King Charles III was groomed for his new role from birth — before becoming the longest heir-in-waiting in the nearly 1,200 years of British royalty.
Charles was just 3 when his then-25-year-old mother became queen — with her historic reign ultimately leaving him as the oldest-ever new monarch, at 73, after her death Thursday.
During his 70-year wait, then-Prince Charles became embroiled in some of the worst scandals of his mother’s reign, including his doomed, unfaithful marriage to the late Princess Diana.
He has also bucked tradition with his outspoken political views — and been derided for his woke, pet projects, admitting he talks to plants while pushing organic farming, alternative medicines and climate-change fears.
It has all left him drastically less popular than his mother, with a running tracker by YouGov showing he is liked by 42% of the British public, compared to 75% who liked the late Queen.
His “main frustration,” however, is that “he has been sort of massively misunderstood,” according to his biographer, Sally Bedell Smith.
Here, The Post looks into the life of the boy who became king — not to mention one of the richest men in England.
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Charles Philip Arthur George was born in a room set up as a temporary maternity ward in Buckingham Palace on Nov. 14, 1948, weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces — and while his father, Prince Philip, played squash.
He was just 3 when his mother became queen immediately after the death of her father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952, starting the longest-ever reign in royal history. He was 4 by the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.
Unlike predecessors educated by private tutors, Charles went to Hill House school in West London. In 1966, he also spent a year as an exchange student in Melbourne, Australia.
He was sent as a boarder to two of his father’s alma maters: Cheam School in Berkshire, where he became head boy, and then the Gordonstoun, a tough boarding school in Scotland.
His “alpha male” late father, Philip, sent him there because he feared the young prince was a “very sensitive and emotional young man” who needed toughening up, royal biographer Tina Brown has said.
Gordonstoun was a bad fit for the sensitive prince — who called it “a prison sentence” and “Colditz with kilts.”
Breaking with tradition again, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study archaeology and physical and social anthropology, but later changed to history. In 1970, he became the first royal to get a degree, albeit with mediocre grades.
Prince of Wales
Charles was still a 20-year-old student when his mother crowned him as the Prince of Wales at a grand ceremony in 1969.
While he had been given the title — one traditionally given to the heir — in writing in 1958, when he was 9, he would have to wait another 11 years for the formal ceremony at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.
There, the Queen bestowed upon Charles five pieces of insignia: a sword, coronet, ring, the gold rod, and the kingly mantle, Town & Country mag said.
He then took an oath to his mother, the Queen, to “become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto thee to live and die against all manner of folks.”
Like many royals before him — including his father, grandfather and both his great-grandfathers — he joined the armed forces, initially the Royal Air Force in 1971 and later the Royal Navy. He rose through the ranks to command the minesweeper HMS Bronington.
Both his sons — Princes Harry and William — would follow him into the military, too.
After leaving active duty with the navy in 1976, Charles later admitted he struggled to find his role in public life, saying he had to “make it up as you go along.”
Pet projects and politics
While waiting in the wings, Charles dedicated himself to a number of wonky pet projects, focused on the “environment, global sustainability, youth opportunity, education and faith.”
He has long been derided for revealing that he likes to “talk to the plants” — insisting “they respond” — and even shake hands with trees.
“I happily talk to plants and trees and listen to them. I think it’s absolutely crucial,” he said in 2010.
His views have also often gone from quirky to controversial, with Charles wading into politics, bucking tradition and defying the example set by his mother, who refused to publicly discuss her views.
“I have tended to make a habit of sticking my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly obvious to me,” he said in a speech in January 2014.
Amid criticism, Charles stood by much of his campaigning, such as fighting to improve conditions for people in UK inner cities. “If that’s meddling, I’m very proud of it,” he told a 2018 documentary.
However, royal historian Ed Owens stressed that Charles will now have to be careful because “the monarch and certainly the monarch’s family — they’re not meant to have political voices.”
“The fact that he’s been flexing, if you like, his political muscle is something that he will have to be really careful with … lest he be seen as unconstitutional,” warned Owens.
Charles, it seems, is aware that he has to change his ways now that he is king. In a 2018 BBC interview, he said that as a sovereign, “you play the role in the way that it is expected … you operate within the constitutional parameters.”
“I’m not that stupid,” he insisted.
