Mother to Prince Charles
Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Charles, in 1948 when
she was aged 22. He was a gentle and somewhat shy child whose
childhood was overshadowed by his growing awareness of the role
that awaited him. As soon as the Queen acceded to the throne he
acquired his own footman and private detective.
Accustomed to the periodic absences of his parents from an early age, he was sent away to school from the age of eight. He subsequently went to Gordonstoun in Scotland and Geelong Grammar School in Australia for a year, before attending Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his first grounding in British constitutional law.
From an early age he shared his mother's love of animals and enjoyment of country pursuits, particularly riding. Throughout his life he sought the company and guidance of older people, from his uncle Lord Mountbatten (who was killed by the IRA in 1979), to the author Laurens van der Post and the artist Derek Hill, to his grandmother, Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, to whom he was devoted.
The unhappiness of Prince Charles's marriage to Princess Diana caused the Queen much distress, and at first she counselled against divorce, and advised that the couple tried to achieve a reconciliation. His relationship with his long-time mistress Camilla Parker Bowles initially attracted negative press attention, contributing to the Queen's family problems in the late 1990s.
In 2005 the Queen offered her formal consent to Prince Charles's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles, granted after consultation with the prime minister, and her congratulations. She and Philip were not able to attend the civil wedding ceremony but were present at the service of blessing and held a reception for the couple in Windsor Castle.
Since the legitimisation of his relationship, the travails of his marriage with Diana are increasingly seen as ancient history. Meanwhile, Elizabeth's own devotion to duty means that her eldest son still awaits his royal destiny - indeed, in April 2011 he overtook his great-great-grandfather King Edward VII as the longest-serving heir apparent in British history.