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UK & World

King Charles: A Life in Photographs


King Charles III will arrive for his coronation on Saturday after nearly three quarters of a century in the public eye. Born in the final years of his grandfather’s reign, he became heir apparent to the British throne at the age of 3, a prince in an era when British media was developing and the culture of deference was fading with the remnants of empire.

The cameras followed him from the beginning. They were often invited and tightly controlled, though sometimes with undesirable results. And sometimes they were completely unwanted: the tabloids lamented the protracted collapse of his first marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Over the decades, Charles also learned to use that unwavering focus in the service of causes he championed, such as traditional architecture and organic farming — a record of activism he promised to leave behind when he assumed the role of monarch.

This is a selection of the most memorable pictures from his long life as a prince and his new life as a king.

Charles with his mother, then Princess Elizabeth, after the christening ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 1948.

Charles, 2, waves to passers-by in 1951 as he and his sister, Princess Anne — on the other side of the car, who was not yet 1 — carried flowers to their great-grandmother Queen Mary for her 84th birthday.

Queen Elizabeth with Anne and Charles in 1952, the year she ascended the throne. They were at Balmoral Castle, a remote Scottish home that was her favorite.

The Queen with Anne, Charles and their father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 1954 after she and Philip returned from a 13-nation Commonwealth tour.

Charles chases a runaway calf while visiting a dairy farm at Balmoral Castle in 1954.

The Queen and Philip watch Anne and Charles play during a visit to the sawmill at Balmoral Estate in 1957.

Elizabeth and Philip on the lawn at Balmoral Castle in 1960 with Anne, Charles and their younger brother Prince Andrew, born in 1960. A third son, Edward, was born four years later.

Charles was skiing in Liechtenstein in 1964 while on holiday at Gordonstoun, the strict private boarding school in Scotland that Philip had attended before him.

Charles cycling in Cambridge in 1969. After Gordonstoun, he went to university – a new step for a British prince – studying anthropology and archeology at Trinity College, Cambridge.

In the summer of 1969, at Caernarfon Castle in North Wales, Charles was formally given the title of Prince of Wales by his mother. The ceremony caused resistance from the Welsh separatists – even a bomb blast during the planning meeting.

Charles is on his first stop on his visit to Wales, in the town of Cardigan, watched by a group of Brownies.

Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles at a polo match at Cirencester Park in western England in 1975. They were linked in the early 1970s, before her first marriage and Charles’ engagement to Lady Diana Spencer, and they eventually tied the knot in 2005.

Charles playing a match at Guards Polo Club in Windsor, near London, in the late 1970s.

Charles and Lady Diana Spencer pose outside Buckingham Palace after their engagement was officially announced in 1981.

Charles and Diana leave St Paul’s Cathedral in London after their wedding in 1981. The wedding day became a global sensation and attracted a television audience according to BBC estimates over 28 million in Britain alone.

Diana and Charles walk along the banks of the River Dee during their honeymoon in Scotland in 1981.

Charles greets locals in London’s East End in 1987. He has worked to bring the monarchy closer to multicultural Britain – although his legal coronation oath includes a vow that he is a “faithful Protestant”, leaders of other faiths will attend the ceremony.

Charles and Diana with their sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, in the Isles of Scilly, off the southwest coast of England, in 1989.

Charles in 1989, looking at the tributes left outside Lockerbie Town Hall in Scotland after the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103. More than 250 people were killed on board the transatlantic flight when it was blown up over the Scottish town late last year by a device hidden in its luggage, and the wreckage killed another 11 people below.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana during their last official trip together to Seoul in 1992. They split later that year after years of media speculation about their relationship. In separate TV interviews in 1995. they are both confessed to infidelity. They divorced in 1996.

Harry, Charles and William on their annual skiing trip to Klosters, Switzerland in 1996. Photo opportunities negotiated with the British press helped provide at least some degree of privacy.

Charles joined Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, here holding his left hand, during a traditional sword dance in Saudi Arabia in 1997.

In May 1997, Charles met the Spice Girls, then at the height of their fame, during a royal gala performance in honor of the 21st anniversary of the Prince’s Trust, a charity he founded to help vulnerable young people.

In July of that year, Charles traveled to Hong Kong with Prime Minister Tony Blair to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin to celebrate returning the territory to Chinese control after more than 150 years of British rule.

Charles with Harry and William in August 1997 near Ballater, Scotland.

Diana died in a car accident in late August of that year, sparking a national outpouring of grief and sometimes anger. View of the young princes following their mother’s coffin – with Philip next to him; Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer; and Charles are etched in the public memory of Britain. The televised funeral was watched by 31 million viewers in the country and even more in the US.

Near Kensington Palace in London, Charles, William and Harry examined the dresses of flowers left by thousands of mourners.

Charles and Harry take the Eurostar to France to watch England play Colombia in the 1998 World Cup. (Their team would go on to win 2-0 before losing to Argentina on penalties in the next round.)

Charles and William in 2004 at Duchy Home Farm in Tetbury, England, near Charles’ main country home, Highgrove. Organic farming was as much a passion as a business for Charles: taking on the improvement of the countryside around Highgrove in the 1980s, he became the founder of the organic food brandoriginals of the principality, in the 1990s.

Charles with a ranger at the Royal Albatross Center near Dunedin, New Zealand in 2005.

Charles and Camilla after their wedding in 2005; she received the title of Duchess of Cornwall. The ceremony took place in St. George’s Chapel in the royal residence of Windsor Castle – a grand setting, but not as distinguished and public as St. Paul’s Palace.

In 2006, Charles visited Sahawa Integrated Islamiyyah School in Kano, Nigeria with students. International development was another key interest; during that trip he announced that the British government would open an office to fund humanitarian projects in northern Nigeria.

Charles and Camilla with a group of musicians at Bob Marley’s former home, now a museum, in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2008. They traveled a lot, trying to rebuild their public image together.

Queen Elizabeth presented Prince Charles with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal during a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show in London in 2009.

In 2013, Camilla accompanied Charles to the state opening of Parliament for the first time. It is perhaps the most regular appearance of the royal family as a constitutional symbol: at the start of each session of the legislature, the British government lists the measures it plans to take in a speech delivered by the monarch.

Charles walked Meghan Markle down the aisle to her husband-to-be, Prince Harry, at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in 2018.

For Charles’ 70th birthday in 2018, Buckingham Palace released family photos with Camilla and his three grandchildren at the time — Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — as well as his sons and their wives.

Charles feeds his Burford Brown and Maran chickens early in the morning at Highgrove House in Tetbury, England in 2018.

Elizabeth and Charles at the State Opening of Parliament in 2019. His ceremonial role increased as she weakened; at the opening of parliament in 2022 he read the monarch’s speech on her behalf.

At the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, absences from the Buckingham Palace balcony were watched as closely as those present. Charles and William with their wife Catherine and children remained in the center of the group. Harry and Meghan did not attend due to rising tensions with the rest of the family; Charles’ younger brother, Prince Andrew, was also unaffected by the scandal.

Charles, now King Charles III, after the death of Queen Elizabeth, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, in September.

King Charles marches with the royal family as the Queen’s coffin leaves Buckingham Palace during her funeral procession in September.

Charles shook hands with a crowd in Hamburg, Germany, during his first state visit as king in March. He spoke before the parliament in Berlin, switching between English and German.

Charles inspects a sovereign parade at Sandhurst, the British military academy, last month.

Charles and Camilla, now Queen Consort, in the Blue Room at Buckingham Palace last month.

Producer Mona Boshnak and Sarah Eckingerwith text by the author Peter Robbins.

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