The Queen ended a bizarre (and very formal!) royal tradition on this day 72 years ago

By Monique Jessen
November 14, 2020 10:00 AM
Princess Elizabeth holding a baby Prince Charles in 12368763

Prince Charles turns 72 today!

He might be heir to the throne but Charles’ birth in 1948 broke with royal protocol in a major way.

All royal births prior to his were witnessed by a senior politician but for the birth of Queen Elizabeth's firstborn, it was decided that things were going to change.

The breaking of protocol came at the insistence of the then Princess Elizabeth’s father King George VI, who had obeyed the rules with his own children but had decided that things should be modernized for his grandchildren, the first of whom was Charles.

King George VI, Queen Elizabeth with Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth holding Prince Charles
| Credit: PA Images via Getty

For the birth of his youngest daughter, Princess Margaret, the home secretary was sent to Scotland to bear witness and had a rather long wait as she was eventually two weeks overdue!

Delivered by caesarean section at Buckingham Palace, Charles’ arrival was announced during a late-night news item on the BBC as crowds gathered outside the palace, trying to catch a glimpse of the official bulletin, which had been put on display – a tradition that still happens to this day.

Prince Philip was reportedly playing squash with his private secretary at the time and raced to the birthing room (a guest room at the palace) once he got news of the birth, still in his sporting flannels.

Charles became heir apparent as a young boy when his mother ascended the throne on Feb 6, 1952. The 4-year-old became the first child to witness a royal coronation (he even received his own fancy child-friendly invitation) and has since made history as the oldest and longest-serving heir apparent ever.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth on her coronation day
| Credit: Fox Photos/Getty

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Last year, Charles celebrated his birthday with school children in Mumbai who made him a chocolate cake and sung to him as he enjoyed a two-day tour of the country.