The private pursuits and interests of The Prince of Wales are as varied as the concerns - like the welfare of young people and the disadvantaged, the quality of our built environment and sustainability - to which he devotes his public life.
The Prince is a keen watercolourist and paints whenever his schedule allows. Lithographs of his paintings have been sold with proceeds going to The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation. Visit the image gallery to see more of His Royal Highness's paintings.
His Royal Highness enjoys gardening, especially in his organic garden at Highgrove.
A keen advocate of traditional rural skills, The Prince enjoys hedgelaying and has hosted the National Hedgelaying Championships at Home Farm. He has also laid many of the hedges on Home Farm himself.
In pursuing some of his interests, The Prince is able to give support to organisations in the worlds of art, music and theatre - as he does in many other fields - through becoming Patron or President. In total, The Prince of Wales is Patron or President of around 400 organisations, for example The Birmingham Royal Ballet and The BBC National Orchestra of Wales. A full list of His Royal Highness's patronages can be found here.
The Prince and The Duchess regularly attend theatre and opera performances and symphony concerts, sometimes as part of a fundraising event and sometimes in a private capacity. On 12th February 2019, The Prince of Wales, President of The Royal Ballet and Patron of The Royal Opera House, attended the world premiere of The Cunning Little Vixen, in honour of his 70th birthday at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Over the years His Royal Highness has taken part in many different sports including racing, scuba diving and sailing. Up until November 2005, The Prince raised money for charity by playing polo. He decided to retire from the game after playing it for over 40 years.
The Prince and The Duchess take a great interest in the arts, regularly attend theatre and opera performances and classical concerts, and visit exhibitions and galleries, sometimes as public events to support charities and sometimes privately.
His Royal Highness is President or Patron of more than 70 arts organisations, including: the Royal College of Music; the Royal Opera; the Royal Shakespeare Company; the Royal Ballet, the Royal Television Society; the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus; Welsh National Opera; the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama; The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and The Royal Academy Trust.
His Royal Highness is very conscious of the potential of the arts to create opportunity and to transform lives. He founded The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts, to teach the principles and techniques of the traditional arts of the world’s great civilisations, and in 2000, he founded The Royal Drawing School to raise the standard and profile of drawing through teaching and practice.
The Prince, who learned to play the piano as a child, sang in the choir of Gordonstoun School, which he attended from 1962 to 1967, and took part in several public performances.
On 1st March 1964, during a school concert of religious music at St Giles's Cathedral, Edinburgh, The Prince played the trumpet in the Gordonstoun orchestra.
During his stay at Timbertop, the remote country branch of Melbourne's Geelong Grammar School in Australia, His Royal Highness joined a brass trio. His Royal Highness attended the school for two terms in 1966.
The Prince played the cello during another Gordonstoun concert at St Giles's, and at a charity concert with the Elgin Orchestra at Elgin town hall on 29th March 1967.
While The Prince was an undergraduate at Cambridge, he played the cello in a symphony concert by the Trinity College Orchestra on 4th December 1967.
In June 1978 The Prince of Wales sang with the Bach Choir, of which he is President, at a performance of Handel's Coronation Anthems in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, conducted by Sir David Willcocks.
The Prince, a bass, joined the choir again for a performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 21st March 1985, marking the 300th anniversary of Bach's birth.
Official Harpist to The Prince of Wales
In 2000 His Royal Highness recreated the tradition of harpists being appointed to the Royal Court, by appointing an Official Harpist to The Prince of Wales.
The appointment of the first harpist Catrin Finch, a Welsh-born student at the Royal Academy of Music, recognised the importance of the harp to the culture and music of Wales, and of supporting young Welsh talent.
The sixth and current holder of the role is Alis Huws.
The Prince of Wales took his first skiing lessons at the age of 14, in January 1963, when he was staying with Prince Ludwig of Hesse at Tarasp in Switzerland. The young Prince went on to enjoy skiing holidays, taking trips to Liechtenstein in 1965 and near Davos, Switzerland, in 1966.
