Prince Charles going on pension

By Drum Digital
12 November 2013

Britain's heir to the throne Prince Charles can draw his state pension from Thursday when he turns 65 -- despite having yet to start the job he has eyed for a lifetime.

Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son has endured the longest wait in history by a British heir, and it hasn't been easy.

But as his 87-year-old mother cuts back on her workload, Charles is increasingly taking centre stage.

Fresh from a tour of India, he will take the queen's place Friday at the Commonwealth heads of government summit in Sri Lanka -- an event the monarch, in power since 1952, has only ever missed once.

Twenty years ago Charles was battling calls to give up his right to be king in the wake of lurid revelations of his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and split from his glamorous first wife, Diana.

But Charles has slowly won back public acceptance and a majority of his subjects now believe he should become king.

Raising his sons William and Harry into popular young men, he has cultivated a more down-to-earth image while campaigning hard for charitable causes.

Crucially Britons have also come to forgive Camilla, who he married in 2005. Once bombarded with hate mail, she is now a constant presence at his side.

"It's been a long, long crawl back to try to win the public over again," Charles' biographer Penny Junor told AFP.

"But he's in a much better place, and it's showing. Since he's had Camilla as his wife, he's just a much happier man -- and a happier man is a better operator."

Charles will donate his pension to a charity for the elderly, in keeping with his reputation as a busy philanthropist.

"I feel more than anything else it's my duty to worry about everybody and their lives in this country, to try and find a way of improving things," he told Time magazine recently.

An outspoken environmental campaigner, Charles has publicly voiced opinions on numerous issues, from modernist architecture -- which he loathes -- to alternative medicine, which he supports to the chagrin of many doctors.

But his biographer expects him to bite his tongue more often when he takes to the throne.

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