75 on Tuesday – and the King will celebrate at a ‘food bank’! How times have changed from his 21st when his mother gave him a gleaming Aston Martin…
- King will mark his birthday next week visiting a surplus food distribution centre
For King Charles’s 21st birthday in 1969, his mother gave him a convertible Aston Martin DB6 Volante sports car, the perfect gift for the dashing young bachelor about town.
But times – and people – change, and on Tuesday he will mark his 75th in a far more thoughtful way: visiting a surplus food distribution centre to launch a scheme to support those who need help during the cost-of-living crisis.
The King may also hold a small family dinner at Clarence House, but the deliberately low-key nature of his schedule is symbolic of how much his life has changed from flashy young Prince to modern monarch. And his celebrations over the decades mirror how much Britain has evolved in his lifetime, too.
His first birthday, in 1949, was marked by a studio portrait taken by a photographer born in 1875, when Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister and the FA Cup Final was contested by the Royal Engineers and a team of Old Etonians.
By his 30th in 1978, that staid world seemed an age away. Charles threw a birthday party at Buckingham Palace with entertainment provided by his favourite musicians, glamorous US disco trio the Three Degrees.
On Tuesday King Charles will mark his 75th in a far more thoughtful way: visiting a surplus food distribution centre to launch a scheme to support those who need help during the cost-of-living crisis
The then-Prince Charles (right) at Windsor for a polo match, UK, 13th June 1971
For King Charles’s 21st birthday in 1969, his mother gave him a convertible Aston Martin DB6 Volante sports car
Then the world’s most eligible bachelor, the Prince leapt on to the stage to dance alongside the singers. Many years later, one of the group, Sheila Ferguson, said Charles subsequently sent her letters but explained: ‘I didn’t want to be a notch on his bedpost.’
The party left a lasting impression on Charles. In 2021, he confessed that the trio’s hit Givin’ Up, Givin’ In ‘used to provide me with an irresistible urge to get up and dance’.
For his 31st birthday, Charles also celebrated with pop royalty, with Shirley Bassey singing Happy Birthday to him. But the King’s musical tastes have matured, now professing a love of the works of Wagner and Handel.
The Three Degrees will not be helping him celebrate this week. Instead, the King has invited a local rock choir to provide live music over afternoon tea at Highgrove on the eve of his birthday. Even his attitude to that 21st birthday sports car – which also had a key role at William and Kate’s wedding – has changed.
Originally running at an environmentally unfriendly 14 miles to the gallon, it’s been adapted to run on a biofuel made from surplus English wine and whey, a by-product of cheese-making. Charles’s 50th birthday in 1998 was also a lavish affair, when 850 guests including actors Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson, and his favourite comedian, Spike Milligan, were invited to Buckingham Palace for a champagne-fuelled party.
The now King pictured with his tiered birthday cake at his 40th birthday party during the launch of his Prince’s Youth Business Trust in Birmingham
A young King Charles in one of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace on his eighth birthday
The late Queen led a toast to her son, celebrating his ‘diligence, compassion and leadership’. He replied: ‘Mummy… I don’t know how you have put up with me.’
Notably absent from the guest list that night was Camilla Parker Bowles, a snub said to be an overt demonstration of her late Majesty’s aversion to the relationship between her son and his companion becoming public just a year after Princess Diana’s death.
Charles instead celebrated separately with Camilla at Highgrove.
Now, 25 years on, his birthday is marred by another snub, as Prince Harry claims ‘there has been no contact regarding an invitation to His Majesty’s upcoming birthday’.
But Queen Camilla, the woman with whom he’s shared a love affair for 40 years, will be front and centre at the celebrations.
And maybe the presents won’t be as extravagant as a sports car… but he should at least do better than his 70th, when a group of royal correspondents presented him with their gift: a can of squirrel repellent.
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