When did King Charles III become Prince of Wales? Royal title history, current holder, why it is controversial

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The Prince of Wales title was first conferred to an English Royal Family member in 1301, but it is controversial among Welsh people

People across the UK are preparing to mark the Coronation of King Charles III on Saturday (6 May).

The UK monarch is set to be joined by around 2,000 guests for the Westminster Abbey occasion, with tens of thousands of people likely to throng the streets of London despite the weather. Some people have even been camp for much of this week in a bid to secure a good view of the procedings.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Details released ahead of the event suggest the King will pay homage to his father - Prince Philip - and his Greek heritage. The ceremony is also likely to evoke memories of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September 2022. NationalWorld has written a full guide to the event which you can read here.

When the Queen passed away, Charles vacated the Prince of Wales title and became the King of the United Kingdom. When he did so, some hoped his former title would be confined to history, given many Welsh people find it to be offensive.

But has Prince William inherited the title - and why is the second-in-line to the throne known as the Prince of Wales? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Prince of Wales title?

The Prince of Wales title has been conferred on English Royal Family members since 1301. But the title existed well before this time. Its origins are believed to date back to 1137, with the last Welsh Prince of Wales being Llywelyn the Last.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Llywelyn the Last was the grandson of the last Welsh King of Wales - Llywelyn the Great. The Welsh monarchy was overthrown after being defeated by the Anglo-Norman dynasty in 1240. Llywelyn the Last gave himself the Prince of Wales title when he led a failed attempt to retake his ancestor’s lands in 1258.

King Charles III acceded the throne after the death of the Queen (image: Getty Images)King Charles III acceded the throne after the death of the Queen (image: Getty Images)
King Charles III acceded the throne after the death of the Queen (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

In 1301, the title was conferred to the future King Edward II - the eldest son of Edward I. This move was intended as a symbolic gesture, marking England’s subjugation of Wales. Ever since, it has almost always been given to the English monarch of the day’s eldest male heir. The Prince of Wales can grant Royal Warrants to companies, but the title is otherwise a largely symbolic one.

When did King Charles become Prince of Wales?

Charles became the 21st Prince of Wales when the Queen handed him the title on 26 July 1958. He was only nine-years-old at the time.

The title had previously jumped a generation. The last Prince of Wales had been the future Edward VIII - the only King to have abdicated the throne of their own accord in modern British history. The future King Charles was not invested - i.e. formally conferred the rank - until 1 July 1969 when he was 20. The ceremony took place at Caernarfon Castle.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the run up to the event, he had taken a course in the Welsh language at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth for a term in 1969. By the time he vacated the role in September 2022, Charles had become the longest-serving Prince of Wales in UK history.

Is Prince William Prince of Wales now?

The Prince of Wales title is not automatically given to the eldest male heir. Rather, it has to be granted to them by the reigning monarch. This is because the title is merged to the Crown and is therefore granted at the King or Queen’s pleasure.

In his first address to the nation after the Queen’s death, Charles III announced he had passed his old title onto Prince William. William’s wife Catherine became the Princess of Wales - the first person to hold this title since Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana.

Charles was formally invested as the Prince of Wales in 1969 (image: AFP/Getty Images)Charles was formally invested as the Prince of Wales in 1969 (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Charles was formally invested as the Prince of Wales in 1969 (image: AFP/Getty Images) | CENTRAL PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

In his speech, Charles III said: said: “With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the centre ground where vital help can be given.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It has since been revealed that Prince William has been learning the Welsh language so he can “throw himself into the role”. But it is unlikely he will be invested into the title in the same manner as his father. The Royal town of Caernarfon in North Wales is one of the centres of the Welsh independence movement.

The Prince of Wales title is controversial in Wales because nationalists argue it is a symbol of England’s subjugation of Wales. Nationalists set up a petition after the Queen’s death calling for the title to be scrapped. So far, almost 40,000 people have signed the ongoing Change.org petition.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.