Prior to the ceremony, Charles had studied at Gordonstoun School in Scotland, at Trinity College, Cambridge, and also at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he went specifically in order to learn the Welsh language -- the first English-born prince ever to make a serious attempt to do so. This won him some popularity in the principality, but the investiture also aroused considerable hostility among some Welsh nationalists, and there were threats of violence. In the late 1970s, Charles established another first when he became the first member of the Royal Family since King George I to attend a British cabinet meeting, he being invited to attend by Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan so as to see the workings of cabinet government at first hand.
In 1981, Prince Charles married a teenage Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer. It was to be perhaps the biggest royal marriage ever held. All of Europe's crowned heads (with the exception of King Juan Carlos of Spain, who was advised not to attend because the new couple's honeymoon would involve a stop-over in the disputed territory of Gibraltar) attended. So, too, did most of Europe's presidents, with two notable exceptions: President Karamanlis of Greece declined to go, because Greece's exiled King, Constantine II, who was a personal friend of the prince, had been described in his invitation as 'King of Greece', the technically correct description of an exiled monarch who hadn't abdicated, but which infuriated Greek republicans. Similarly, Ireland's President Hillery was formally advised by the Irish government of Charles J. Haughey not to attend because of the continued dispute over Britain's role in Northern Ireland.
By marriage to the heir to the throne, Diana received both a title, "Princess of Wales", and the style, "Her Royal Highness". They made their homes at Highgrove in Gloucestershire and Kensington Palace. Almost immediately, Diana became a star attraction, chased by the paparazzi and the news media, her every move (including changes in hair-style) followed by millions. However, the marriage soon hit the rocks. Critics of Diana alleged that she was unstable and tempermental; one by one she sacked each of Charles's longstanding staff members and fell out with numerous friends (her father, mother, brother, Duchess of York, Elton John, her own staff -- who quit after rows). Charles, too, was blamed for the marital troubles. He and Camilla Shand had ended their relationship in the 1970s and now found themselves in unhappy marriages. The restart of their affair in the late 1980s was to destroy what remained of the fairytale Charles and Diana marriage, which within five years of the wedding was already on the brink of collapse. Ironically, Charles and Diana were similar in some respects: Both had troubled childhoods. Both took their public roles seriously and devoted much of their time to charity work, becoming highly regarded for it. (Diana notably devoted much time to helping AIDS sufferers, while Charles devoted much effort to marginalised groups in urban centres through his Prince's Trust charity.
Both partners subsequently admitted to extra-marital affairs, he with Mrs. Parker Bowles, she with a number of people, including a young army officer. Though they remained publicly a couple, they effectively had separated by the late 1980s, he living in Highgrove, she in Kensington Palace. The media noted their increasing periods apart and their obvious discomfort at being in each other's presence. By 1992, it was obvious that the marriage was over in all but name. The couple formally separated, with media sources taking different sides in what became known as the "War of the Waleses". Charles received much of the blame when details of his relationship with Mrs. Parker Bowles were revealed. She and her husband divorced, and he married a woman with whom he had had a long-term relationship during his marriage.
The marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales formally ended in divorce in 1996. It had produced two sons, Prince William and Prince Henry, who is known by the name 'Harry'. Tragically, Diana was killed in a car accident in 1997. Charles earned considerable praise for his handling of the events and their aftermath, in particular his over-ruling of palace protocol experts (and indeed the Queen) who argued that as Diana (by then known as Diana, Princess of Wales was no longer a member of the Royal Family, the responsibility for her funeral arrangements belonged to her blood relatives, the Spencers. Charles, against advice, flew to Paris to accompany his ex-wife's body home and insisted that she be given a formal royal funeral; a new category of formal funeral was specially created for her. His role as a single father earned much sympathy, in particular in how he handled a crisis when it was revealed that his younger son, Prince Harry, had dabbled in soft drugs. From extreme unpopularity in the early 1990s, Charles became one of the more popular members of the Royal Family.
His relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles is now openly acknowledged, with her becoming his unofficial consort. However two issues remain over the relationship. As future Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the prospect of him marrying a divorcée, with whom he had a relationship while both were married, is controversial. (Since Diana, Princess of Wales has died, he himself is technically a widower, not a divorcé, and so there is no problem with him marrying a second time. But as Mrs. Parker Bowles has a former husband still alive, she is technically a divorcée, hence the problem.) However public opinion and opinion within the Church has shifted somewhat to a point where a majority would accept a second marriage. However he is unlikely to marry until public opinion expects as opposed to merely accepts a remarriage.
Secondly and more sensitively, there remains the issue of Mrs. Parker Bowles' title after marriage. In strict constitutional law, she would automatically assume the title 'Princess of Wales' and the style 'Royal Highness'. Such a development is almost almost universally unacceptable, even to those supporting a marriage between the couple. Legislation may have to be enacted allowing for a morganatic marriage, whereby she could neither become a princess or queen, and would not be styled HRH, but would use a courtesy title, perhaps 'Duchess of Cornwall'. (He is Duke of Cornwall.) Though her age suggests it is highly improbable, such legislation would also need to state that any children of the union would be excluded from the succession to the throne. Practical issues would also potentially arise over the status of her children by her first marriage, who in the event of a second marriage would become step-children of the future king and step-brothers and step-sisters to Princes William and Harry. (And so the focus of media attention, hence the need for some clarifications, such as inheritance rights to property of the Prince of Wales, police protection, etc.)
Prince Charles is an avid horseman and huntsman. He served in the Royal Navy, commanding the HMS Bronington, a minehunter, from February 1976 until December 1976. He is also a talented artist and a published writer. The Prince's Trust, which he founded, is a charity that works mainly with young people, offering loans to groups, businesses and people (often in deprived areas) who had difficulty receiving support from mainstream lending institutions. The Prince's Trust is believed to have helped thousands of people in poor inner-city areas get jobs and training. In this role, the Prince has become surprisingly popular with many left-wing politicians, who see his charity as helping those who were receiving aid from nowhere else. Fundraising concerts are regularly held for the Prince's Trust, with leading pop, rock and classical musicians taking part.
Charles is a complex character. An openly-admitted depressive, a passionate man who cares deeply about issues such as the environment, architecture, inner-city renewal and the quality of life, he is highly regarded on the international stage as an effective performer for the United Kingdom. On a visit to the Republic of Ireland, for example, instead of simply using a standard foreign office speech, he delivered a personally-researched, personally-written speech on Anglo-Irish affairs which was warmly received by Irish politicians and the Irish media. While his popularity has fluctuated, he remans the most active Prince of Wales in centuries, who, while he could have opted for a low-key life, has devoted his time and effort to trying to better the lives of his future subjects. Only the Camilla issue remains as the complicating factor in his public image and persona.