9 Things You Might Not Know about Prince Charles

Stuart C. Wilson, Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse
Stuart C. Wilson, Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales, has famously been the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. He was just 3 years old when his grandfather, King George VI, died and his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended the throne for her historic reign as the longest-serving monarch in not only British, but world history. But for all the very public events of the prince's life that have played out on the world's stage (his marriage to and divorce from Princess Diana; his decades-long relationship with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; his oft-strained relationship with his father), he has spent years working behind the scenes to promote charities and fulfill his duties as a leading member of the royal family. And he even finds time to do some landscape painting. Here are nine things you might not know about Prince Charles.

1. HE WAS THE FIRST ROYAL BABY BORN AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE IN THE 20TH CENTURY.

A childhood portrait of baby Prince Charles, January 1949.
A childhood portrait of baby Prince Charles, January 1949.
Central Press/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Princess Elizabeth was 22 when she gave birth to Charles Philip Arthur George on November 14, 1948 (just six days before his parents' first anniversary). Newspapers reported he was "a lovely boy, a really splendid baby," but Matthew Halton of CBC Radio reminded listeners that the newborn wouldn't be king any time soon. "If his grandfather, the King, and his mother, the princess, both live the full span of life," Halton reported, "he may well be 50 or 60 years old before he ascends the throne."

2. HE WAS 9 WHEN HE WAS OFFICIALLY GIVEN THE TITLE PRINCE OF WALES.

Prince Charles wearing a crown and a blue and ermine cape as he is invested as the Prince of Wales, with Queen Elizabeth II at Caernarvon Castle, Wales, July 1, 1969.
Prince Charles wearing a crown and a blue and ermine cape as he is invested as the Prince of Wales, with Queen Elizabeth II at Caernarvon Castle, Wales, July 1, 1969.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Though he is already the longest-serving Prince of Wales, he could have held the title for a few extra years if he'd been appointed earlier. The title "Prince of Wales" is only given to a male heir apparent, but it is not an automatic appointment. Charles went from third to second in line to the throne when his grandfather died in 1952, but it wasn't until 1958, when he was 9 years old, that he was granted the title Prince of Wales and its conjoining title, Earl of Chester.

3. THERE'S A CHANCE HE COULD CHANGE HIS NAME WHEN HE TAKES THE THRONE.

Prince Charles attends a naval event in uniform.
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Many monarchs choose a regnal name (as popes do) that is different than their birth name, such as Charles's grandfather George VI, who had been christened Albert Frederick Arthur George and went by Bertie for most of his life. And though the prince has been the most famous Charles in the UK for seven decades, the previous two King Charleses did not go down well in British history. Charles I was executed for treason and the monarchy was briefly abolished because of his actions; his son, Charles II, spent time in exile until the monarchy was restored 11 years later. He was generally beloved, but was known as a philanderer who acknowledged at least a dozen illegitimate children. And to some, Charles Stuart—best known as Bonnie Prince Charlie and for the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland that attempted to put him on the throne—was called Charles III.

According to the BBC, Charles has considered going with his third middle name and reigning as George VII, though Charles’s camp denied this, saying "No decision has been made and it will be made at the time"—meaning, after the queen’s death.

4. HE CAN PLAY THE CELLO.

Prince Charles playing a cello, April 1969.
Prince Charles playing a cello, April 1969.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Charles learned piano, trumpet, and cello as a child, and though he described himself as "hopeless," he stuck with the cello and played in the Trinity College Orchestra while in undergrad.

5. HIS SECRET SERVICE NAME IS "UNICORN."

Prince Charles, in his role as the Duke of Rothesay, attends a Sunday church service at Canisbay Church near the Castle of Mey in August 2008 in Canisbay, Scotland.
Prince Charles, in his role as the Duke of Rothesay, attends a Sunday church service at Canisbay Church near the Castle of Mey in August 2008 in Canisbay, Scotland.
Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

Certain visiting dignitaries to the U.S. are given code names of their own, and Charles was given Unicorn. The fanciful name is oddly fitting—the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland and has been part of its coat-of-arms for some 600 years. But the first recorded example of a Scottish monarch using a unicorn as a symbol of strength was from the late 1300s, when either Robert II or III used unicorns as part of the arms and gateway of Rothesay Castle on the Isle of Bute, Scotland. Among Prince Charles's earliest titles, which he received at age 5, is Duke of Rothesay.