The prince met Lady Diana Spencer in 1977 when she was 16 and he was dating her older sister.
However, it would be another three years before rumors of their engagement swirled after she was invited to spend time with Charles and the royal family.
They announced their engagement in February 1981 — with signs even then that it was not destined to last.
Asked by a reporter if they were in love, Diana immediately answered “of course” — while her prince replied, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”
Although Diana giggled at the response, she later said that Charles’ remark “absolutely traumatized me” and “threw me completely.”
A record 750 million TV viewers watched their wedding on July 29, 1981, with another 600,000 lining the streets around St. Paul’s Cathedral.
It was seen by many as a modern-day fairytale, although reports later said Charles only proposed after an ultimatum from his dad.
Diana later insisted they were virtually strangers at the time. “We met 13 times and we got married,” she would say.
‘Three of us in this marriage’
The fairytale did not just crumble — it ended in a crisis that some suggested might destroy Charles’ chances of ever becoming king.
The marriage crumbled in 1992 — the year the Queen dubbed her “annus horribilis,” Latin for “horrible year” — amid salacious stories of cheating by both.
Charles admitted as much in 1994 when he was asked if he had been faithful. “Yes … Until it became clear that the marriage had irretrievably broken down,” he said.
His then-still-estranged wife went even further during her own interview the next year, directly blaming Charles’ cheating with Camilla Parker Bowles — now the queen consort — for the ugly end of their marriage.
“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” she said.
Many questioned the divorced royal’s fitness for the throne, a sentiment that grew after Diana’s 1997 death in a car crash in Paris.
Queen Elizabeth II was initially rumored to be among the most enraged — reportedly having called Camilla “that wicked woman.”
“‘I want nothing to do with her,” she told Charles at the time, according to royal biographer Tom Bower’s book, “Rebel Prince.” Neither the Queen nor her husband, the late Prince Philip, attended their eldest son’s wedding to Camilla in 2005.
It was only this year that the Queen finally expressed her “sincere wish” that Camilla “be known as Queen Consort.”
Meghan and Harry
Prince Harry, now 37, was long a troubled child for the family, with his drug-taking, partying, racism and Nazi dress-up.
But little could Charles know what awaited after his younger son married TV actress Meghan Markle — another fairytale royal wedding that almost brought down the monarchy.
After quitting life as senior royals and moving to California, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have famously made ugly accusations against the royals, including bullying and racism.
Harry has made clear that he mostly blames his dad, saying that he felt his son should suffer as he had — and claiming his father handed down a “cycle” of “genetic pain and suffering.“
Harry admitted that his father stopped taking his calls, and the pair appear estranged to this day.
Charles made no efforts to see his son and daughter-in-law while they were in the UK this week — and even when Harry flew alone to try to see the Queen on her deathbed, he was first to leave Balmoral, still alone, on Friday.
Harry is far from the only family member putting Charles’ reign in crisis, however.
Charles’ younger brother Prince Andrew, 62, also threatened the future of the monarchy with his ties to late pedophile pal Jeffrey Epstein and the perv’s madam, British media heiress Ghislaine Maxwell.
Despite being close while young, Charles is said to have been the royal most furious at his brother’s handling of the situation — and insisting he be stripped of his royal duties and then even his titles.
Out of necessity, Charles has said he plans to head a stripped-down royal family that focuses instead on a handful of key senior members.
Charles did not just become king on Thursday — he automatically became one of the richest men in England, CNN noted.
He will now receive the Sovereign Grant, which covers the cost of his official duties — and amounted to $99.2 million for the 2021-2022 financial year.
He also takes charge of the Royal Collection, which includes one of the most valuable art collections in the world, as well as the Duchy of Lancaster, a vast estate of more than 10,000 hectares (40 square miles) of land, prime London real estate and a portfolio of investments, according to CNN.
‘We owe him our loyalty’
Despite Charles’ low approval ratings, the UK’s new leader, Liz Truss — the last person to be photographed with the Queen — insisted Friday that “we owe him our loyalty and devotion.”
“Even as he mourns, his sense of duty and service is clear,” she told Parliament of the new king.
“The British people, the Commonwealth and all of us in this House [of Commons] will support him as he takes our country forward to a new era of hope and progress,” she insisted.
“The Crown endures. Our nation endures. And in that spirit, I say God save the King.”
With Post wires