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Prince Charles faces future as a pensioner king

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 05, 2013

  • Prince Charles, pictured left in a recent meeting with nurses at a charity event at Clarence House, has been waiting to take his place on the throne for decades. He recently began accompanying the Queen on her state opening of parliament, and his second wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, pictured above, is taking an increasingly high profile royal role

  • Prince of Wales walking to Cheam School in Berkshire in 1958, with the Queen as a baby, and with first wife Diana, Princess of Wales

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The Prince of Wales turns 65 this month – but at the age when most seek to retire, Charles has yet to start the job he born was to do.

Heir to the throne since he was three years old, Charles will soon be a pensioner.

And like thousands of others he will be claiming his pension this year – but will be donating it to a unnamed charity which supports the elderly.

The Prince is entitled to the state benefit because he paid National Insurance contributions while in the Navy in the 1970s and made voluntary contributions later.

This year, he has also experienced the joy of welcoming his first grandchild, Prince George, into the world.

A king in waiting for more than 60 years, he has carried out countless royal engagements over the decades, undertaking 480 in the UK and 112 overseas in 2012 alone.

The Prince is the oldest heir to the throne for almost 300 years.

His role supporting the Queen has strengthened in recent years and the day after he celebrates his 65th birthday on November 14 he will perform one of his most significant duties to date as a future king by stepping in for the monarch at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony in Sri Lanka.

He has never before attended in place of the Queen at the bi-annual gathering of Commonwealth leaders.

Charles recently told the US magazine Time he wanted to make the most of his position.

"I've had this extraordinary feeling, for years and years, ever since I can remember really, of wanting to heal and make things better," he said.

"I feel more than anything else it's my duty to worry about everybody and their lives in this country, to try and find a way of improving things if I possibly can."

As well as being patron of more than 400 charities, he has set up The Prince's Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations, which raises more than £100 million a year. He also founded The Prince's Trust youth charity.

The Prince, who is known for his strong opinions, particularly on the environment, architecture and farming, has faced criticism in the past over his "black spider memos" to ministers – the name given to the handwritten letters he penned to government ministers expressing his views.

In July this year, the Attorney General's decision to block public disclosure of letters Charles wrote to ministers in 2004 and 2005 was upheld by three High Court judges.

It was a defeat for The Guardian newspaper which said it had been fighting an eight-year battle to shed more light "on the way the heir to the throne seeks to influence government ministers even though he holds no elected position".

In the 1990s, Charles faced turmoil in his private life, played out on a public stage when he split from Diana, Princess of Wales, and anguish when Diana – mother to sons William, now the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry – died in a car crash.

Now nearly two decades later, life is more settled for the future king.

He has been married to the Duchess of Cornwall for eight years and Camilla, once derided as the "other woman" in Charles and Diana's relationship, has established herself as a senior member of the Royal Family, attending the State Opening of Parliament and riding next to the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee carriage procession.

Proud grandfather Charles has spoken of how he and Camilla were "overjoyed" at the birth of his first grandchild Prince George in July and "so thrilled" for William.

Ahead of turning 65, the Prince warned that the retirement industry risks becoming "unfit for purpose" if it fails to adjust to the effects of an ageing population on the environment.

In a pre-recorded speech for the National Association of Pension Funds' (NAPF) conference in Manchester in October, Charles told pension funds that "your grandchildren, and mine for that matter, will be consigned to an exceptionally miserable future", if the sector merely concentrates on the short term.

Clarence House was unable to confirm at present whether the Prince was entitled to a pension from his days in the Armed Forces.

The Prince – who has in the past joked about being "impatient" and about "running out of time" – became the oldest heir to the throne for almost 300 year in September, when the Queen became the oldest monarch in British history.

With the Prince of Wales celebrating his 65th birthday later this month, the milestone may lead the heir to the throne to look back on his life.

Charles Philip Arthur George was born on November 14, 1948, and grew up in a time of quiet revolution inside Buckingham Palace.

He became heir apparent on the death of his grandfather King George VI in 1952 when he was three years old.

The prince's education marked the first real step in a break with tradition.

He was the first Prince of Wales to be educated publicly instead of by private tutors.

But as a child he was hypersensitive, lonely, excessively shy and, according to his Scottish governess Miss Peebles, given to quiet pursuits – reading and painting.

Many years later he would tell his biographer Jonathan Dimbleby that his days at Gordonstoun, his senior school in the Scottish Highlands, were "a prison sentence" but instilled self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.

It was his father who chose the Navy as a career for Charles, in the centuries-old tradition of the Sailor Kings of England.

At the age of 28, the prince returned to civilian life and began assuming an increasingly heavy burden of royal duties.

Within a few years, there was speculation about who Charles, the world's most eligible bachelor, would marry.

In the early 1970s, Charles met Camilla Shand on a Windsor polo field, and is said to have "lost his heart" to her almost at once. They embarked on an affair.

But when the Prince joined the Navy the couple spent long periods apart and the royal missed his chance and was heartbroken when Camilla married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles.

Girlfriends came and went until eventually on February 24, 1981, Buckingham Palace ended months of speculation when it announced that Charles was engaged to 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer.

He wed his shy bride later that year on July 29 at St Paul's Cathedral and the couple had two sons – William, born June 21, 1982, and Harry two years later on September 15.

But within a few years all was not well with the marriage.

Charles was having an affair with his former mistress Camilla and Diana had turned to cavalry officer James Hewitt.

For the Queen, 1992 was her "Annus Horribilis" – the Waleses split, as did the Duke and Duchess of York, and Windsor Castle went up in flames.

In 1994, the Prince admitted adultery on national television as he spoke to his biographer, while Diana subsequently went on Panorama to give a television interview in which she said there were three people in her marriage – a strong hint towards Camilla.

Charles and Diana divorced in August 1996 but a year later the princess died tragically in a car crash with her lover Dodi Fayed in a Paris underpass.

Over the coming years, Camilla's eventual emergence as Charles's long-term partner was part of a carefully planned PR campaign masterminded by the heir to the throne's spindoctor Mark Bolland.

Over the decades the heir to the throne has also carved out a role for himself as, so his supporters would say, a philanthropic entrepreneur, establishing charities that work in a range of areas from the arts to disadvantaged young people.

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