There was a big Welsh parti at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday: Penblwydd hapus (Happy anniversary) to the Prince of Wales!
Prince Charles was actually formally installed as Prince of Wales on July 1, 1969, in an elaborate ceremony marking the semi-coronation of the monarch’s eldest son as the heir to the throne, during which he is “invested” with the regalia and other symbols of his rank.
But as is the case with many royal milestones such as the sovereign’s birthday, the party doesn’t happen on the actual date. Hence, Queen Elizabeth II hosted a midday reception at the palace to mark the anniversary, attended by Charles’ wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, and his sons and daughters-in-law and other honored guests.
Perhaps most interesting to royal watchers, the bash marked the first joint public appearance for William, Kate, Harry and Meghan of 2019. The foursome was last seen together in public on Christmas.
Recent rumors have swirled about rising tensions between Meghan and Kate. The buzz led to a TLC special, which aired on Feb. 5, titled “Kate v Meghan: Princesses at War?”
Meghan was snapped patting her baby bump, which was nestled in a champagne-colored, flora brocade dress over which she wore a winter-white Amanda Wakeley coat. According to tweets from the royal-fashion-tracking website Meghan’s Mirror, the mom-to-be carried an oyster-colored Wilbur and Gussie silk clutch and wore tan suede Paul Andrew stilettos.
The queen wore a tweed jacket – in purple, the color of royalty, naturally – over a polka-dotted dress, while Camilla wore a hunter-green suit.
Her sister-in-law, Duchess Kate, donned a seafoam green dress featuring puffed long sleeves and a pleated, tea-length skirt.
Among the other guests are leading figures in Welsh and U.K. public life, as well as representatives from Prince Charles’ many Welsh charities, including The Prince’s Trust Cymru, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales. The Archbishop of Canterbury will also give a speech to mark the anniversary.
A major draw for the cameras: The Investiture Regalia was on display. Guests can check out all the baubles worn by Charles at the 1969 ceremony, including the investiture coronet, sword, ring and rod, as well as the letters patent for the creation of Charles as Prince of Wales in 1958, when he was 9.
The reception also featured a musical performance in the palace ballroom by students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, of which Charles is royal patron.
The performance included a new piece written for the anniversary by Welsh composer Paul Mealor, inspired by the Welsh legend of the Lady of the Lake, a mountain lake near Charles’ Welsh home, Llwynywermod in Carmarthenshire.
The investiture celebration is the latest honor for Charles, now the oldest and longest-serving Prince of Wales in history. His 70th birthday in November also was marked with a major shindig hosted by the queen at the palace last year.
Charles became the Prince of Wales on July 26, 1958, but was not formally invested with the title until the 1969 investiture ceremony when he was 20. The ceremony was largely stage-managed by the queen’s then-brother-in-law, Lord Snowdon, Antony Armstrong-Jones, the former society photographer of Welsh descent who had married her sister, Princess Margaret.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams says there were 4,000 guests at the ceremony and a worldwide audience of 500 million watched it. “It was considered a spectacular success,” Fitzwilliams says. “The monarchy was the one establishment institution that ended the 1960s with its reputation enhanced, largely due to these initiatives and before the advent of the tabloid press.”
The custom of giving the monarch’s heir-apparent the title Prince of Wales dates back to 1301, when King Edward I of England, having conquered and subdued the principality of Wales (and killed its hereditary prince), bestowed the title on his own heir, later King Edward II, who was born at Caernafon Castle in northwest Wales. But the idea of holding the investiture ceremony at the castle wasn’t revived until the 1911 ceremony for Charles’ great-uncle, later Edward VIII, when he was Prince of Wales.
In contrast to 1911, Charles’ ceremony was a massive media event of the era, watched by millions on TV and designed to symbolically cement the bonds between the crown and Wales. Once a separate country with its own language and culture, Wales harbored lingering nationalist hostility to the English royals at the time.
The film footage from the ceremony shows the queen investing Charles with the girdle, sword, a new Prince of Wales coronet, ring, rod and an ermine mantle. Thus draped, he knelt before her declaring, “I, Charles, Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and truth I bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks.”
He gave two speeches, in English and in Welsh. Later, the queen led him to the castle’s Queen Eleanor’s Gate to receive the homage of the Welsh people.
For Prince William, 36, the anniversary party may also be an occasion for contemplation. The queen turns 93 in April and may reign for another decade, but eventually, his father will become King Charles III and he will be created the new Prince of Wales.
So will William have an investiture ceremony – and what will it look like?