75 things you never knew about King Charles III as he celebrates his 75th birthday

On The King’s big day, Amie Elizabeth White reveals 75 things you might not know about our monarch.


  • His full name is Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor and his full title is His Majesty King Charles III, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith
  • He was the 21st Prince of Wales, the 40th sovereign to be crowned at Westminster Abbey and is the 63rd British monarch to serve in the past 1,200 years
  • He is 5ft 10in tall

The King on the cover of Country Life on 8 November 2023.

Younger years and education

  • Charles was born at Buckingham Palace on November 14, 1948, at 9.14pm by caesarean section after a 30-hour labour. His birth was the first of a senior member of the Royal Family not to be attended by a senior politician, a tradition that originated in the 17th century to ensure the newborn was a genuine descendant of the monarch
  • Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill identified hidden depths in the future monarch from an early age. There is a rare colour film of Churchill and his wife, Clementine, on the banks of Loch Muick on the Balmoral estate, in which the Prime Minister can be seen playing with a piece of driftwood as a three-year-old Prince Charles stands close by. After the visit, Churchill wrote to the Queen: ‘I was keenly impressed by the development of Prince Charles as a personality. He is young to think so much’

1953: Elizabeth II, Queen of England with Prince Charles and Princess Anne chatting to Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965). (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • The four-year-old Prince received his own personalised invitation to the coronation of his mother in 1953. It was hand painted with soldiers playing musical instruments
  • He was the first future monarch to be sent to school, rather than being educated by private tutors at home. The future King boarded at Cheam School, Hampshire, from the age of eight
  • In 1967, at the age of 18, he was awarded a place at Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied History, Archaeology and Anthropology and was the first heir to the throne to attain a university degree
  • Reputedly, the Queen’s tapestry-maker decorated his room at Trinity College
  • His enrolment photograph, the size of a postage stamp, has been preserved in the archives of Trinity College since it was taken. It was released for the first time ahead of the coronation earlier this year

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  • A keen watercolourist, The King once anonymously submitted a painting to the Royal Academy of Arts, which was chosen for display in its 1987 Summer Exhibition

The King painting in Klosters, Switzerland.

  • He has co-founded a drawing school and an academy for traditional arts
  • Within months of arriving at Gordonstoun school in 1962, the Prince had performed his first concert as a treble in the school choir, singing Handel’s Zadok the Priest. The anthem was first composed for the coronation of George II in 1727 and has been sung in Handel’s setting at every British coronation since, including this year’s
  • He is a huge fan of Shakespeare and, in a speech in 1991, referred to the Bard as ‘the world’s greatest playwright… perhaps the world’s greatest poet’. He played Exeter in his school’s rendition of Henry V and, later, the lead role in Macbeth
  • A member of the Dryden Society, a popular drama club at Cambridge University, he has been described by his peers as a natural on the stage. He is also remembered for his sketch-writing abilities and contributions when discussing scripts
  • When performing in a Cambridge University revue in 1969, the Prince featured in a sketch inspired by an episode of The Goon Show, appearing on stage in a dustbin. After the national newspapers published images of the Prince’s act, the remaining performances sold out entirely. Tickets, which cost 50 new pence, were then bought and sold on the black market

The then-Prince Charles hams it up during a college dramatic society rehearsal in his room at Cambridge. Credit: Bettmann Archive / Getty

  • Throughout his time at university, the Prince took pottery classes in the evenings
  • The King is a published author. In 1980, he wrote The Old Man of Lochnagar, a tale about a Scottish man who meets a god of the sea, based on a story he told to his youngest brother, Prince Edward. It was later turned into a musical, an animated film and a ballet. With Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly, he wrote Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World (2010), and A Ladybird Book: Climate Change, co-written with Mr Juniper and Emily Shuckburgh, was published this year
  • He has written the forewords to at least 31 books, the first for a compilation of The Goon Show scripts by Spike Milligan (1974). He later became patron of the Goon Show Preservation Society
  • Serving in the Armed Forces, Charles trained and qualified as a jet and helicopter pilot and became an accomplished diver
  • He was the first member of the Royal Family to obtain his RAF wings, becoming Flt-Lt Wales in August 1971
  • It is said that he can still fit into the RAF uniform he wore when he earned his wings
  • A keen polo player for 40 years, attaining a creditable handicap of four goals, The King retired in 2005, at the age of 57. He played competitively until about 1993 and once suffered a double fracture to his right arm, which required surgery and a bone graft