6. RICHARD NIXON TRIED TO SET CHARLES UP WITH HIS DAUGHTER TRICIA.

Prince Charles sits with Tricia Nixon during a baseball game at RFK Stadium while on a trip to Washington, D.C. in July 1970.
Prince Charles sits with Tricia Nixon during a baseball game at RFK Stadium while on a trip to Washington, D.C. in July 1970.
David Cairns/Daily Express/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1971, President Nixon's eldest daughter, Tricia, had the first outdoor White House wedding in the Rose Garden. But the summer before, her father was trying to play matchmaker with the future king of England. Charles and his sister, Princess Anne, were 21 and 19 at the time when they took an unofficial trip to Washington, D.C. They were feted as royal dignitaries, taken to various museums and D.C.-area sites, and given rooms in the White House (Charles slept in the Lincoln Bedroom). And, according to Sally Bedell Smith's 2017 biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, "The president arranged to have Tricia seated next to Charles at every occasion, which annoyed him."

Even though he didn't hit it off with the First Daughter (Bedell Smith says "he would describe her, ungenerously, as 'artificial and plastic'"), Charles was still bemused by the president's endeavors. "Many years later on a visit to Washington with Camilla, he was still laughing about Nixon's attempt at matchmaking."

7. HE FIRST MET DIANA WHEN HE WAS INVOLVED WITH HER SISTER.

Prince Charles and Sarah Spencer (right, facing camera) on the sidelines after he played in an international polo match, July 1977.
Prince Charles and Sarah Spencer (right, facing camera) on the sidelines after he played in an international polo match, July 1977.
Dennis Oulds/Central Press, Getty Images

Charles had a playboy reputation in his twenties, and any girl with a family pedigree was considered a potential princess, and therefore media fodder. In June 1977, he met Lady Sarah Spencer at a party at Windsor Castle, and the two invited each other to polo and shooting events. That November, Charles went to the Spencer estate Althorp, where he met Sarah's younger sister. Diana was 16.

According to Bedell Smith in her 1999 biography Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess, after going on a Swiss ski vacation with Charles in February 1978, Sarah told a tabloid that she was not falling for the prince, saying "There's no question of me being the future Queen of England. I don't think he’s met her yet."

8. HE WROTE A CHILDREN'S BOOK.

In 1980, Prince Charles wrote a children's book called The Old Man of Lochnagar, based on stories he would tell his younger brothers, Princes Andrew and Edward. It centers around an old man who went to the caves near Balmoral looking for a quiet place to take a hot bath. The book was later turned into an animated short film, narrated by the prince.

9. THERE IS A FROG NAMED AFTER HIM.

Prince Charles holds an Ecuadorian stream tree frog species, named 'Hyloscirtus princecharlesi' in honor of the Prince's support to conservation and environmental campaigns.
Prince Charles holds an Ecuadorian stream tree frog species, named 'Hyloscirtus princecharlesi' in honor of the Prince's support to conservation and environmental campaigns.
Arthur Edwards/WPA Pool, Getty Images

In 2012, a newly discovered (and endangered) species of Ecuadorian tree frog was announced as the Hyloscirtus princecharlesi, or the Prince Charles stream treefrog, in the journal Zootaxa [PDF]. It was named after him to recognize his rainforest conservation work—HRH has long been outspoken about the dangers of climate change, and he set up the Prince's Rainforest Project in 2007 as a charity and awareness campaign.

10 Historically Disappointing Time Capsules

eag1e/iStock via Getty Images
eag1e/iStock via Getty Images

Unearthing a time capsule should be an exciting affair, a chance to see mysterious items hand-picked long ago as apposite examples of a bygone era. Unfortunately, these buried tubes of old garbage rarely live up to the hype.

"Ninety-nine percent of time capsules will remain boring as hell to the people that open them," says Matt Novak, who runs Gizmodo's Paleofuture site. Novak is a self-professed time capsule nerd who has seen enough capsule disappointments to keep his hopes in check. "Time capsules are both optimistic and selfish," he tells Mental Floss. "Optimistic in the sense that they represent a belief that not only will anyone find them sometime in the future, but also that anyone will care about what's inside."

Time capsules as we know them are a relatively new invention that became famous in 1939 with the burial of the Westinghouse Time Capsule at the World's Fair. This highly publicized capsule, which is not scheduled to be opened until the year 6939, contains both quotidian items and extensive writings on human history printed on microfilm (along with instructions on how to build a microfilm viewer). It was an ambitious project, with engineers specially designing the capsule to resist the ravages of time. Most time capsules, however, aren't equipped to be buried underground.

"Burying something is literally the worst way to preserve it for future generations," Novak says, "but we continue to do it." Contents are routinely destroyed by groundwater, so most time capsules reveal little more than trash chowder.

