Gardener, grandfather, king: Who is Charles III?

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By Webdesk

Born on November 14, 1948, Charles Philip Arthur George, officially known as King Charles III, is the firstborn son of the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

As a monarch, the 73-year-old grandfather of five children is the king of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth sovereign states.

He has officially been king since his mother, the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, died on September 8, 2022.

Described by biographers as “a sensitive man”, he is an avid horticulturist and enjoys maintaining an organic garden in his country house.

He is also considered an accomplished watercolourist and has an interest in traditional rural practices such as laying hedges.

Preparations for the coronation
An 18-year-old Prince Charles and his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, leave Buckingham Palace in a state carriage in 1967 for the opening of the Houses of Parliament. [File: AP]

His mother made him Prince of Wales in 1958 at the age of nine, but his investiture was not until 11 years later.

As a young man, commentators say, he didn’t have much in common with his parents, but relations would improve as he grew older.

He studied in the United Kingdom and Australia in the late 1960s, studying archaeology, anthropology and history at Trinity College, Cambridge, before becoming a Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot. He has served in royal service since the late 1970s.

Charles was 30 when he married a shy 19-year-old kindergarten teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, in 1981. Their wedding was watched by nearly 800 million people around the world.

Two sons — Prince William, born June 21, 1982, and Prince Harry, born September 15, 1984 — followed before the couple divorced in 1992.

Speculation about Charles’s relationship with a former girlfriend named Camilla Parker Bowles continued after the divorce, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the couple finally tied the knot.

The prince endured many scandals, including blame for the failure of his marriage to Diana. Like his late father, Prince Philip, he is prone to controversial remarks and blunders.

Prince Harry attends Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral in the UK.
Prince Harry at the state funeral of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, in London on September 19, 2022 [Toby Melville/Reuters]

In recent years, his relationship with Harry has suffered as his youngest son splits from the royal family, describing a “complete split”.

In Harry’s recent tell-all memoir Spare, Charles is portrayed as a loving but emotionally distant father.

In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CBS, Harry said that Charles no longer talks to him.

Analysts say the royal family has worked in recent years to cultivate a certain image for the court queen.

Laura Clancy, a media lecturer at Lancaster University and author of Running the Family Firm: How the Monarchy Manages Its Image and Our Money, told Al Jazeera: news surrounding Diana made him quite unpopular.

“More recently, he seems to be portrayed as a grandfather. For example, the photos from his 70th birthday showed him sitting in his garden with his grandchildren and feeding chickens. This reflects the kind of images we’ve seen of the Queen as the grandmother of the nation,” she said.

British King Charles III (L) greets the benefactors after a welcome ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate
Charles has been fulfilling royal duties as king since his mother’s death. Here he greets well-wishers after a welcome ceremony at the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin [AFP/Wolfgang Rattay]

Charles is a founder and patron of a number of charities focused on areas such as supporting young entrepreneurs, the natural and built environment and education, but that hasn’t always translated into popularity. Polls have often shown that his public support has remained relatively low compared to the Queen and his son Prince William.

Anna Pasternak, a regular commentator on the royal family in the British media and best-selling author of The American Duchess, the Real Wallis Simpson, told Al Jazeera that he has shown good instincts in championing political causes.

“The problem with that, in terms of being the monarch of the country, is you have to have a kind of stability, impartiality and benign neutrality, and we haven’t seen any of those qualities in Charles yet,” she said.

Having once said that the most important thing about being king is to care for people and provide some form of leadership, there are already signs of the leadership qualities he will bring to the role.

“We know that he has been less impartial and more open about his political views than the Queen,” Pasternak said. “So he’s going to be the activist king? Or does he immediately revert to the form of his mother’s monarch? I don’t think he’s going to do that because he’s an innovator and he wants to be progressive.”

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