The Prince of Wales plays polo at the Beaufort Polo Club on July 19, 2003. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

  • He made his debut as an amateur jockey aged 31, in a charity race at Plumpton, East Sussex, on March 4, 1980. The Prince rode in a further five races, finishing second on two occasions and being unseated twice
  • His history of rigorous sporting endeavours — including being quick to take up the new sport of windsurfing in the 1970s — caused a degenerative-disc problem at the base of his spine. It makes it painful for him to sit still for long periods of time and means he needs a special cushion when attending state banquets and during seated royal engagements
  • The King apparently begins his day with the 5BX fitness regime, designed for the Canadian Air Force in the 1950s. The 12-minute regime includes press-ups, sit-ups, back extensions, stretching and running on the spot
  • In his autobiography, the Duke of Sussex recalls that, when he was growing up, his father would perform headstands in his bedroom each morning to alleviate his neck and back pain wearing only his boxer shorts. The King would yell: ‘No! Don’t open! Please, God, don’t open!’ if anyone approached the door to his room
  • He apparently once told John Warren, the late Queen’s and now The King’s racing adviser, that horse racing was a bit like gardening: ‘Until you had your own garden, it was something you didn’t think too much about. Once you do, you have to tend to it… plant and develop, enhance it…’ Being true to his word, The King attended all five days of Royal Ascot this year and has reportedly taken an active interest in the Royal Stud
  • The King has a certificate of merit in ice skating, having learned at Richmond Ice Rink in west London in 1962
  • In 2020, the then Duchess of Cornwall told BBC Radio 5, when she guest edited The Emma Barnett Show, that her husband loves walking, describing him as ‘like a mountain goat, he leaves everybody miles behind’. According to various accounts, when at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire, his close protection officers have a running joke about whose turn it is to accompany The King on his ‘leisurely stroll’, with one former aide saying: ‘Many a VIP has fallen by the wayside over the years when they have gone off on a walk with him’
  • When he appeared on Radio 3’s Private Passions podcast in 2018, to discuss his favourite music, one of his chosen pieces was Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, recalling the composer’s famous romantic act of organising a surprise Christmas Day performance of it for his second wife, Cosima, on the stairs of their villa. The then Prince also revealed that he had reconstructed the gesture for the Duchess of Cornwall’s 60th birthday in 2007, when he arranged for the Philharmonic Orchestra to give a surprise private rendition, which he conducted
  • In 2014, His Majesty told Classic FM that he is a fan of English composer Hubert Parry and had persuaded the now Prince and Princess of Wales to include his famous anthem I Was Glad in their wedding ceremony in 2011
  • The King is a member of the Magic Circle association, joining in 1975 after performing a cups-and-balls trick. (Some have suggested that the result was a foregone conclusion, as his certificate was already signed before being presented to him on the night)

The King’s painting of Balmoral Castle. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Food and drink

  • Charles describes his diet as ‘climatarian’, relying on local and seasonal produce (most from his estates and kitchen garden) that has as little impact on the environment as possible
  • His disdain for food waste is part of palace protocol. Former royal chef Carolyn Robb has said that leftovers, such as meat from a roast or sandwiches from tea, would be used to make something else the following day
  • When The King guest edited Country Life to mark his 70th birthday, he revealed pheasant crumble pie to be his favourite dish, which The Ritz hotel’s executive chef, John Williams, cooked, as per the recipe, for that issue. The King loves to explore alternative ways to use game meat in other dishes, writing in the magazine: ‘I invented a grouse one recently, coq au vin with grouse, as well as moussaka with grouse (it doesn’t always have to be lamb), in other words, groussaka!’
  • When they appeared on ITV’s This Morning in 2018, he and the Duchess of Cornwall requested that the chef create a dish for them that included mutton, in order to promote the meat and help farmers sell older animals. They were presented with Phil Vickery’s take on a mutton hotpot
  • He once invited the late renowned chef Antonio Carluccio to Balmoral to forage for mushrooms. When Carluccio’s Neal Street restaurant in London closed, the then Prince sent a personal letter of commiseration

