The Prince of Wales is set to celebrate his 65th birthday – a milestone for the man who will one day be king.
Charles’s birthday on Thursday falls on the eve of the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) he will host in Sri Lanka.
It will be one of his most significant duties to date as a future monarch as he will be deputising for the Queen on the world stage.
Charles has been heir to the throne since he was three and on Thursday will officially become a pensioner.
Like thousands of others he will be claiming his pension this year – but will be donating it to an unnamed charity which supports the elderly.
The prince is entitled to the state benefit because he paid National Insurance contributions while in the Navy in the 1970s and made voluntary contributions later.
This year, he has also experienced the joy of welcoming his first grandchild, Prince George, into world.
A king in waiting for more than 60 years, he has carried out countless royal engagements over the decades, undertaking 480 in Britain and 112 overseas in 2012 alone.
The prince is the oldest heir to the throne for almost 300 years and the longest serving heir to the throne.
Charles recently told the US magazine Time he wanted to make the most of his position.
“I’ve had this extraordinary feeling, for years and years, ever since I can remember really, of wanting to heal and make things better,” he said.
“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 if I possibly can.”
As well as being patron of more than 400 charities, he has set up The Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations which raise over STG100 million ($A172.12 million) a year. He also founded The Prince’s Trust youth charity.
The prince, who is known for his strong opinions, particularly on the environment, architecture and farming, has faced criticism in the past over his “black spider memos” to ministers – the name given to the handwritten letters he penned to government ministers expressing his views.
In July this year, the Attorney-General’s decision to block public disclosure of letters Charles wrote to ministers in 2004 and 2005 was upheld by three High Court judges.
It was a defeat for the Guardian newspaper which said it had been fighting an eight-year battle to shed more light “on the way the heir to the throne seeks to influence government ministers even though he holds no elected position”.
In the nineties, Charles faced turmoil in his private life, played out on a public stage when he split from Diana, Princess of Wales, and anguish when Diana – mother to sons William, now the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry – died in a car crash.
Now nearly two decades later, life is more settled for the future king who has been married to Camilla for eight years.
She was once derided as the “other woman” in Charles and Diana’s relationship, but has established herself as a senior member of the royal family, attending the state opening of parliament and travelling with the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee carriage procession.
To mark his 65th birthday the prince has guest-edited a special edition of Country Life, highlighting his fears for the farming industry.
Charles expressed concerns that farming ranked as one of the least desirable careers for young people and that the average age of a British farmer is 58, and questioned why farmers have to act as a “buffer for the retailer and consumer against all the economic uncertainties of producing food”.
He added: “It cannot be right that a typical hill farmer earns just STG12,600, with some surviving on as little as STG8,000 a year, whilst the big retailers and their shareholders do so much better out of the deal, having taken none of the risk.”
The edition features a full-page photograph of Camilla, which editor Mark Hedges said was Charles’ decision.
The Country Life editor told Daybreak that when they were going through the pages of the magazine at the end, Charles suddenly said “my darling wife”.
“It was just so touching,” he said. “I really realised that they have a wonderful marriage.”
The royal couple are coming to the end of their nine-day tour of India which has already taken them to the shores of the River Ganges in the north, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.