The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles of Britain, celebrates his 65th birthday today - and, as many have pointed out, the heir to the British throne thus reaches what is the normal age of retirement in Britain.
However, as being a member of a royal family is no job, Prince Charles is far from retiring. Today he and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are concluding their official visit to India and travelling on to Sri Lanka, where Prince Charles will represent his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at the biannual meeting of the heads of government of the Commonwealth countries.
This is the first time in many years that Queen Elizabeth, who is head of the Commonwealth, is not herself present at this summit. As such it is a prime example of how her heir has gradually began to take on more of the aging monarch’s duties.
Prince Charles is the oldest heir apparent in British history and also the one who has held the position as first in line to the throne for the longest time (61 years and nine months so far), but he is not the oldest person ever to be first in line to the throne, a distinction which belongs to the Dowager Electress Sophia of Hanover, who was heiress presumptive to Queen Anne from the latter’s accession in 1702 until the former’s death at the age of 83 in 1714, less than two months before Queen Anne.
The last time the heir apparent to a European throne reached his country’s age of retirement must have been the then Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden on 11 November 1947. He succeeded his 92-year-old father, King Gustaf V, on 29 October 1950, two weeks before his 68th birthday.
When Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf turned 65 in November 1947 the succession to the Swedish throne had been complicated by the death of his eldest son, Prince Gustaf Adolf, in an airplane accident in January of the same year, leaving his then nine-month-old son, Prince Carl Gustaf (now King Carl XVI Gustaf), as next in line to the throne after his grandfather, thereby creating a 64-year-old-gap in the succession. Luckily no such troubles worry Prince Charles, who saw the succession to the throne secured for yet another generation with the birth of his grandson, Prince George, on 22 July this year. The common denominator between Gustaf VI Adolf and Prince Charles, his great-nephew by marriage, would be that they both have had enough interests and commitment to do something meaningful with their long apprenticeships.