Prince Charles In The Gardens At His Country Home, Highgrove House In Gloucestershire. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

  • Known to be exacting about how tea should be brewed and served, The King is believed to insist that green tea must be brewed in freshly drawn water at exactly 70˚C for three minutes. Black tea should be brewed at 100˚C for five minutes
  • His favourite tea is Darjeeling with honey (from the royal bees) and milk. This was also his mother’s favourite
  • According to chef Graham Tinsley, whenever His Majesty attends a banquet, he takes with him a silver container of Maldon sea salt, which is placed on his table
  • His favourite alcoholic drink is said to be a 50/50 martini — half gin, half dry vermouth — which he enjoys before dinner. He travels with his own spirits, to be mixed by his staff to his precise taste, and his own martini glass from which to drink
  • He is said to use a specially shaped ice tray, because he hates the clinking sound that square cubes make
  • The King is known for his love (and particular preparation time) of eggs. A former housekeeper once reported that, after a long day out hunting, the Prince of Wales would invite his guests back for boiled eggs, washed down with plenty of whisky

On the road

  • The late Elizabeth II gave an Aston Martin DB6 MkII Volante to her oldest son on his 21st birthday, in 1969. In 2008, it was modified to run on biofuel made with surplus alcohol from wine-making production and whey from the cheese process
  • In 1986, the Emir of Bahrain sought permission to offer the then Prince a new Aston Martin after his State visit and gave him a V8 Vantage Volante in July 1987. The centre armrest was customised to accommodate a leather-trimmed sugar-lump jar, to house treats for the Prince’s polo ponies, and a storage area with a lid to hold sunglasses in place of the ashtray. The car was sold in 1995 for £111,500, with the proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust
  • In 2018, His Majesty took delivery of the Royal Family’s first modern all-electric car: a Loire Blue Jaguar I-PACE. It is the British car company’s only electric SUV and is currently the only I-PACE to be finished in that particular colour. (Queen Alexandra, Queen Victoria’s daughter-in-law and the wife of Edward VII, owned a 1901 Columbia, which was entirely electric. It had a top speed of 20mph and could run for 40 miles on a single charge)


  • The Duchy of Cornwall bought the Highgrove estate, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire, for about £865,000 in 1980. Before then, the land had been owned by Maurice Macmillan, an MP and the son of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Now, the gardens attract more than 30,000 visitors per year
  • The four-acre wildflower meadow was developed by Miriam Rothschild in 1982, beginning with a seed mix of 32 plant species. It is now home to 120 different species, 27 of which are so important that they have been deposited for long-term storage at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault — the ‘doomsday vault’ — in Norway, which protects endangered plants

Highgrove, Gloucestershire.

  • The King has his own ‘private place for quiet contemplation’, The Sanctuary, hidden within the Arboretum. It is made of natural cob, a mixture of Highgrove clay and barley straw, and has a pointed roof and a chimney, suggesting that there may be a fireplace of some sort inside. It was blessed by the Bishop of London
  • Sir Elton John gave the then Prince of Wales an Indian Bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’) for his 50th birthday. The tree has heart-shaped leaves with large, runner-bean-like pods and can be found in Cottage Garden, the enchanting woodland area of the estate
  • The King was inspired to create a garden patterned after a small Turkish rug in his rooms at Highgrove. The Carpet Garden was initially designed for the 2001 Chelsea Flower Show (it won a Silver-Gilt medal) and was rebuilt at Highgrove afterwards
  • In an interview for Channel 5, The King told the poet Pam Ayres that he protects the hedgehogs in his gardens by putting tiny ramps in all the fountains and ponds, so they can escape should they fall in


