To this country and the world beyond, he is King Charles. But to a group of very special young people, he is known more simply as “Grandpa Wales”. When he ascended to the throne last year, His Majesty was already a grandfather five times over – as well, the Queen Consort has revealed, as having a key role in his five step-grandchildren’s lives.
“My grandchildren adore him, absolutely adore him,” Camilla said. “He reads Harry Potter and he can do all the different voices and I think children really appreciate that.” Over the past few years, Charles’s bond with the youngest members of his family has been clear at several high-profile occasions, plus more private moments that have been captured on camera.
“It’s a different part of your life,” he has said of becoming a grandparent, taking inspiration from his own adored grandmother, the Queen Mother. “The great thing is to encourage them. Show them things to take their interest. “My grandmother did that. She was wonderful. It is very important to create a bond when they are very young.”
It would seem he has followed his own advice. In photographs released to mark his 70th birthday in November 2018, the then Prince of Wales looked in his element as he cuddled a young Prince Louis. His bond with the other youngsters is just as strong. Photographs taken during a visit by King Felipe of Spain to Clarence House showed that Charles keeps an image of Prince George, taken on his October 2013 christening day, on a display table.
Football-mad George, nine, has been encouraged by his parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to live as normal a life as possible, despite now being second in line to the throne. The youngster and his family moved to Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor estate last year and, with his younger sister Princess Charlotte, seven, and four-year-old brother Louis, attends fee-paying Lambrook School in Berkshire.
They maintain a close relationship with both sets of grandparents (Kate’s parents Michael and Carole live close by in Berkshire) and Charles dotes on the trio. “He will get down on his knees and crawl about with them for hours, making funny noises and laughing,” the Queen Consort has said. As the middle child between two brothers, Charlotte “rules the roost”, according to her parents. She was also a much-welcomed granddaughter to Charles. “She is beautiful,” he said shortly after her birth. “I was hoping for a granddaughter – someone to look after me when I am very old.”
Charlotte sparkles when on duty and encourages George and Louis to follow her lead. At last summer’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, she was seen telling her siblings how to behave during key moments and instructed future heir-to-the-throne George how to stand during the National Anthem.
That didn’t stop Louis from stealing the show with his cheeky antics, pulling faces at his amused mother during the Party at the Palace concert and making his displeasure known when he was bored. At one point, Charles was seen sitting with Louis on his lap in a bid to keep his attention from wandering.
Despite living a continent away, the King is keen to maintain an equally close relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s children Archie, three, and one-year-old Lilibet. While Archie spent the first few months of his life in the UK before moving to California with his parents, the King only met Lili for the first time last summer, when the family flew over to take part in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
An insider said Charles and Camilla were “thrilled” to meet her. “The Prince, of course, hasn’t seen his grandson Archie for a bit of time and so it was very, very, very special to have some time with him. He hadn’t met Lili his granddaughter and so to meet her was very emotional; a very, very wonderful thing.”
No doubt, there will be many more quality family occasions. Prince William, for one, is looking forward to this. “I would like him to have more time with the children,” he has said. “Having more time with him at home would be lovely as being able to play with the grandchildren. Because when he’s there, he’s brilliant. But we need him there as much as possible.”
Although Lili and Archie haven’t been able to spend lots of time with their grandpa, it turns out they share one of his favourite passions.