What is the British Royal Family?

The Sovereign – King Charles III – and his close relatives make up the British Royal Family. The UK, of which Wales forms part, is a constitutional monarchy. Although the King is head of state, he and his family have no executive or political role.

The UK is governed as a democracy. The ability to pass legislation rests with elected representatives in the UK Parliament, and in Wales, also in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament). One of the King's constitutional duties is to give his Royal Assent to Acts that have been passed in both parliaments.

On top of these state duties, the Sovereign's role is to act as a figurehead for the UK – providing a sense of continuity, boosting public morale and sustaining good international relations. The Sovereign is assisted in this task by other members of the Royal Family.

The current British Royal Family is officially known as the House of Windsor, as has been the case since 1917. Younger members of the Royal Family traditionally join the armed forces or provide service to society (for example, by lending support to charities or good causes).

Who is the Prince of Wales?

The title of 'Prince of Wales' has been in use since before the 12th century. Up to the 14th century, it was held by native Welsh princes. Since the 14th century, it has instead been given to the heir to the British throne. The Prince of Wales may have other titles in addition to this one, such as the Duke of Cornwall (which is given to the eldest son of the monarch).

The current Prince of Wales is Prince William, who is married to The Princess of Wales, Catherine, with whom he has three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. The family's official residence is Kensington Palace. His Royal Highness undertakes a number of charitable activities and projects and carries out public and official duties in support of The King, in the UK and overseas.

The longest serving Prince of Wales was William's father, Charles. He was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969 at a ceremony in Caernarfon Castle. He followed in the footsteps of his great uncle, the future Edward VIII, whose investiture had taken place there in 1911. Charles served as Prince of Wales until his mother, Queen Elizabeth II's death in 2022.

What does the Prince of Wales do?

The main role of the Prince of Wales is to support the King. This involves welcoming dignitaries to the United Kingdom, representing the King and the UK overseas at state and ceremonial occasions, promoting national pride and unity across society, and emphasising the importance of service and the voluntary sector through encouraging others and leading by example.

His Royal Highness Prince William is Patron of a number of charities which are focused on conservation and through The Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales, he has spearheaded global initiatives to protect our natural world. He launched The Earthshot Prize in 2020, a global environmental prize recognising ground-breaking solutions to repair and regenerate the planet. He also founded United for Wildlife with The Royal Foundation in 2014, promoting collaborative work to prevent trafficking of illegal wildlife products.

He is also an advocate for people experiencing homelessness, and actively campaigns for mental health causes.

Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry

The children of King Charles III and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, are Prince William and Harry, Duke of Sussex. They have both visited Wales many times and have strengthened the Welsh links forged by their parents.

The wedding ring given to the current Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, by Prince William in 2011, is made of pure Welsh gold. In fact, all major royal weddings have been sealed with Welsh gold since the Queen Mother began the tradition on her marriage to King George VI in 1923.

The Prince and Princess of Wales (William and Kate) lived on the island of Anglesey between 2010 and 2013, while William was stationed as a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Royal Air Force at RAF Valley. After the Prince completed his training, the couple moved to a farmhouse in a hamlet called Bodorgan, with views of nearby Newborough Forest, Llanddwyn Island, and Snowdonia.

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, visited Cardiff with his then fiancée in January 2018. Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, joined him on a visit to Cardiff Castle while wearing jeans made by the Welsh brand Hiut Denim.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle walking past crowds at Cardiff Castle
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle greeting crowds behind barriers at Cardiff Castle
The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle in front of crowds at Cardiff Castle
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle greeting crowds at Cardiff Castle

Other facts about the Royal Family and Wales

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the first National Assembly for Wales (now Senedd) in 1999

She then opened every session following an election in Wales, up to her death in 2022. She also opened the newly built Senedd building on St David’s Day (the first day of March) in 2006.

Wales has two Royal golf courses

Edward VII, a passionate golfer, granted Royal status to his two favourite golf courses in Wales: Royal St David’s (1908) and Royal Porthcawl (1909).

In 1859, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor

Today Penrhyn Castle is managed by the National Trust, but in the 1800s it was a stately home owned by the Pennant family. The castle and estate were established using proceeds from the North Wales slate industry and the transatlantic slave trade, as the family owned a number of sugar plantations in Jamaica. For the royal visit in 1859, a one-ton slate bed was commissioned for the Queen and Prince, but Queen Victoria refused to sleep in it because it reminded her of a tomb. The bed can be seen there to this day.

Years later, Queen Victoria visited Palé Hall, in the Dee Valley near Bala. She was enchanted by it. You can now stay in the room she slept in - aptly called The Victoria Room - complete with the original bath, basin and bed used by Queen Victoria.

Several kings were born in Wales

Henry V was born in Monmouth Castle in 1386. He spent much of his youth in Wales, fighting against the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr. Henry Tudor (Harri Tudur in Welsh, and later known as Henry VII) was born at Pembroke Castle in 1457.

Wales has many hotels with royal links

Plas Dinas Country House in Caernarfon, now a hotel, is the former home of Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret.

Llangoed Hall Hotel in the Wye Valley has a long history of links to the British Royal Family. Prince Charles makes bi-annual visits and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have also dropped in. The hotel owns a Rolls-Royce given to the Queen Mother on the birth of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Great House in Laleston near Bridgend, now a hotel, is believed to have been a gift from Queen Elizabeth I to her suitor and court favourite Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. It is also thought to have once been home to Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.

Welsh gold seals in the love

All major royal weddings have been sealed with Welsh gold since the Queen Mother began the tradition on her marriage to King George VI in 1923.

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