chilling to contemplate: a fairy-tale marriage that had cooled into an arrangement.”
In summer 1987, Diana didn't join Charles on the annual family trip to Balmoral, leading some to speculate that they were on a break.
In 1994, Charles told his biographer that 1986 was the year he and Camilla re-started their relationship. In a letter to an unidentified correspondent quoted in the book, Charles writes: “How awful incompatibility is, and how dreadfully destructive it can be for the players in this extraordinary drama. It has all the ingredients of a Greek tragedy…I never thought it would end up like this.”
In 1985, Diana decided to surprise Charles with a choreographed dance on stage during a Christmas gala at Covent Garden - but she refused to bow to the royal box at the end.
Charles and Diana’s second child, Prince Harry, was born on September 15, 1984.
Two years after their marriage, Diana went on her first-ever trip abroad to Australia with Charles and baby William. Spending more than 40 days in Australia and New Zealand, Diana broke royal protocol to bring William on the tour with them.
Charles and Diana welcomed their first child, Prince William, on 21 June 1982. He became second in line to the throne.
Charles announces his engagement to Diana in early 1981 and the pair marry on 29 July 1981.
Charles began dating Diana in 1980. Diana is spotted at Balmoral in the summer and their relationship is made public.
Charles was seen attending a polo game with the then-married Camilla Parker Bowles in 1979. He would begin dating Diana the next year.
Charles continues to date Diana’s sister Sarah in 1978, and the pair even go on a skiing holiday to Klosters, Switzerland together. It’s here where Sarah allegedly told a journalist that she wouldn’t marry Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England”. Their relationship ended soon after.
Charles meets Diana Spencer for the first time. In 1977 he was dating Diana’s older sister Sarah Spencer and met Diana at their family home.
1976 was not only the year that Charles grew a beard, but it was also the year that he began his charity, The Prince's Trust.
Charles returned to Cambridge in 1975 to complete his Master’s degree.
Charles made his first speech to the House of Lords in 1974, becoming the first royal to do so since Edward VII in 1884.
The Royal Family saw the first royal wedding of a new generation when Princess Anne, then 23, married Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey.
This is the same year that Camilla Shand married Andrew Parker Bowles.
Charles embarked on his Royal Navy career in 1972 after passing RAF training. It was then he joined his first ship, the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk.
Charles began his training with the RAF in 1971. He trained to be a jet pilot.
Charles becomes the first heir to the throne to graduate with a university degree. He is awarded a 2:2 in history from Cambridge University. It was also in 1970 that Charles met the then-Camilla Shand for the first time.
Charles was formally presented to the people of Wales as their prince in 1969 during the Investiture of the Prince of Wales ceremony.
Charles switched from archaeology and anthropology to history for the second part of his degree at Cambridge.
Charles began university at Cambridge in 1967, initially reading archaeology and anthropology.
In 1966, a 17-year-old Charles arrived in Australia to complete two terms at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria.
“Quite frankly, it was by far the best part [of my education],” Charles said in a speech years later. “While I was here I had the Pommy bits bashed off me. Like chips off an old block.”
While still in school in Scotland, at age 16, Charles undertook his first public engagement. He met hundreds of people at a garden party for young Scottish and Commonwealth students at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
In July of 1964, Charles was taken to a hospital in Aberdeen for treatment of pneumonia. He fell ill while camping with friends from Gordonstoun School on the grounds of Balmoral.
Earlier this year, Charles’ youngest brother, Prince Edward, was born.
Charles faced his biggest Gordonstoun scandal in 1963 when he bought and drank a cherry brandy at a hotel on the island of Lewis. Charles was just 14 at the time, well under the legal drinking age, and the incident was referred to as the “Cherry Brandy Affair”.
In May 1962, Charles began attending Gordonstoun School in Scotland at the request of Prince Philip who also attended the school as a child.
Still largely kept out of the public eye, 1961 saw Charles finish primary school.
The late Queen and Prince Philip welcomed their third child in 1960, a son called Andrew who was born on February 19.
In 1959, Charles’ father Prince Philip went on a solo three-month world tour while the late Queen stayed home to continue her duties in the UK.
On July 26, 1958 Charles was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, although his investiture would not be held for another decade.
As Charles continued his primary schooling, it was in 1957 that the late Queen made her first televised Christmas broadcast from Sandringham House, a tradition Charles would continue in 2022 when he became King.
The late Queen only spent one Christmas apart from Philip during their 73 years of marriage, and this was in 1956 when he was on a three-month tour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Earlier this year, a letter written by Charles to the Queen Mother in 1955 was discovered in an attic of a couple from Warwickshire. “Dear Granny, I am sorry that you are ill. I hope you will be better soon,” the letter, dated 15 March 1955, read.
In 1954, Charles and Anne reunited with their parents who had been away for six months on their longest-ever Commonwealth tour, lasting from November 1953 to May 1954.
On 2 June 1953, Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was crowned just over a year after ascending to the throne.
On February 6, 1952, aged just 25, the then-Princess Elizabeth became the Queen after her father King George VI died. A three-year-old Prince Charles became the heir to the throne.
Charles spent his third birthday with his family, including his grandfather King George VI who would pass away just three months later.
The late Queen and Prince Philip welcomed their second child, Princess Anne, on August 15, 1950.
Charles spends much of the first year of his life with his parents at their country home of Windlesham Moor in Surrey.
Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, the first son of then-heir to the throne Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, was born on November 14, 1948.