King Charles III has waited a lifetime to become monarch and will fulfil his destiny when he is crowned on Saturday May 6, watched by a worldwide audience.
As the Prince of Wales, he was the country’s longest serving heir to the throne and carved out a role for himself speaking out on issues like the environment, climate change, architecture and farming.
Less than a year into his new role, the 74-year-old is adapting to life as head of the royal family and the nation, completing a number of milestones as he follows the 70-year reign of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Charles Philip Arthur George was born on November 14 1948, and grew up in a time of quiet revolution inside Buckingham Palace.
After his birth at Buckingham Palace – the first at the royal residence since 1886 – his father Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, drove to Caxton Hall to register the event.
Charles did not enjoy school, telling biographer Jonathan Dimbleby that his time at Gordonstoun was “a prison sentence”, but it instilled self-discipline and a sense of responsibility in the shy and sensitive prince.
As a young man his destiny was mapped out and in 1969 he was formally invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle despite bomb threats from Welsh nationalists.
He met the love of his life, Camilla Shand, during this period but their lives were on different paths.
The King’s father had chosen the Navy as Charles’s career and soon after the prince left for an eight-month naval tour, Camilla married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles.
At some point Charles and Camilla rekindled their love affair. Mrs Parker Bowles was blamed for the breakdown of his marriage and she faced vitriolic criticism.
But in the decades following Charles and Diana’s divorce and the untimely death of the Princess of Wales in a car crash in Paris in 1997, the public mood towards Mrs Parker Bowles softened and the couple’s marriage in 2005 sealed their long relationship.
The Queen Consort is seen by many commentators as fundamental to the King fulfilling his role as the nation’s head of state, providing love and support in public and private.
He promoted multi-faith tolerance, and became a devoted advocate of the organic way of life, but found himself criticised over claims that he was attempting to shape government policy.
In 2018, the year Charles turned 70, he announced a major reorganisation of his charities, with a number coming under a new Prince’s Foundation and his flagship Prince’s Trust Group expanding to incorporate the Trust’s work alongside activities of sister bodies working overseas.
The move was seen as preparation for his role as King, helping to ensure the smooth transition to the throne.
“It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply. But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others.”
A few years before acceding to the throne, the self-confessed “interferer and meddler” insisted his intervention in topical issues would not continue when he became King.
“No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid,” he told a BBC documentary in 2018. “I do realise that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So of course I understand entirely how that should operate.”
Charles watched as his sons grew up, married and had families of their own and, despite his estranged relationship with Harry, appears to be more at ease than at any point in his life.
On May 6 he will sit in the coronation chair and be crowned King – the symbolic start of the next chapter in his life.