Britain's Prince Charles turns 60
AFP - Saturday, November 15
LONDON (AFP) - - Prince Charles celebrated his 60th birthday Friday with military gun salutes and a string of parties, even if he passes the milestone with little sign of an end to his long wait to be king.
The heir to the British throne has been marking the big day all week, with a star-studded comedy show Wednesday and a black-tie gala Thursday, but spent Friday meeting young people in London.
During a visit to youth projects led by his Prince's Trust charity, he was presented with a birthday cake decorated with a mocked-up old person's travel pass -- Londoners aged over 60 can travel free on public transport.
Later at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, 180 school children -- and his wife Camilla -- sang "Happy Birthday" as part of a celebratory concert which also featured a performance by his official harpist, Claire Jones.
His birthday Friday was also marked with a 41-gun salute in London's Hyde Park -- a special tribute from Queen Elizabeth II -- and another 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.
This followed Thursday's dinner thrown by the queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace attended by over 400 European royalty and friends including King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie of Greece and singer Shirley Bassey.
His sons by princess Diana, Princes William and Harry, paid tribute to their father at the event, saying he was "an inspiration to us and so many others."
The princes also joked that because of their father's age, they were having an electric chairlift installed at his country home, Highgrove in Gloucestershire, southwest England.
The palace spectacular will be followed by a more informal party thrown on Saturday by Camilla, with rock star Rod Stewart performing.
The celebrations kicked-off Wednesday with a comedy night at a southwest London theatre, with stars including Robin Williams, "Mr Bean" star Rowan Atkinson and "Monty Python" veteran John Cleese.
"What better tribute to the heir to the throne of this formerly great country that we should bring him tonight to this cramped old theatre somewhere in the God-foresaken suburbs?" Cleese quipped.
At an age when many are considering retirement, Charles is still waiting to succeed the queen, who remains on the throne at 82 years old and shows few signs of slowing down.
But he sounded philosophical as he reflected on his landmark birthday.
"It is all in the hands of the good Lord as to whether I survive or am vaguely compos mentis," he told a BBC documentary to mark the date. "Our life is so short and insignificant in the great scheme of things."
Asked if he enjoyed his role, he replied: "I don't know."
"Well, there's bits of it," he added. "It is something that I feel I must do to help as many other people as I possibly can and this country."
Commentators dismiss suggestions he is frustrated, noting he has found personal happiness after marrying long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 and focusing on his extensive charity work.
Charles divorced princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris 11 years ago, in 1996.
The queen took the unusual step Wednesday of praising her eldest child's work with the Prince's Trust, which supports disadvantaged young people, saying his "vision and conviction" had transformed "countless lives".
A Times newspaper editorial Friday also praised his charity work and "prescient" view of issues including organic farming, climate change and inter-faith relations but criticised his "obstinate" opposition to bugbears like modern architecture.
A YouGov poll released Friday showed Britons do not believe Charles is too old to be king, with a majority saying that he should succeed to the throne, while 64 percent said his charity work had a positive effect.
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