Prince Charles seems quite happy these days. Whether he's accompanying his wife Camilla Parker Bowles on a royal appointment or cracking a joke with his sons Harry and William, the Prince of Wales usually seems in good spirits. But long before Diana, Camilla, and his children came along, young Charles endured a rather challenging adolescence. While he enjoyed the rich privileges that come with being the heir to the British throne, Charles's upbringing was plagued with high expectations, great disappointments, and even some bullying.
Born into royalty
On November 14, 1948, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip welcomed their first son and the future king. The Queen breastfed Charles at first, until she came down with measles and had to stop, according to . From then on, Her Majesty was often separated from her son for long periods of time, due to trips abroad and her various royal duties.
Philip, also on royal duty for much of his son's youth, struggled to find time with his son as well. But when he did have down time, Philip focused on teaching Charles how to fish and hunt.
But their time together wasn't always pleasant. As royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith in , Charles was often "belittled" by his father's "forceful" personality. Philip worried his son was too "soft," and feared he would become vulnerable and weak. As a result, Philip's alpha-male tendencies were often seen as "bullying." His sister, Princess Anne, also fell victim to Philip's strict parenting style, but being the more extroverted one, she would brush his words off. Charles, on the other hand, was much more sensitive.
One particularly heart-wrenching story in details just how hard Prince Charles took criticism. When he was just eight years old, he attended a luncheon at the Mountbatten estate. During the meal, Charles was picking the stems off of his wild strawberries and Lord Mountbatten told him, "No, no. You hold them by the stems to dip them in sugar." Seconds later, poor Charles was desperately trying to reattach the stems.
A tough time at school
At first, Charles was educated at home by governess Catherine Peebles. As he progressed, he eventually moved over to Hill House School in London then Cheam. During his early years, the Prince allegedly struggled to make friends, according to . Being the heir to the throne, he often found himself at the mercy of bullies. They ridiculed him for his "protruding ears" and called the prince "fatty."
In attempt Philip sent his boy to Gordonstoun in 1962, Philip's alma mater boarding school in Scotland. His experience at the Scottish institution remains a point of contention. The school — hitting back at the harsh portrayal of Charles's experience there in season 2 of the hit Netflix drama — declares that a speech from the Prince of Wales himself proves that he, indeed, enjoyed his time at the school.
Charles when launching his charity, The Prince's Trust:
It [Gordonstoun] was only tough in the sense that it demanded more of you as an individual than most other schools did — mentally or physically. I am lucky in that I believe it taught me a great deal about myself and my own abilities and disabilities.
Still, other indicate that Charles strongly disliked his time there, allegedly labeling it as "absolute hell." Either way, Prince Charles ended up staying at Gordonstoun until 1967. But when it came time for Charles to pick where his own sons went to school, he chose Eton.
Finding sports and meeting Camilla
Though he didn't excel in every athletic challenge his father wanted him to, Charles did take a liking to polo. By the mid- to late-1960s, Charles was competing in polo matches, just like his father. Unfortunately, the future king suffered a lot of injuries over the years from the sport, including needing stitches on his cheek, coming down with dehydration, and having pain from a degenerative disc in his back, reports.
At a 1970 polo match in Windsor, 22-year-old Charles met Camilla Shand for the first time. The couple enjoyed a whirlwind romance until Charles departed for the Royal Navy in 1971. Six years later, he met Lady Diana Spencer and married her in 1981.
Charles and Diana's marriage, however, was plagued with scandal from the start. Camilla and the Prince still harbored feelings for one another by all accounts, and after Diana's tragic death in 1997, Charles continued seeing Camilla. In 2005, they officially tied the knot.
Growing as a prince
Though Charles's younger years were filled with heartache, the future king, today, is thriving.
In 2004, the Prince of Wales founded (A4S) to influence financial leaders to make changes in their businesses that would help contribute to a stable economy. He also began the Campaign for Wool to repopularize it as a sustainable fabric. In 2007, Charles worked on Mosaic, which helps create opportunities for young people in poor communities.
Now 69 and a grandfather to Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, reports that HRH is working hard to ensure his grandkids' upbringings are filled with lots of joy — perhaps in an effort to provide them with a childhood far different from the one he experienced.