Royal Festivities: King Charles Celebrates His 75th Birthday
King Charles shares a joke with guests as he attends his 75th birthday tea at Highgrove House, Nov. 13, 2023. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images; Inset: The cake designed by Jan Blackmore for the monarch’s birthday. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
His Majesty’s milestone birthday celebrations highlighted issues near and dear to his heart, including the launch of a new project to tackle food poverty and waste.
King Charles turned 75 on Tuesday, and he celebrated the auspicious event with the launch of his new legacy project, the Coronation Food Project, with the intent to “shine a light,” says Buckingham Palace, on the issue of food waste. Eight new food hubs will be installed around the U.K. to store and redistribute food to food banks and community kitchens. The King and Queen spent part of the King’s birthday today touring one of these new facilities just outside London.
To mark the milestone, there were also traditional gun salutes in London and across the country, while Charles’s oldest son and heir, Prince William, took to social media to wish the monarch a happy birthday, accompanied by a throwback photo from 2004, when they visited the Madrisa ski slope near the Swiss village of Kosters. (For other tributes see below.)
In Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint revealed the design of King Charles that will replace Queen Elizabeth’s effigy on all Canadian coins. A small amount of these coins — designed by Canadian portrait artist Steven Rosati — are expected to begin circulating as early as December, according to the Mint.
The King’s birthday celebrations kicked off yesterday with locals from his country seat at Highgrove. Guests, from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset, who are also turning 75 this year were chosen by lottery to recognize the contributions of his fellow three-quarter centenarians “who should be rewarded for doing good in their local communities.”
Also invited to the tea party were ambassadors from the Windrush portrait project and the National Health Service. It is the 75th anniversary of both the NHS and the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush in England, the former troop ship which brought a thousand immigrants from the West Indies, launching the Windrush generation.
The afternoon event, complete with a rock choir, was organized by the Prince’s Foundation, Charles’ longtime charity. Highgrove, which has been Charles’ personal residence and retreat since 1980, is noted for the organic gardens the monarch has spent decades installing. The gardens are open to the public through the summer months.
It has been a busy fall for the King and Queen. The State opening of Parliament followed immediately after their royal tour of Kenya. Then the King marked Remembrance Sunday this past weekend, the most sombre and formal date on the royal calendar. He led the official mourning ceremony at The Cenotaph, wearing the uniform of Marshall of the Royal Air Force. The King appeared quite emotional during the honours, underscoring their significance to the British Royal Family. We have seen Charles tear up several times in the past few years, at his parents’ funerals, and at his own coronation. These displays of feeling have gone a long way to endear Charles to royal fans everywhere. Stoicism is one thing, but the subtle inferences of emotion humanize the King.
We were reminded of the King’s recent losses when Charles and Camilla unveiled two new statues in honour of the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The life size bronze works, by artist Poppy Field, have been installed at Royal Albert Hall, which was the setting for the Festival of Remembrance Saturday night, which drew a large contingent of the Royal Family.
The King also took time out to pose for British photography star Rankin for the cover of The Big Issue, the magazine sold on the streets of London to benefit the homeless. The story is tied to his food project. It isn’t the first time a royal has graced the cover to mark an important birthday. Prince William was the magazine’s cover subject last year when he turned 40, to highlight his own environmental causes.
Charles’ birth ushered in the modern era for the monarchy. On Nov. 14, 1948, the late Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, was delivered of a son and heir at 9:14 p.m., at home at Buckingham Palace. The future king weighed 7 lbs, 6 oz. and was delivered by caesarian section. At the behest of the future Queen, Charles’ birth marked the first time the birth of an heir to the throne was not attended by the Home Secretary, a practice that was intended to verify the bloodline.
Of course, like monarchs before him going back to 1748 in the reign of George II, Charles will celebrate his birthday twice. George was also a November baby, and he “moved” his birthday to June to take advantage of warmer weather (and in more recent years, to offer British subjects a “bank holiday” long weekend) and paired the festivities up with Trooping the Colour.
The community-oriented birthday is a departure for Charles, who has previously celebrated milestone birthdays with glittering parties. Most recently, his 70th, was marked by a grand party in 2018 held in his honour and hosted by his mother at Buckingham Palace. Camilla, who has had several milestone birthday bashes thrown for her by her husband, had a lower-key 75th birthday in the summer of 2022, when the Queen was likely ill. In what seems to be a new tradition, Camilla’s big birthday was dedicated to raising awareness for literacy, one of her key initiatives. She donated 25,000 books to public schools and also paid tribute to the rural lifestyle she and Charles so treasure as guest editor of Country Life magazine.
The King is expected to spend a quiet birthday evening celebrating with close family and friends at Clarence House. We do know, however, that after some public back and forth on invitation speculations, that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not plan to attend any of the festivities, although the BBC reported that King’s younger son, who lives in the U.S., planned to wish his father a happy birthday by phone.
Tributes Pour In