Upon his birth, he was destined to one day rule. Now the world will celebrate King Charles III’s Coronation.
When the pomp and ceremony of the Coronation subsides there will be one question on the lips of many… just when will the King and Queen make their first visit to Kent?
The couple are certainly no strangers to the county. As the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall they made numerous trips.
From playing the drums during a walkabout in Whitstable in 2013 – during which Charles was given an Oyster Festival T-shirt as a gift for his then new grandson, George – to visiting those caught up in severe flooding in Yalding, near Maidstone, they have been frequent visitors.
It is, of course, all part of life in the Windsor family – a need to be seen by the population and supporting ventures which add to the nation’s success culturally or commercially.
When King Charles was born in 1948 his grandfather was on the throne – George VI. George had taken over the reins after his brother, Edward, famously abdicated before his coronation in order to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson.
Yet few could anticipate that by the time Charles was just three years old he would become the heir apparent. The death of George VI in 1952 – he was just 56 – saw his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, become Queen at the age of 25 and her eldest son, Charles, next in line to the throne.
It would accelerate the changes in his life. With such an exalted position ahead of him, expectations and public interest were high.
Charles’s life ever since has been well documented. One of the world’s most eligible bachelors in his youth, his romances were rarely out of the spotlight. At one stage he was romantically linked to Lady Amanda Knatchbull, who lived near Ashford (he is reported to have proposed to her) but the relationship failed to ignite.
However, his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer captivated the world and elevated the pair to a level of fame and press intrusion the royal family was unused to.
A fairy-tale wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981 – after the pair had started dating the year before – was watched by a global audience of 750 million people.
The dream couple had their issues, however, and their story would soon take a sour, and then tragic, twist. Diana struggled to cope with the relentless onslaught of the media and to adjust to the confines of life as a Windsor.
The pair divorced in 1996, and following Diana’s death in Paris in 1997 his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles emerged from the shadows. They had been sweethearts prior to his relationship with Diana and remained close in the years to follow – too close, Diana would claim – and the pair wed in 2005.
Since then they have continued to ingratiate themselves with the public – with Camilla’s expected adoption of the title of Queen following the Coronation (she has been referred to as the Queen’s Consort since he became King) – the Charles and Camilla have become firm favourites.
In fact, for that trip to Yalding in March 2014, the royal couple caught a Southeastern train from Victoria to Maidstone East before being taken to meet those affected by the flooding that had created national headlines the previous Christmas.
They even made an unscheduled stop at Teapot Island to visit the collection of 8,000 teapots at the popular tourist spot. Camilla was so impressed she bought a camel-shaped one.
In 2019, Prince Charles – as he was then – presented service medals to the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1RGR) at their barracks in Folkestone. He was Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
But their most recent visit to Kent was just last year, as reported in an MMM picture special. In February 2022, the royal visit started at the Healthy Living Centre in Sheppey before Charles’s trip to the island’s Elmley Nature Reserve, where the king of conservation was given a tour of its fauna and flora.
His next engagement was to the Historic Dockyard in Chatham. Charles had been a patron of the dockyard trust since 2013 and was given a tour of the popular tourist attraction’s latest exhibitions.
Then he popped into the Copper Rivet Distillery, based on the dockyard site. The distillery had already enjoyed royal patronage, having been officially opened in 2017 by Charles’s sister Anne, the Princess Royal.
While there he tasted a tot of whisky created on the site.
Meanwhile, his wife, Camilla, met the late Paul O’Grady at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Brands Hatch before heading to Rochester to open the Guildhall Museum’s The Making of Mr Dickens exhibition – a homage to Charles Dickens, who based so many of his tales in and around Medway, attended school in Chatham and lived in nearby Higham up until his death.
In what was a busy day for the duo, Camilla then headed to Rochester Airport to meet members of the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society – of which she was a patron. And MMM’s own history writer, Robin J Brooks, met both Charles and Camilla at the airport.
But while all who met the then Prince and Duchess were entranced, a visit by a reigning monarch is an occasion which captures the imagination like no other. It truly is something which lives with you and the event will be passed on through generations.
The last time the head of state paid an official visit to the county was in November 2019. Queen Elizabeth II headed to Aylesford to see the Royal British Legion Industries centenary village ahead of Remembrance Sunday. She was 93 at the time.
Looking regal in purple, she was greeted by crowds and schoolchildren waving the Union flag as she was driven to her destination.
She made frequent visits to Kent during her long reign – more recent trips being to the likes of the Turner Contemporary in Margate and to visit troops stationed in Canterbury.
But her passing last September turned the page on the second Elizabethan era. Her 70-year time on the throne ended shortly after the nation had celebrated the once-in-a-lifetime Platinum Jubilee. For Charles, the passing of his mother meant succession to the throne.
Little wonder, then, that excitement will build ahead of the King’s first visit to the county – wherever and whenever that may be.