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AP PHOTOS: Prince Charles' life as a man and future monarch

LONDON (AP) — It may not be his crowning achievement yet, but Prince Charles received recognition for his future role as Britain's king when leaders of the 53-nation Commonwealth confirmed Friday that Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son would succeed her as the group's chief.

Charles, at age 69, is the oldest heir to the British throne in more than 300 years thanks to his mother's record as the country's longest-serving monarch. Since his divorce from Princess Diana, her 1997 death and Charles' remarriage to ex-mistress Camilla Parker Bowles, the Prince of Wales has been behind his and Diana's sons — Prince William and Prince Harry — in inspiring public affection.

Yet during his decades of waiting to be king, Charles has had multiple public images: jug-eared target of bullies; polo-playing playboy; open-minded — or eccentric, depending on the observer — student of alternative beliefs; champion of environmental causes.

His biographers often start his story with the allegedly distant and disapproving relationship Charles had with his parents. The prince's pick as head of the Commonwealth, which is made up mostly of former British colonies, suggests a happier conclusion. The queen, who turns 92 on Saturday, lobbied for him in person.

"It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day, the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work," she said.

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