Prince Charles was born to fulfill a specific purpose – to one day be King. 66 years later, he is still waiting.
Some princes wait longer than others to fulfill their destiny. Henry VI became King of England in 1422 at the age of only nine months, following his father Henry V’s sudden death in France at the age of 36. Incidentally, King Charles VI of France, Henry VI’s maternal grandfather, died seven weeks after Henry V, leaving his throne to the infant English monarch due to the terms of the Treaty of Troyes (1420).
Henry VI was never crowned King of France; the oldest surviving son of Charles VI claimed the throne instead, and was eventually able to secure his hold on the crown with a little help from the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc.
The record for the youngest ever monarch in Britain is held by Mary Queen of Scots, who is perhaps most famous leaving the throne to her 13 month old son James VI and fleeing to England, where she was eventually executed for plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Mary had been born only six days before succeeding her father James V as monarch of Scotland in 1542.
When someone inherits the throne at such a young age, a regent is appointed to rule on their behalf until they reach adulthood and can begin their reign in their own right.
Scotland had a long history of regencies: when the grandson of Mary Queen of Scots, King Charles I, became King of Scotland in 1625 it was the first time in over 200 years that an adult had succeeded to the throne. King James I of Scotland ascended the throne at the age of 12 in 1406; his son, James II of Scotland, was six years old when he became King in 1437; James III succeeded his father in 1460 at the age of nine, and left his throne to his 15-year-old son James IV in 1488.
King James IV is remembered in history as being the last British monarch to be killed in battle – he died at Flodden in 1513, and was succeeded by his 17 month old son James V.
While six days old is the youngest age of ascension in British history, France’s youngest monarch was King the moment he was born. When Louis X died on 5 June 1316, he left a four-year old daughter, Joan, and a five-months-pregnant wife, Clementia of Hungary. His brother Philip was appointed as regent and, on 15 November 1316, Clementia delivered the new King of France.
John I was King of France from the very second he was born, and within a week he had gained another record; that of the shortest reign by a French monarch. He died on 20 November at the age of 5 days, and his uncle became King Philip II according to the aspect of Salic law concerning agnatic succession – namely, that a woman could not inherit the throne, meaning that four-year old Joan could not become Queen. (She later became Queen of Navarre at the age of sixteen.)
At the other end of the age spectrum, William IV was 64 years, 309 days old when he succeeded his brother George IV as King of the United Kingdom in 1830. Technically he only had to wait three years for the throne, since he’d just become heir presumptive following the death of his older brother Prince Frederick in 1827.
King George IV’s only child, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in 1817. Her death provoked a panic among the many sons of King George III, none of whom had any legitimate offspring to secure the succession.
In the end, William’s niece Victoria succeeded him just seven years after he became King, and she set the record for the longest reign by a British monarch. At 63 years and seven months, this record still stands; our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, will surpass this mark on September 9 2015, God willing.
Queen Victoria’s son Albert was 59 years, 74 days old when he became King Edward VII; having waited his entire life to take the throne, he had to wait longer than anyone else in British history before he could begin the role he was born to do. Longer than anyone else, that is, other than the current Prince of Wales.
Prince Charles was born on 14 November 1948, while his grandfather King George VI was on the throne. He was almost three-and-a-half years old when his mother became Queen, and is now the longest living heir-apparent in British history. Currently 66 years old at the time of writing, he will be the oldest monarch in British history when he succeeds to the throne. Given that his maternal grandmother lived to be 101, and the Queen remains in good health, he probably still has some time to wait.
With his mother’s enduring popularity, he – and every other monarchist out there – probably won’t mind trying to set another record, that of the oldest person ever to become a monarch anywhere in the world. This record seems to be held by Tuanku Abdul Halim, who was 84 years 15 days old when he was crowned King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong ) of Malaysia in December 2011.
* The world’s oldest heredity monarch may have been King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who succeeded his brother Faud as King on his 81st birthday in 2005. Whatever way you look at it, there are still a number of years left for Prince Charles to claim the record, and there is definitely no rush required!
*This was actually his second stint as King – Tuanku Abdul Halim’s first five-year term as Yang-di-Pertuan Agong was between 1970 and 1975. The Malaysian monarchy is elected every five years by and from the nine hereditary rulers of the Malay states which form the majority of the Federation of Malaysia – effectively it rotates among them.
Featured Photo Credit: Chloe Howard 2014