Prince Charles: at 60, Still the Man Who Would Be King

LONDON ~ Prince Charles turned 60 on Friday with little sign of an end to his long wait to succeed his mother as monarch, even if confidants say he is finally happily married to his true soulmate.

Celebrations including a private concert by singer Rod Stewart were organized to mark the event, personally supervised by his wife of three years, Camilla.

But at an age when most people are considering retirement, the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II – who at 82 remains in robust health – is still waiting to inherit the role for which he was born.

Nevertheless Penny Junor, who has written a biography of the prince and is regarded as well-informed on his thoughts, dismisses suggestions that he is frustrated by his secondary role.

“I don’t think he’s bothered about still being the king-in-waiting,” she said. “The moment he becomes king he’ll have a great sadness because his mother will die. That is the nature of the job. So it has always been something that he has wanted but not wanted.

“I think he also feels that he has still work to do, that there are useful things he can do as Prince of Wales.”

Alongside his day-to-day royal visits and duties, Charles oversees his Prince’s Charities, some 20 non-profit groups including the Prince’s Trust, which has given legions of young entrepreneurs a financial start in life.

And despite his politically neutral role, over the years he has given his views on everything from modern architecture – he generally hates it – to organic farming, which he passionately advocates.

This has sparked criticism, but the prince shrugs it off. “I could have sat doing very little indeed and I would have been got at by people saying, ‘What a useless idiot he is,'” he said.

“So I would rather be criticized for doing things rather than not doing them,” he added in a BBC TV documentary to be screened for his birthday.

Charles was a quiet and sensitive child who regarded his education at Gordonstoun, an austere private school in the Scottish Highlands, as a “prison sentence.”

His apparently fairytale wedding to Diana Spencer in 1981 concealed an unhappy union behind the scenes, but produced the princes William and Harry.

Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris in 1997, years after the couple had acrimoniously split up, left the royal family open to accusations it handled her mourning in a cold and aloof manner.

Charles waited eight years before marrying again, to his long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman of whom Diana once said “there were three of us in this marriage.”

Junor said marrying Camilla, who unlike Diana shares his interest of the countryside, has had another beneficial effect for the prince: “Ever since he married Camilla, the interest in his personal life has just melted away.

“And I think he now feels he is being taken seriously at last. He is not in the newspapers for the wrong reasons.”

A one-time girlfriend of the prince, Emma Soames, said that despite his advancing years he would be deeply hurt if the constitution were to be rewritten and the crown were to pass directly to his elder son, William.

“I strongly suspect that the often-made comment that must wound the Prince of Wales more than any other… is that he should be passed over for the succession,” Soames wrote this month in the Telegraph magazine.

This suggestion, she wrote, “utterly denigrates the years of largely self-invented service” he had done for the nation.

As he approaches a landmark birthday, Charles is now the oldest Prince of Wales – the traditional title bestowed on British prince regents – in history.

But a new poll last weekend provided good news for him: the percentage of Britons who want him to succeed his mother, rather than handing straight to Prince William, has grown.

Some 42 percent now believe he should succeed his mother, compared to 35 percent for William, according to the YouGov poll. In 2005 the figures were reversed: only 31 percent wanted King Charles, with 42 percent for his son.

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