Over the years, His Royal Highness continued to take annual skiing holidays with his sons Prince William and Prince Harry, usually visiting Klosters in Switzerland.
The Prince took up water-skiing and surfing in his teens, and during service in the Royal Navy he was introduced to aqua-lung diving. In 1974 he became President of the British Sub Aqua Club.
In July 1975 The Prince spent 47 minutes under water examining the wreck of the Mary Rose, a Tudor warship sunk off Portsmouth in 1545. The Prince was the first member of the Royal Family to see it since Henry VIII watched the ship sink.
It was the first of a number of dives The Prince made to the wreck, and he became President of the Mary Rose Trust which raised the remains of the ship in 1982 for preservation in a new museum at Portsmouth.
The Prince enjoyed sailing from early childhood, taking part in his first yacht race at Cowes Regatta with his father, The Duke of Edinburgh, at the age of eight.
The Prince windsurfed off the Isle of Wight during another visit to the Cowes Regatta in 1978.
In 1979 The Prince was given a skateboard for Christmas and after practising at Windsor, His Royal Highness was able to give a brief demonstration for a television news programme about a North London community organisation. Viewers saw The Prince ask a startled youngster: "Can I borrow your board?”
For a great deal of his adult life, The Prince of Wales was a keen and competitive polo player.
The Prince of Wales became interested in polo as a child, watching his father, The Duke of Edinburgh, play at Windsor.
In his early teens His Royal Highness played practice chukkas (a period of time in polo) at Windsor during the school holidays.
The Prince played his first game in 1963 aged 15, in a team captained by The Duke of Edinburgh and he played his first game in public in April 1964.
From then on The Prince played as regularly as he could manage, playing his first season of first class games in 1967.
His Royal Highness's handicap rose gradually from 1 in 1967 to 4 in 1982.
The main grounds on which The Prince played were Smith's Lawn in Windsor Great Park, Cowdray Park in Sussex and Cirencester Park, Gloucestershire.
His Royal Highness also played polo during visits to countries including Australia, India, the USA, France, Brazil, Kenya, Malta and Ghana.
The Prince played in many teams, including Cambridge University whilst an undergraduate, when he won his half-Blue playing against Oxford, for the Royal Navy, and in more recent years with Les Diables Bleus and the Maple Leaf.
The Prince often played with his sons The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry in the Highgrove team. His Royal Highness played in all four positions, but usually at No 4 (back).
The Prince only played polo to raise money for charity. For example during the year 2005-2006, he raised £900,000 taking the total over the previous 11 years to £8.4 million.
On 28th June 1990, The Prince broke his arm in two places when he fell from his pony during a match at Cirencester Park. His Royal Highness was able to return to the game the following April and played regularly up until his decision to retire in November 2005.
The Prince maintains his interest in polo and follows the sport through his two sons' continued participation.
The Prince of Wales is an accomplished horseman and in the 1980s rode in a number of competitive races.
The Prince made his debut as a jockey in 1980 at a charity race at Plumpton, East Sussex.
His Royal Highness came second on Long Wharf in the two-mile Madhatters Private Stakes on 4th March. His horse was 13-8 favourite.
Four days later at Sandown, The Prince rode in his first steeplechase, the Duke of Gloucester Memorial Trophy hunter chase.
His Royal Highness rode Sea Swell for Lambourn trainer Nick Gaselee, finishing fourth.
The Prince, familiar with jumping in the show ring, cross country team events and polo, bought his first racehorse in May 1980, Allibar, a 10-year-old bay gelding.
In one race, on 24th October 1980, at Ludlow, Shropshire, he came second in a field of 12. Sadly Allibar died of a heart attack in February 1981.
That year The Prince bought Good Prospect, a 12-year-old bay gelding who was also a steeplechaser.
The Prince rode him twice, in the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown on 13th March, and in the Kim Muir Memorial Challenge Cup at Cheltenham four days later - but fell on both occasions.
On 21st May 1981, The Prince rode in his last race, at Newton Abbot, Devon, on Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's horse Upton Grey, finishing ninth.