Still, Novak holds out hope for "rare one percenters—those time capsules that not only have something interesting inside, but also survived their journey into the future without turning into mush." The following 10 time capsules, however, fall firmly in the remaining 99 percent.

1. Derry, New Hampshire comes up empty

Just this week, residents of Derry, New Hampshire gathered at the local library to witness what they hoped might be an important moment in the town's history: the opening of a 1969 time capsule, which they believed might include some memorabilia from famed astronaut Alan Shepard, who was a Derry native. Instead, they found ... nothing. Absolutely nothing.

"We were a little horrified to find there was nothing in it," library director Cara Potter told the media. While there's no written record of exactly what was inside the safe, we do know that the time capsule had been moved a couple of times over the past several decades. And that the combination was written right on the back. "I really can’t understand why anyone would want to take the capsule and do anything with it,” Reed Clark, a 90-year-old local, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. But local historian Paul Lindemann says that, "There very well may have been valuable items in there" (including something of Shepard's).

2. The past comes alive in Tucson

In 1961, Tucson, Arizona's Campbell Plaza shopping center—the first air-conditioned strip mall in the country—celebrated its grand opening. To make the event truly memorable, developers buried a time capsule beneath the mall, forbidding anyone from opening it for the achingly long time period of 25 years.

When 1986 finally rolled around, another celebration was held for the capsule's unearthing. Three television crews captured the moment when workers, accompanied by a former Tucson mayor, excavated the capsule and cracked it open. Archaeologist William L. Rathje was on hand, and he later reported its contents as "a faded local newspaper (in worse condition than many I’ve witnessed being excavated from the bowels of landfills) and some business cards."

3. Bay City makes peace with its waterlogged history

In 1965, workers at Dafoe Shipbuilding Co. in Bay City, Michigan buried the “John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule.” It was to remain buried for 100 years—until city council members got antsy in 2015 and ordered for it to be unearthed five decades sooner than originally intended.

When crews unsealed the giant capsule, they found it was totally drenched: The shipbuilders responsible for sealing the capsule couldn't prevent it from taking on water. Many of the items were paper ephemera that didn't survive their 50-year submersion.

Non-paper items that could be identified included, according to MLive.com, “an old pair of lace-up women's boots, large ice tongs for carrying blocks of ice, a slide rule with a pencil sharpener, a pestle and wooden bowl, a centennial ribbon, a coffee grinder, a filament light bulb, an old non-electric iron and lots of Bay City Centennial plates, a 1965 Alden's Summer Catalogue, papers from Kawkawlin Community Church, and booklets from the labor council.”

4. Westport Elementary's too-successful capsule

In 1947, the superintendent of Westport Elementary School in Missouri buried a time capsule that wasn't to be opened for another 50 years. He left a note detailing this fact, but he forgot to include any information about the capsule's location. When it came time to retrieve it, no one knew where to start digging. ''We're calling it a history mystery,'' said a teacher who was tasked with finding it. She had little to go on, as the school's original blueprints—like the capsule itself—were lost.

5. The smell of history on Long Island

For its 350th anniversary in 2015, the residents of Smithtown in Long Island, New York opened a time capsule that had been buried in front of town hall in 1965. An unveiling celebration was held, and a crowd of more than 175 gathered to watch town officials dressed in colonial costumes dramatically reveal its contents.

These included, according to Newsday, "a proclamation of beard-growing group Brothers of the Brush, papers, and paraphernalia from the town's 300th anniversary events, a phone book, an edition of The Smithtown News, pennies from the 1950s and '60s, a man's black hat, and a white bonnet.”

Town residents and officials alike came away unimpressed. "I would have thought those folks would have used a little more imagination and put some artifacts from that time in the time capsule," Smithtown's then-supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.

Kiernan Lannon, the executive director of the town's Historical Society, told Newsday, "The most interesting thing that came out of the time capsule was the smell. It was horrible. I have smelled history before; history does not smell like that. It was the most powerfully musty smell that I've ever smelled in my life."

6. A time capsule worse than going to class

In 2014, New York Mills Union Free School District students filed into an assembly hall to watch the opening of a 57-year-old time capsule. The capsule, buried under the school’s cornerstone, was revealed to contain "a 1957 penny, class lists, teacher handbook, budget pamphlet, and letterhead." In a video of the unearthing, you could hear stray boos from disappointed students who expected much more than letterhead.

7. Norway's anachronistic treasure trove

The residents of Otta, Norway had been eagerly awaiting the day when they'd get to open a package that had been sealed in 1912 and given to the town's first mayor in 1920, along with a note: "May be opened in 2012." Townspeople hoped it contained oil futures, while historians optimistically predicted relics from a 400-year-old battle.

