Charles was born at Buckingham Palace in London during the reign of his maternal grandfather George VI on 14 November 1948, at 9:14 pm (GMT).
He was baptised in the palace's Music Room by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, on 15 December 1948.
Buckingham Palace announced in 1955 that Charles would attend school rather than have a private tutor, making him the first heir apparent to be educated in that manner. On 7 November 1956, Charles commenced classes at Hill House School, in west London.
Charles was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on 26 July 1958, though his investiture was not held until 1 July 1969, when he was crowned by his mother in a televised ceremony held at Caernarfon Castle.
Charles broke royal tradition a second time when he proceeded straight to university after his A-levels, rather than joining the British Armed Forces. In October 1967, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read anthropology, archaeology, and history. During his second year, Charles attended the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, studying Welsh history and language for a term. He graduated from Cambridge with a 2:2 Bachelor of Arts on 23 June 1970, the first heir apparent to earn a university degree.
Charles followed family tradition when he served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. During his second year at Cambridge, he requested and received Royal Air Force training. On 8 March 1971, he flew himself to the Royal Air Force College Cranwell to train as a jet pilot.
On 2 August 1975, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge, in accordance with the university's practice.
On 9 February 1976, Charles took command of the coastal minehunter HMS Bronington for his last ten months of active service in the navy.
Prince Charles proposed to Diana in February 1981; she accepted and they married in St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July of that year. Upon his marriage, Charles reduced his voluntary tax contribution from the profits generated by the Duchy of Cornwall from 50% to 25%.
He learned to fly on a Chipmunk basic pilot trainer, a BAC Jet Provost jet trainer, and a Beagle Basset multi-engine trainer; he then regularly flew the Hawker Siddeley Andover, Westland Wessex and BAe 146 aircraft of The Queen's Flight. until he gave up flying after crashing the BAe 146 in the Hebrides in 1994.
Within five years, the marriage was in trouble due to the couple's incompatibility and near 13-year age difference. Charles resumed his relationship with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, and Diana began one with Major James Hewitt, the family's former riding instructor. In December 1992, British Prime Minister John Major announced the couple's formal separation in Parliament. Charles and Diana divorced on 28 August 1996.
Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August of the following year; Charles flew to Paris with Diana's sisters to accompany her body back to Britain.
The marriage Charles and Camilla Parker was scheduled to take place in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle, with a subsequent religious blessing at St George's Chapel. The venue was subsequently changed to Windsor Guildhall, because a civil marriage at Windsor Castle would oblige the venue to be available to anyone who wished to be married there. Four days before the wedding, it was postponed from the originally scheduled date of 8 April until the following day in order to allow Charles and some of the invited dignitaries to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
On 16 June 2012, the Queen awarded the Prince of Wales honorary five-star rank in all three branches of the British Armed Forces, "to acknowledge his support in her role as Commander-in-Chief", installing him as Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal and Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
On 23 April 2016, Charles appeared in a comedy sketch for the Royal Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare Live! at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death in 1616. The event was televised live by the BBC. Charles made a surprise entrance to settle the disputed delivery of Hamlet's celebrated line, "To be or not to be, that is the question".
Charles is the longest-serving Prince of Wales, having surpassed the record held by Edward VII on 9 September 2017.
On 7 March 2019, the Queen hosted a Buckingham Palace event to mark the 50th anniversary of Charles's investiture as the Prince of Wales. Guests at the event included the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prime Minister Theresa May and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.
On 25 March 2019 , at the request of the British government, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall went on an official tour to Cuba, making them the first British royalty to visit the country. The tour was seen as effort to form a closer relationship between the UK and Cuba.
On 25 March 2020, Charles tested positive for COVID-19, amidst the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic after showing mild symptoms for days. He and Camilla subsequently self-isolated at their Birkhall residence. Camilla was also tested, but had a negative result.