  • His Majesty is a distant relation of Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century nobleman who became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. According to reports, Queen Mary, the consort of George V, was a direct descendant of Vlad Tepes (as the nobleman is known in Romania), making King Charles his great-grandson, 16 times removed
  • In 2006, The King purchased and restored an 18th-century Saxon cottage in the village of Viscri, Transylvania. The property is open to guests, with proceeds going towards The Prince of Wales’s Foundation in Romania
  • The King, like the Queen before him and the current Prince of Wales, always travels with a bag of his own blood supply, in case there is a need for an emergency blood transfusion. It is borne by the Royal Physician
  • The King will never fly on the same plane as his son and heir to the throne, The Prince of Wales, in case they both perish
  • His first word was ‘nana’, addressed to his nanny, Mabel Anderson
  • The King was present at the birth of both of his sons, breaking royal precedent

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (in his role as Colonel in Chief of The Parachute Regiment) watches a commemorative parachute drop in 2000. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)


  • In 2009, King Charles was named World’s Best Dressed Man by Esquire magazine
  • Donatella Versace once said: ‘I have an image of what a British gentleman looks like, and that image finds real expression in Prince Charles. He is beyond fashion — he is an archetype of style’
  • In 2019, he collaborated with the fashion brand Vin + Omi to produce a sustainable fashion collection using fabric made from 3,000 nettle plants at Highgrove. It was described as similar ‘to a type of alpaca, or a very fine fleece’
  • In 1986, one of the then Prince of Wales’s charity initiatives, now The Prince’s Trust, gave an aspiring designer £40 per week to help him launch his shoe label. The designer was Datuk Jimmy Choo

The King’s 1980s style. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

Duty and honours

  • When President Nixon advised him to be merely ‘a presence’, the future King wrote in his diary ‘to be just a presence would be fatal. I know lots of Americans think one’s main job is to go round saying meaningless niceties, but a presence alone can be swept away so easily’ (1970)
  • The King’s Secret Service codename is ‘Unicorn’
  • In 2007, he was presented with the Harvard Medical School Global Environmental Citizen Award. It was given by the previous winner, Al Gore, who told the Prince that his ‘decision to speak out no matter whether the reactions are negative or positive’ means he has ‘been able to make a tremendous difference’
  • In 2012, a newly discovered, but endangered species of Ecuadorian tree frog was discovered and given the name ‘the Prince Charles stream tree frog’ (Hyloscirtus princecharlesi) in honour of his work in rainforest conservation, which includes the 2007 Prince’s Rainforests Project and as head of the UK World Wildlife Fund
  • Charles III was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023. British Vogue’s then editor in chief, Edward Enninful, global ambassador of The Prince’s Trust since 2021, wrote the tribute, referring to the charity and the impact it has had on the lives of his friends and family

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (in his role as Colonel in Chief of The Parachute Regiment) watches a commemorative parachute drop in 2000. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Out of the ordinary

  • At the age of eight, the Prince had his tonsils removed and insisted on carrying them with him in a glass jar for several months
  • In 1970, a 21-year-old Prince of Wales spent a morning with David Eisenhower, the son-in-law of President Nixon, at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre in Maryland, US. After visiting various species there, one reporter noted that the Prince conversed with the birds at length: ‘He’s said more to that one crane than he’s said to the press in all the time he’s been here’
  • The King plays music to his cows, because it makes for a more soothing milking process
  • After every tree-planting ceremony during royal engagements, His Majesty gives a branch a friendly shake to wish the young tree well
  • He does not carry a mobile phone
  • Since 1993, he has presided over Poundbury, an experimental extension village outside Dorchester, Dorset. The development, currently home to more than 4,600 residents, was conceived by The King and is a physical manifestation of the way he thinks Britons should live in ‘familiar, traditional, well-tried and beautiful homes’, edged by parks and with commercial amenities within walking distance. Poundbury is powered in part by renewable gas from an anaerobic-digestion plant and solar slate roofs. Its focal point is Queen Mother Square, with a statue of his grandmother; some of the streets are named after her racehorses. He is now spearheading a second, similar project, at Nansledan, near Newquay in Cornwall
  • He has appeared on the Country Life Frontispiece no fewer than nine times, has guest edited the magazine twice and wrote a Leader for the issue published the week of his birthday, November 14, every year from 2013 until he acceded to the throne in 2022. The magazine is known to be The King’s favourite.


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