Did Prince Charles Go to Wales for a University Term, As 'The Crown' Depicts?

Season 3 of 'The Crown' shows Prince Charles, played by Josh O'Connor, spending a controversial semester at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Charles, Prince of Wales
(Image credit: Hulton Deutsch)

One episode of season three of The Crown takes place during a controversial, and perhaps difficult, part of Charles' early life, per Wales OnlineThe semester ("term" in Brit-speak) Charles spent at at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, now known as Aberystwyth University. In 1969, Prince Charles spent nine weeks there in advance of his investiture at Caernarfon Castle.

Though Charles had technically held the title of Prince of Wales since he was young, his investiture was the moment in which he formally accepted his roles and responsibilities in the title of Prince of Wales. In preparation for the event—and also to show respect for Wales, which remained divided on the subject of an English royal having the title—he worked to learn Welsh, and recited his speech at the investiture in the language.

Charles' presence in Wales was controversial.

Welsh nationalism was particularly strong during this time, and people who opposed the royal "imposition" in Wales conducted protests (there was even a bomb that exploded in the early hours of the investiture, killing the two men who had planted it). Charles said of the protests, which started before he came to start his term, "As long as I don’t get covered too much in egg and tomato I’ll be all right. I don't blame people for protesting like that." The controversy continued all the way up to the ceremony, but there were also supporters of Charles and the work he was doing.

According to his tutor, Edward Millward, who was a Welsh nationalist, "He had a one-on-one tutorial with me once a week. He was eager, and did a lot of talking. By the end, his accent was quite good. Toward the end of his term, he said good morning—'Bore da'—to a woman at college; she turned to him and said: 'I don’t speak Welsh!' His presence caused a bit of a stir. Crowds would gather outside the college as he drove up in his sports car." Millward helped Charles with the pronunciation he needed for the ceremony.

Wales Nationalists, 1968

Welsh nationalists in 1968.

(Image credit: Mirrorpix)

The Crown presents it as a learning curve for Charles.

Spoilers for season 3. Played by Josh O'Connor, Prince Charles does not want to leave Cambridge, where he's made friends and is thriving in the acting scene. But Charles is nothing if not a man with a strong sense of duty, and he agrees that, as the Prince of Wales, it is his duty to spend time living in the region in the run-up to his investiture there. But Charles finds Wales cold and unforgiving—unlike England, and particularly Cambridge, it's not a place that considered the royal family warmly at that time, and particularly not the prince who is English-born but holds a Welsh title. In an toe-curlingly mortifying moment, Charles jokes about how little he knows of Wales and Welsh history at a dinner party, and is giving a forceful telling-off by his tutor (Millward) about how his lack of knowledge is disrespectful to the country whose name he bears.

Ultimately, Charles comes to bond with Millward—who, both in real life and in the show, comes to respect Charles and his dedication to the role he has been given—and Charles' investiture speech to the nation, which he insists on reciting in Welsh rather than English, is a surprisingly touching moment.

It's actually true that Wales left a indelible mark on the young prince; Prince Charles actually just celebrated the 50-year anniversary of his investiture in July 2019, and he had a reception in March of this year to commemorate:

And his relationship to Wales has remained strong ever since. He has visited the area many, many times, supported or set up over 40 causes or charities, and even bought a home in Wales in 2006.

The investiture was a national event.

The ceremony was broadcast on live TV, and captured the young prince smiling and waving in the procession up to the ceremony:

Queen Elizabeth gifted him the Honours of the Principality of Wales, including a sword, ring, mantle, and coronet (crown). During the ceremony, Charles formally pledged himself to his mother, saying, "I, Charles, Prince of Wales do become your liege man of life and limb." (He said later: "For me, by far the most moving and meaningful moment came when I put my hands between Mummy’s and swore to be her liege man of life and limb and to live and die against all manner of folks...such magnificent medieval, appropriate words, even if they were never adhered to in those old days.")

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Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

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