The Queen’s witty and touching tribute to Prince Charles at 70

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The Queen’s witty and touching tribute to Prince Charles at 70

THE Queen paid a glowing tribute to her son and heir Prince Charles last night as he celebrated his 70th birthday at a glittering black tie dinner in Buckingham Palace.

In a warm and witty toast to some 200 guests in the ballroom, the 92-year-old monarch hailed the Prince of Wales as a “Duchy Original”, in a reference to the organic food company he created in 1990. She also joked about his fondness for planting trees and praised Charles’s second wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, for supporting him. Earlier in the day Charles had been saluted by artillery guns, accepted a fun balloon and hosted a reception for 70 people who also turn 70 this year.

ROYAL WEDDING 2005 The Prince of Wales and his new wife Camilla Parker Bowles Image Anwar Hussein Collection ROTA WireImage
ROYAL WEDDING 2005 The Prince of Wales and his new wife Camilla Parker Bowles Image Anwar Hussein Collection ROTA WireImage

His dinner in the evening was attended by an array of family, friends and European royalty.

The Queen told guests: “It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow.

“My mother saw me turn 70, of course. And she was heard to observe that 70 is exactly the age when the number of candles on your cake finally exceeds the amount of breath you have to blow them out.”

The Queen, who was joined by royalty from Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, described her pride in her son’s life and work.

Queen Elizabeth II during her UK tour in 2012 for her Diamond Jubilee year in 2012 Image Indigo Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II during her UK tour in 2012 for her Diamond Jubilee year in 2012 Image Indigo Getty Images

She said: “Philip and I have seen Charles become a champion of conservation and the arts, a great charitable leader, a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history and a wonderful father.

“Most of all, sustained by his wife Camilla, he is his own man, passionate and creative.

“So this toast is to wish a happy birthday to my son, in every respect a Duchy Original. To you Charles. To the Prince of Wales.”

The day of celebrations had been kicked off by BBC Radio 4 playing the National Anthem at 7am.

Royal couple sharing a laugh at a light hearted gift of Hot Nuts to deter squirrels Image CAMERA PRESS Mark Stewart
Royal couple sharing a laugh at a light hearted gift of Hot Nuts to deter squirrels Image CAMERA PRESS Mark Stewart

Gun salutes were fired at different locations including Cardiff Castle, the Tower of London and the capital’s Green Park.

Prince Charles – painted as a workaholic by his family – had a packed programme of meetings before his late afternoon engagement with other septuagenarians.

He and Camilla travelled the few hundred yards from Clarence House to Spencer House, the London home of Princess Diana’s family which is now leased to a company.

Harry drives Meghan to his fathers birthday event Image Nick Ansell PA Wire
Harry drives Meghan to his fathers birthday event Image Nick Ansell PA Wire

On his way in he stopped to speak to royal press reporters, who gave him a 70th birthday balloon and a container of Hot Nuts repellent designed to keep grey squirrels off bird feeders in his gardens.

He joked with reporters: “I didn’t know you specialised in balloons. Where do you find these terrible things?” Asked how he was feeling he said: “Older. It’s rather like indigestion – Many Happy Returns are not quite the same as you get older.”

Camilla, 71, who had admitted last week struggling to think of a present for him, was asked if she found something in the end. She replied: “I did. But I’m not telling.”

Army gunners fire a salute watched by a big crowd in Green Park central London Image AFP PHOTO CROWN COPYRIGHT 2018 ARMY Sgt RANDALL RLC
Army gunners fire a salute watched by a big crowd in Green Park central London Image AFP PHOTO CROWN COPYRIGHT 2018 ARMY Sgt RANDALL RLC

Asked if he might start slowing down now, the Prince said: “You may see it, slowly but surely.”

Camilla interjected: “I doubt it.”

At the reception the couple met guests who are volunteers with charities including The Prince’s Trust, The Silver Line, Maggie’s and Barnardo’s.

The group sang Happy Birthday before they all posed for a photo and sipped tea instead of bubbly.

At the end Charles quipped: “I was asked just now outside whether I was going to slow down. I’m not sure I’ve got much alternative.”

Prince talks to reporters after being given a gift and balloon Image Tim Rooke REX Shutterstock
Prince talks to reporters after being given a gift and balloon Image Tim Rooke REX Shutterstock

FORGET the two royal weddings or the birth of Prince Louis.

For the British monarchy, Prince Charles’s 70th birthday is the central event of 2018.

That became clear when the heir to the throne’s love of art, rather than the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress, was chosen as the theme for the special exhibition at the summer opening of Buckingham Palace to tourists earlier this year.

Charles’s birthday is not only the cause for a family celebration but also a milestone around which The Firm can take stock and think about the next steps towards his reign.

Charles and Camilla at Clarence House their London home before setting off for dinner last night Image Chris Jackson Getty Images
Charles and Camilla at Clarence House their London home before setting off for dinner last night Image Chris Jackson Getty Images

There was a time when courtiers regarded any mention of what happens after the Queen is gone as in poor taste.

But for the past few years, they have been gradually preparing us for the handover to King Charles III.

In the 2014 New Year’s honours list, the Queen’s then private secretary Lord Geidt (Sir Christopher at the time), was awarded a second knighthood for “a new approach to constitutional matters… [and] the preparation for the transition to a change of reign”.

He was forced out last year amid tensions with Charles’s people, who increasingly hold sway inside the Royal Household, as the heir to the throne takes over more responsibilities and the Queen cuts her workload.

In April, the Queen helped persuade the leaders of 53 nations to choose him as the next head of the Commonwealth after her, an appointment that was not automatic.

Will she formally step down?

Queen Elizabeth II proposed affectionate toast Image Julian Simmonds WPA Pool Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II proposed affectionate toast Image Julian Simmonds WPA Pool Getty Images

There have been claims she might invoke the Regency Act and make Prince Charles a stand-in sovereign, the Prince Regent, when she reaches 95.

Nothing can be ruled out if she is no longer physically or mentally able to undertake her duties as Monarch but it would be surprising.

Many may think she has earned the right to put her feet up but abdication is anathema to her and at the start of her Diamond Jubilee year in 2012 she reaffirmed the commitment she gave on her 21st birthday “that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service”.

Barring serious illness, it is more likely that Charles will continue his gradual takeover of her duties, leaving her head of state in name at least and him a king-in-waiting.

Last week, Charles took a huge step towards gaining wider acceptance as that king-in-waiting after tackling one of the main questions that has dogged him for years.

He insisted he would no longer wade into public controversies when he is king.

“I’m not that stupid. I do realise that it is a separate exercise being sovereign,” he said.

Charles will modernise the monarchy, almost certainly slimming it down, and do things his way up to a point. But it seems he will not deviate in a major way from his mother’s avoidance of controversy.

The big challenge he and his courtiers still face is convincing the British public, particularly older people, that Camilla should be his Queen because of the complicated history of their relationship.

Back in 2005 when the couple married, Clarence House said it was intended that she would use only the title Princess Consort out of deference to those who blamed her and Charles for Princess Diana’s years of unhappiness.

Opinion polls have varied but for the moment at least, it appears most Britons continue to believe that Camilla should never be made Queen Consort.

Trying to change opinions will, no doubt, be next on the Clarence House to-do list.

Source: EXPRESS CO UK