Prince Charles nears his 70th birthday

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Prince Charles was born on November 14, 1948 at Buckingham Palace, the first child of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

He was christened on December 15, 1947, in the music room at Buckingham Palace.

Just three years later the toddler became heir to the throne after the death of his grandfather King George VI and his mother’s coronation as Queen, then aged just 25.

His mother’s youth has meant that his apprenticeship has been lengthy. By the time he turns 70 on November 14, Prince Charles will have spent a lifetime in line to become king.

In 1962 the prince followed in his father’s footsteps and enrolled in Gordonstoun school in Scotland.

He later studied at Cambridge University and also spent a term at the University College of Wales learning to speak Welsh ahead of his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Experts, associates and friends say he realized decades ago that he would make his mark as Prince of Wales rather than as an ageing king, and so decided to expand that undefined role and use it to pursue causes dear to his heart.

The princely role offers a few advantages over being monarch. Some say the money is better, because the Prince of Wales controls the lucrative Duchy of Cornwall, the 55,000-hectare (136,000-acre) estate established in 1337 by King Edward II to provide income for his heir.

And a prince is much more able to speak his mind than a king or queen because of constitutional restraints placed on the person heading the House of Windsor.

After a series of high profile romances Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

The couple had two sons Prince William and Prince Harry born in 1982 and 1984 respectively.

But the marriage was not to last, the couple separated in 1992 and their divorced was finalised in 1996.

Just a year later Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris, that also killed her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver.

Prince William was 15 years old when Diana died, while Harry was 12.