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9 Things you didn’t know about King Charles III’s childhood

9 Things you didn’t know about King Charles III’s childhood

Here are nine things you may not have known about King Charles III, taken from Christopher Andersen's new biography

After 70 years of preparation, Charles III has ascended the throne. Christopher Andersen’s new book, The King: The Life of Charles III, unflinchingly examines his life, delivering a nuanced portrait of the new king. Here are nine things you didn't know about King Charles III’s childhood.

He was the first monarch born without a high government official present

Charles was born in Buckingham Palace with four doctors in attendance. Medically speaking, it was a routine birth with no major complications, and only the last two hours of the thirty-hour labour were particularly intense.

"It was the first time since the 18th century that there was no high government official present"

What made the birth stand out was that it was the first time since the 18th century that there was no Home Secretary or other high government official present to witness the birth of a future monarch. This was a practice that was implemented to prevent imposters in the past.

As a child, he only saw his parents twice a day

The royals took a fairly hands-off approach to raising Charles. From the age of two months, he would see his parents twice a day for 15 minutes at a time before being whisked away by his nannies. 

King Charles III christening

Family portrait after the christening ceremony of Charles III © Baron, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He spent many birthdays and Christmases without his parents. For example, Elizabeth and Philip spent Christmas of 1949 in Malta without him.

He was the first heir to the throne to attend primary school

Before Charles, all heirs had been taught within palace walls by various tutors. At the age of eight, Charles became the first to attend primary school. On learning that he was to go to school, he asked his mother, “What are schoolboys?”

"Charles asked his mother, 'What are schoolboys?'"

He was in a royal limousine to a private school behind Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. On his first day, photographers waited outside of the school to capture his arrival on camera. 

He liked to play the cello

He fell in love with the cello as a teenager and took lessons at Gordonstoun, a boarding school that he otherwise hated. 

King Charles III's school, Gordonstoun

Gordonstoun House, Scotland © CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a reprieve from his time at the school, he would spend weekends at the nearby estate of the school’s chairman, Sir Iain Tennant. During these stays, he would give cello recitals to the Tennants’ other guests. 

He liked to immerse himself in nature at Balmoral

Balmoral was a haven away from boarding school for Charles. He liked to go for long walks along the moors, take part in fishing and bird-watching expeditions, and spend hours identifying trees, plants and wildflowers. He said that these activities “retired my soul”.

He was most comfortable at Balmoral, and wrote in letters home, “I cannot tell you how much I miss Balmoral and the hills and the air. I feel very empty and incomplete without it all.”

He spent time in a wilderness survival programme in the Australian Outback

Charles was sent to Timbertop, a wilderness survival programme run by Geelong Church of England Grammar School near Melbourne. The idea was that it would toughen him up.

He arrived in Australia in February 1966 and went to the Outback where he spent his days chopping wood, feeding pigs and going on hikes through the wilderness. He encountered all manner of creepy-crawlies, including bull ants and giant huntsman spiders.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana, The Big Pineapple plantation train tour, Woombye, 1983

King Charles III returning to Australia with Princess Diana for the Big Pineapple plantation train tour, Woombye, 1983 © Queensland State Archives, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

He also conquered a fear of crowds during his time in Australia, as it involved making over 50 public appearances. 

At the age of 18 he was earning $80,000 a year

His 18th birthday brought with it a pay rise. He received income from the Duchy of Cornwall, and at the age of 18 this amounted to $80,000 a year (today that would be $600,000). 

At the age of 21, he would receive six times that amount. 

He was the first British heir to earn a university degree

Like his grandfather, George VI, Charles chose to attend Cambridge University, only an hour’s drive from Sandringham. He was the first monarch to stay at university long enough to earn a degree.

"At Trinity College he discovered he had a knack for slapstick"

He began at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1967, where he studied anthropology and archaeology. Alongside his academic studies, he joined the college’s drama group, the Dryden Society, where he discovered he had a knack for slapstick. He graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

He still takes his childhood teddy bear everywhere

King Charles’ childhood stuffed bear goes by the name of Teddy. As a child, Charles slept with Teddy every night, and in his teenage years, he took Teddy to school at Cheam to combat homesickness and unhappiness.

Even as an adult it travels everywhere with him. When it loses a button or begins to fray, his childhood nanny Mabel Anderson is called in to mend it. She is the only person trusted to mend Teddy.

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