1 July 1969
The title “Prince of Wales” has traditionally been bestowed to the male heir apparent of the English or British monarch since Edward I of England gave his son Edward of Caernarfon the title in 1284.
Queen Elizabeth II made her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by letters patent on 26 July 1958 during the Commonwealth Games (then known as the Empire Games) in Cardiff when he was only nine years old.
The Queen’s uncle Edward (the Duke of Windsor and future King Edward VIII) had been the previous Prince of Wales and had been invested in the title at Caernarvon Castle in 1911 before becoming King in 1936.
The investiture of Prince Charles was a massive event in Britain, with the televised ceremony broadcast live all afternoon – on BBC1 and BBC2 with Cliff Michelmore and Richard Baker commentating and Welsh actor Emlyn Williams narrating, and on ITV with Brian Connell and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas commentating and actor Richard Burton narrating – and street parties held across the UK.
A worldwide audience of 500 million people (including 19 million in Britain) watched on television – the largest TV audience ever gained for an event in Wales.
The Royal Family travelled to Caernarvon in the Royal Train, which arrived at a special halt at 2.00 pm, where Prince Charles was greeted by a Guard of Honour from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers with the Queen’s Colour, the Band of the Royal Regiment of Wales and the Corps of Drums.
Four carriages, with an escort of the Household Cavalry, conveyed the prince to Caernarvon Castle via a route lined by servicemen. Heralded by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry, the prince was then conducted to the Chamberlain Tower.
After a 21-gun salute by the 22nd Light Air Defence Regiment of the Royal Artillery, a procession carrying the Queen followed the same route to the 700-year-old Castle.
Following a further fanfare, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were conducted to the dais set in the centre of the castle grounds, which was surrounded by around 2,500 personnel from the three Armed Forces and some 4,000 guests, around 3,500 of which were people who lived and worked in Wales.
The simple slate dais had a perspex canopy, a modern material which would allow the TV cameras to capture the event. It had been designed by Lord Snowdon – a photographer and the husband of Princess Margaret – who rejected many of the older ways of staging royal events.
The choir sang Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (“Land of My Fathers” and the National Anthem, and Prince Charles was summoned to the Dais. After the Home Secretary, James Callaghan, and the Secretary of State for Wales, George Thomas, read the Letters Patent – in English and Welsh – the Queen invested her son with the Insignia of his Principality.
Kneeling on a pedestal in front of his mother, the prince had five pieces of Insignia bestowed upon him: a sword, a coronet, a ring, the gold rod, and a kingly mantle of rich purple with an ermine collar.
He repeated the oath: “I, Charles, Prince of Wales, do become your liegeman of life and limb and earthly worship, and faith and truth I will bear unto thee to live and die against all manner of folks.”
They then exchanged the kiss of Fealty, and a loyal address from the people of Wales was read, with the prince replying.
There followed a short service in Welsh and English, which concluded with a Blessing by the President of the Free Church Council of Wales, the Archbishop of Wales and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff.
The Queen then formally presented the 21st Prince of Wales to the people of Wales from Queen Eleanor’s Gate in the Castle as units of the RAF provided a salute with a fly-past.
The prince subsequently toured Wales for four days, where he was greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds. At the Guildhall in Swansea, the prince announced the granting of city status to the town before a thrilled crowd of some 7,000 people.
On the morning of the Investiture, two men – members of a small Welsh nationalist extremist group called Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (“The Movement for the Defence of Wales”) – set out to plant a bomb near Abergele on the railway track which was carrying the young prince to the ceremony.
The attack did not succeed as the bomb went off prematurely, killing both men.