The Queen has paid a heartfelt tribute to the Prince of Wales on his 70th birthday, describing him as a “dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history”.
The head of state rarely makes public comments about her children but she used a black-tie dinner staged in Charles’s honour to praise him as “his own man, passionate and creative”.
She added he was a “wonderful father”.
Her words were a ringing endorsement of the future king, who has spent a lifetime in preparation for his role as monarch.
Close family and friends from across the globe gathered in Buckingham Palace’s ballroom for the glittering event including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The Queen is famed for her wit and her toast to her son and heir was peppered with her trademark humour including the comment he was “a Duchy original”.
Earlier, Theresa May spoke of the prince’s service to the nation and also highlighted the important role he played in bringing up his sons after their mother had died at a young age.
The Queen said in her toast to Charles: “Over his 70 years, Philip and I have seen Charles become a champion of conservation and the arts, a great charitable leader – a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history – and a wonderful father.
“Most of all, sustained by his wife Camilla, he is his own man, passionate and creative.”
The Queen also said it was a “privilege” for any mother to be able to toast their son on his 70th birthday, just as her mother had seen the Queen reach the same milestone.
She said: “It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow.”
The monarch ended by comparing her son to the Duchy Originals brand of produce he founded.
“So this toast is to wish a happy birthday to my son, in every respect a Duchy original,” the Queen said.
During a day of tributes to the prince, Theresa May opened a Commons debate to mark the royal birthday and said the heir to the throne had spent his life “defying expectations and refusing to be categorised”.
Mrs May said Charles was often seen to be “a man ahead of his time”, citing his warnings on pollution, sustainable agriculture and the dehumanising effects of technology in the workplace.
Her words were echoed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in a similar debate in the Lords, when he said the heir to the throne had shown his “prophetic instincts” in his championing of the environment and his early warnings of the threat posed by plastic pollution.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall listen to a speech by photographer Arthur Edwards during a tea party (Paul Edwards/The Sun/PA)Earlier, Charles joked about the trials and tribulations of getting older as he met a room full of septuagenarians.
Charles cut a birthday cake, was handed presents and gave an impromptu speech when he had tea with group of 70 people who also turn 70 this year like the heir to the throne.
When the prince arrived for the celebration at Spencer House with Camilla for the event he was asked by the waiting press how he felt.
He replied: “How am I feeling? Older, older.
“I’m not sure, it’s rather like indigestion, many happy returns are not quite the same thing as you get older.”