The Prince's racing colours were scarlet with royal blue sleeves and black cap.
In summarising his racing career, The Prince's former trainer Nick Gaselee said His Royal Highness had not been credited over the years for his racing achievement: “To come in the top four in his first three races is a record any professional jockey would be proud of, and that is despite his many other commitments at that time.”
The Prince of Wales is an experienced watercolourist and a keen collector and Patron of the Arts. His Royal Highness has been painting for most of his adult life, during holidays or when his official diary allows - whether on private holidays, or during a spare moment on an overseas tour. The Prince paints in the open air, often finishing a picture in one go.
There are studies from Greece where The Prince has enjoyed private holidays, and Klosters in Switzerland where His Royal Highness has skied with friends and family for many years.
There are also many paintings from Scotland from when The Prince is staying at Birkhall, his private home on the Balmoral Estate, and he is able to indulge in his passions of walking, painting and fishing. Beinn a'Bhuird, a mountain in the Cairngorms in Scotland, has been painted repeatedly by The Prince in different lights, from different positions and at different times of the year.
The Royal Family has a tradition of drawing and painting, and The Prince of Wales’s work first came to public notice at a 1977 exhibition at Windsor Castle at which other Royal artists included Queen Victoria, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Duke of York.
The Prince's interest began during the 1970s and 1980s when he was inspired by Robert Waddell, who had been his art master at Gordonstoun in Scotland. In time, The Prince met leading artists such as Edward Seago, with whom he discussed watercolour technique, and received further tuition from John Ward, Bryan Organ and Derek Hill.
The copyright of The Prince’s watercolours belongs to A.G. Carrick Ltd, a trading arm of The Prince’s Charities Foundation. The name uses two of The Prince's four Christian names - Arthur and George - and one of his titles, The Earl of Carrick.
Over the years The Prince has agreed to exhibitions of his watercolours and of lithographs made from them, on the understanding that any income they generate goes to The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation.
Money from the sale of the lithographs also goes to the Foundation but the paintings themselves are never for sale.
In April 2020, His Royal Highness recited ‘Tintern Abbey’ to mark 250 years since the birth of William Wordsworth.
When analysing Wordsworth’s work, His Royal Highness spoke of painting landscapes:
"I can understand so well the way in which, I suppose for Wordsworth and as for a lot of other people, the power of the landscape to move us, is something rather profound. I found myself struggling, for instance, to paint a watercolour of a landscape."
But, in a strange way, when you sit and observe it, very carefully, and you observe the movement of the clouds, the light and everything else on the landscape, the extraordinary thing is that you almost feel the landscape, you almost feel its heart and soul, as it were.
The Prince is interested in collecting art and occasionally commissions paintings and sculptures. Discussing a piece from his personal collection:
His Royal Highness likes to provide practical support for the Arts. In the 1980s The Prince began inviting artists to accompany him on official tours overseas and record their impressions, a tradition that has continued to this day.
His Royal Highness has also provided support through his charities. The Royal Drawing School, formerly known as The Prince’s Drawing School, was founded by His Royal Highness and artist Catherine Goodman in 2000 to foster the practice of drawing from observation. HRH often attends the Royal Drawing School's Annual Exhibition. You can learn more about the school and its projects by following their blog.
In 2017, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall became joint Patrons of Watercolour World, an initiative that allows digital access to thousands of watercolour paintings.
His Royal Highness became Patron of The National Gallery in February 2017 and more recently, The Prince of Wales succeeded his father, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who was Royal Visitor of The Royal College of Art for 50 years in 2018.
In 2013, The Prince of Wales contributed to a documentary called Royal Paintbox which explored, for the first time, Royal artists through the ages. In an interview for the documentary he spoke of his fascination with natural light.
He said: "I think, you know, drawing from nature, observing from nature, is absolutely crucial. I’ve obviously been inspired by just looking.
"It’s usually the light that catches my attention. You can look at the same view over and over again and then suddenly one moment, there’s the most magical light.”