11/14/2012

Prince Charles at 64: Hobbits, myths and making merry

Hobbit
See any resemblance? Prince Charles shares a laugh with Peter Hambleton, who plays the Dwarf Gloin in the new 'Hobbit' film, at director Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop on Wednesday in Wellington, New Zealand. He and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are in New Zealand on the last leg of a Diamond Jubilee that takes in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. (Getty Images)

The future king turned 64 on Wednesday, which gives one pause to wonder if this Prince of Wales will ever sit on the throne.

He has been waiting since he was 3 years old, when his mother was crowned after the death of King George VI. That makes Prince Charles the longest serving heir apparent in British history, and it appears he'll be waiting a good while longer with the 86-year-old Queen showing few signs of leaving this mortal coil anytime soon.

And that's a good thing. Ever since the shambles of his marriage to Princess Diana, Charles has had to fight a sometimes-agonizing battle for respect. Rodney Dangerfield should have had his problems.

Slowly, sometimes unsteadily -- even in the shadow of his popular son William -- Charles has been making his way back into the good graces of his subjects, mostly through plain hard work (for royalty anyway). His charity work is vast, and he takes on more royal engagements than anyone else in the family (601 last year alone).

And Camilla, once the scorned 'other woman,' has clearly raised her standing among the public; she has proven to be both gracious and fun.

Hobbit1So there was a lot of celebrate in Wellington, New Zealand, on Wednesday, highlighted with a visit to Government House where the prince was seranaded with the country's Air Force Band and opera singer Margaret Medlyn performing the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four."

He then cut into one of the many cakes assembled for him and 64 Kiwis who are also celebrating their birthday, including Gov.-Gen. Sir Jerry Mateparae and Prime Minister John Key's wife Bronagh.

The day took a Middle Earth turn  when Charles visited the Weta Workshop, where director Peter Jackson is assembling all the costumes, make-up and effects for the new 'Hobbit' film. Charles, a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, got a surprise introduction to one of the movie's character, the dwarf Dori, played by Mark Hadlow (above). In complete costume, Dori knelt down as Charles entered the room: "I offer myself at the request of Sir Peter Jackson for you to command as you see fit, your servant Dori."

Charles was clearly charmed. "I can't tell you how grateful I am -- the best birthday present I've had in a long time," he said.

The birthday theme continued with a walkabout on Wellington's waterfront, with the occasional strains of the "Happy Birthday" song ringing out. This was definitely a pro-royalty crowd, with plenty of signage supporting Charles, though the "Marry me Charles" banner was a bit over the top.

Charles birthday
With an assortment of birthday cakes to choose from, Prince Charles celebrates his 64th birthday with Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Jerry Mateparae at Government House on Wednesday in Wellington, New Zealand. (Getty Images)

Charles walkabout
Prince Charles greets members of the public during a walkabout on the waterfront in Wellington, New Zealand, on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON?

Philip-charles-at-64
The family resemblance is unmistakable, though we'll leave it to you to judge who looks better at the age of 64. On the left, Prince Philip at age 64 in 1985. On the right, Prince Charles this week wearing a New Zealand military uniform.

CHARLES THE MYTH-BUSTER

Perhaps he's had enough. Or maybe he's just having fun. But whatever the rationale, Prince Charles has decided to take the start debunking some of the whispers and rumours about his royal lifestyle.

TasteAs part of the website redesign for the Clarence House website, an FAQ section has been added that answers 26 questions, oddball and otherwise, that persist about the prince (and a few for William for and Harry). The most obviously outrageous is the claim that was made in 2006 by a newsman, Jeremy Paxon, that the prince was so particular about the consistency of the egg yolk in his boiled egg that he would demand seven of them at a time for taste testing before choosing the best one to eat all the way.

The website is emphatic: "No, he doesn't and never has done, at breakfast or any other time."

Other nuggets:

-- 161.1 full-time equivalent staff work for the Prince's household, which includes staff for William and Kate, and Prince Harry.

-- Camilla will not become Queen when Charles becomes King, but rather will be known as HRH The Princess Consort.

-- Charles does not own or choose to drive around in a Bentley. When seen in one, it is usually for security reasons and the car is owned by the Metropolitan Police.

Keep in mind that all the questions and answers are supplied by Clarence House, which would see no reason to include a Q&A that would potentially embarrass Charles. That said, we'll probably have to wait for the next installment to find out if Charles really never undresses himself, or has a valet in charge of ironing his shoelaces.

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