The parcel was opened at the end of a lavish ceremony that featured musical performances and speeches. The crowd, which included Princess Astrid of Norway, had to wait 90 suspenseful minutes (in addition to the 100 years since 1912) before they got down to business.

The Gudbrandsdal museum's Kjell Voldheim had the honor of opening the package. Inside he found ... another package. Inside that package were miscellaneous papers, and Voldheim narrated for the crowd as he pored through the items. “Oye yoy yoy," he said ("almost in exasperation," according to Smithsonian), as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Included among the lackluster documents were newspapers dated from 1914 and 1919, a few years after the package had presumably been sealed. While deemed authentic, the find was nonetheless confusing.

8. New Zealand's rare find

In 1995, a 100-year-old capsule thought to contain historical documents was opened by hopeful scholars in New Zealand. According to The New York Times, "all they found was muddy water and a button.”

9. Michigan's capitol mess

The Michigan State Capitol celebrated its 100th birthday in 1979, and officials marked the occasion by opening a capsule that had been buried beneath the building's cornerstone. While the itemized list of the capsule's contents was intriguing—"1873 newspapers, a state history, a history of Free Masonry, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, a silver plate inscribed with Lansing officials’ names, and other papers on specialized topics"—it wasn't included in the actual box. The actual items that were buried wound up being destroyed.

“They’re in very bad shape,” Robert Warner, the late director of the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library, said. Water damage had ruined the fragile paper documents, and Capitol anniversary revelers had to gamely celebrate a box full of sludge.

10. Keith Urban's time capsule confusion

Australia's Pioneer Village Country Music Hall had been left in disrepair, which is what made the discovery of a plaque on its grounds in 2014 so exciting. Perhaps there was promise buried beneath the abandoned venue. Hidden behind overgrown vegetation, it read:

Pioneer Village Country Music Club
10 yr Time Capsule
Placed by Mayor Yvonne Chapman
This Day 4th July 1994
To be Re-opened 4th July 2004

As recounted by Paleofuture, the capsule's opening was a decade overdue, though fans who used to frequent the music hall said they already knew what was inside: a photo of a young Keith Urban. The musician got his start at Pioneer Village, and the photo was buried to celebrate the local star.

Oddly, a different capsule from 1994 was discovered on the music hall's abandoned grounds in 2013. Keith Urban fans eagerly opened it, thinking they had found the photo, but were left disappointed when it proved to be empty. So, by process of elimination, a photo of Keith Urban had to be in the more recently discovered capsule. Unless there's a third capsule, in which case they should probably just give up and buy a Keith Urban photo on eBay.

This story has been updated for 2019.

The 25 Best Colleges in America

Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images
Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images

The college decision process is always a tough one, but review site Niche's annual rankings of the best colleges in America make it easier for prospective students (and their parents) to narrow down the choices to find the best fit. The 2020 list takes a variety of factors into account, including student life, admissions, finances, and student reviews. But the most important factor in their methodology, comprising 40 percent of a school's overall rating, is academics, which, according to the Niche website, looks at "acceptance rate, quality of professors, as well as student and alumni surveys regarding academics at the school."

Taking the number one spot on Niche's list for the second year in a row is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by Stanford University in the number two spot (again, for the second year in a row). Six of America's eight Ivy League schools made it into the top 10.

Here are the 25 Best Colleges in America for 2020, according to Niche's rankings.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // Cambridge, MA

  1. Stanford University // Stanford, CA

  1. Yale University // New Haven, CT

  1. Harvard University // Cambridge, MA

  1. Princeton University // Princeton, NJ

  1. Duke University // Durham, NC

  1. Brown University // Providence, RI

  1. Columbia University // New York, NY

  1. University of Pennsylvania // Philadelphia, PA

  1. Rice University // Houston, TX

  1. Northwestern University // Evanston, IL

  1. Vanderbilt University // Nashville, TN

  1. Pomona College // Claremont, CA

  1. Washington University in St. Louis // St. Louis, MO

  1. Dartmouth College // Hanover, NH

  1. California Institute of Technology // Pasadena, CA

  1. University of Notre Dame // Notre Dame, IN

  1. University of Chicago // Chicago, IL

  1. University of Southern California // Los Angeles, CA

  1. Cornell University // Ithaca, NY

  1. Bowdoin College // Brunswick, ME

  1. Amherst College // Amherst, MA

  1. University of Michigan // Ann Arbor, MI

  1. Georgetown University // Washington DC

  1. Tufts University // Medford, MA

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