Netflix won't drop the third season of The Crown until November 17, but thanks to on-set photos, we already know some of the real-life events that will play out this season—like Aberfan, the heartbreaking Welsh mining disaster of 1966, and the investiture of Prince Charles (played by Josh O'Connor in season three) of 1969. On-set photos taken last winter show Olivia Colman, who plays the older version of Claire Foy's Queen, with O'Connor at what is quite clearly a re-enactment of Charles' investiture.
So what is an investiture, anyway?
Well, first, let's talk about what it means to be the Prince of Wales. Charles isn't the first royal to hold the title—there is a long, long list of past Princes of Wales, because the title basically refers to a man anticipated to inherit the throne. It's not a title that is thrust upon you when you're born, however; Charles was given his, paperwork-wise, through "letters patent" when he was 9, a few years after it became clear he was heir apparent (a heir to the throne who can't be bumped out of the way by any future births). So Charles was the Prince of Wales before his formal investiture at 20, but the investiture symbolized an adult Charles formally accepting the title and its responsibilities. An investiture is a little like a coronation in that way.
Charles' investiture took place in Caernarfon, a town in north Wales, on July 1, 1969.
What does an investiture involve?
An interesting outfit, for one. During the ceremony, the Queen gifted her son with the Honours of the Principality of Wales, the term used for the regalia given to the recipient of the ceremony. This regalia included a mantle, a sword, and a ring, among other pieces. Charles was also given the Prince of Wales coronet, which was made specifically for the event, although it kept elements and insignia from past Princes of Wales' coronets.
During the ceremony itself, the "letters patent"—the official documentation confirming Charles as Prince of Wales—were read aloud in Welsh, and Charles swore an oath committing himself to the role. "I, Charles, Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto thee to live and die against all manner of folks," he told his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. That oath, according to Charles, was the most meaningful moment for him of the entire event.
How did Charles prepare for the investiture?
As part of an effort to show Wales he was committed to being its prince, even though he was English-born—at the time, there was a strong Welsh nationalist sentiment in the U.K., with protests breaking out over Charles' investiture—Charles spent just over two months in Wales. Given that part of the investiture ceremony involved his speaking in Welsh, it would have been a PR nightmare for Charles to have butchered his pronunciation of the language.
In a documentary made by ITV to mark 50 years since Charles' investiture, the prince spoke about his difficulties while living in Aberystwyth, Wales. "Every day I had to go down to the town where I went to these lectures, and most days there seemed to be a demonstration going on against me," he said amicably in the interview, adding: “With a counter demonstration—usually by splendid middle aged ladies who got out of a bus...Anyway, that was an interesting experience."
Charles made a diligent effort to show Wales he deserved to serve them as prince, and purchased a home there, the Llwynywormwood estate, in 2006. He told ITV that this decision to buy the estate was made in part to “indicate as much interest and concern for people in Wales that I possibly could.”
The Crown presents the investiture as a redeeming moment for the young prince.
Spoilers for The Crown. Obviously, The Crown is a reimagining of true events, not a biographical narrative of them, so many details aren't based in fact. But The Crown actually gets a lot right when it comes to Prince Charles' investiture, from its portrayal of Charles' Welsh nationalist tutor (Edward Millward, played by Mark Lewis Jones) to the rapport that Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor), a man who has spent his life in England and knows little of Wales, builds with the country.
In the episode, Charles is initially reluctant to spend a term in Wales—he's thoroughly enjoying Cambridge, and is thriving in the acting society there—and finds plenty of resentment towards the Royal Family when he gets to Wales (this, too, is true). But he comes to appreciate the country, and works hard to show it that he is worthy of his title. The investiture is a touching moment, and although it wasn't quite that peaceful in real life (there were protests), the sentiment that O'Connor as Charles feels towards Wales and its people seems grounded in real life.
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