AS PRINCE Charles prepares for his seventh decade, the days in which he
was considered one of the world's most eligible bachelors (yes, really) have passed beyond memory for almost everyone – except perhaps Camilla.
Happily married at last, retired from polo playing and with ever-thinning hair, the heir to the throne has passed the torch of eligibility on to his elder son, William, 26.
The 6ft 3in tall blond Wills is undoubtedly more handsome than his 5ft 11in father ever was, but how else does he compare with his father in his heyday?
FRIENDS AND SOCIAL LIFE
Charles was a keen polo player until injury put him out of the game three years ago. He mixed with the polo set in his twenties but doesn't seem to have enjoyed the same vibrant social life as his son, preferring horses and the countryside to wild London nightclubs.
In contrast, Tatler described William's social circle – who frequent nightspots such as Mahiki in London, knocking back ludicrously expensive cocktails – as "the jolliest court in history". It includes society beauty Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, a property magnate's daughter, as well as the "devilishly handsome" van Cutsem brothers, Edward, Hugh, Nicholas and William. Guy Pelly and the Branson siblings are firm fixtures, as is William's brother Harry.
Charles was raised in an environment that, while loving, was relatively formal. The Queen's children were said to bow when they came into her presence and they were brought up never to cry or complain. Footage of the Queen returning from a state visit abroad shows her shaking her infant son's hand, a sharp contrast to the famous image of Princess Diana joyfully embracing her two young sons after a period away from home. After their mother died, William and Harry seemed closer their father – appearing publicly with him, joking and hugging – as well as to their nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, with whom Diana believed Charles was in love and intended to marry. They now appear to have a cordial relationship with their stepmother Camilla.
MISBEHAVIOUR/ EMBARASSING MOMENTS
Neither Charles nor William could rival Prince Philip's legendary gaffes or those of Prince Harry, who once decided that a Nazi uniform would make the perfect fancy-dress costume and who was forced into admitting he had smoked cannabis at the age of 16. However, neither have escaped unscathed.
When a tourist recently asked William to have her photograph taken with him, he put his arm around her, inadvertently groping her breast.
And unfortunately few have been able to forget "Tampongate" when, while married to Diana, a risque telephone conversation was recorded between Charles and Camilla in which he contemplated being reincarnated as a lady's sanitary item.
Unlike his mother, Prince William is never going to be much of a fashion icon. In fact, he seems to take after his father in the image department, his hair thinning prematurely and his wardrobe old before his time.
He favours the relaxed "Hooray Henry" uniform of crumpled chinos, striped shirts and tweed blazers, with dated-looking double-breasted suits for more formal occasions and the occasional rugby shirt when he's dressing down.
In fact, his stuffy look is very similar to the one his father adopted as a young man. Charles's formal, traditional outfits were far removed from the flares, long hair and platform boots that the rest of the country was sporting when the prince was in his mid-twenties.
POPULARITY AND PUBLIC IMAGE
Blessed with his mother's good looks, in his mid-teens William became a pin-up for millions of girls, and when he applied to St Andrews, the university experienced a huge surge in applications as young women from across the globe attempted to get a little closer to the eligible bachelor. Today his thinning hair is putting paid to his teen idol looks, but he remains one of the more popular members of the royal family. Poor Charles has rarely been seen as anything other than hopelessly uncool (although he did gain some surprise kudos in the late 1970s when he named The Three Degrees as his favourite pop act). His support of good causes also earned him a reputation for having a caring, if somewhat unexciting, personality
Charles enjoyed a relatively colourful romantic life as a young man. He was linked to a number of women including Lady Jane Wellesley, daughter of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington; Princess Marie Astrid of Luxembourg and Fiona Watson, a Penthouse model. He proposed to Amanda Knatchbull, granddaughter of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, but was turned down, before eventually marrying Lady Diana Spencer.
His son's love-life has been less eventful. William's relationship with Kate Middleton began in 2003 and they split briefly this year, among suggestions her background (and her mother's habit of saying "toilet" not "lavatory") was part of the problem. However they recently reunited, and speculation on a marriage is as frenzied as ever.
William's parents attempted to give him as normal an upbringing as possible, and it's only since graduating from university that he's started making regular public appearances. At 21, he accompanied his father on a royal tour of Wales, and in July 2005 travelled to New Zealand on his first overseas tour without his father.
He graduated from Sandhurst in 2006 and went on to train in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, and was presented with his RAF wings by his father after a four-month intensive course.
His father has also spent time in the navy and air force and has qualified to fly a number of aircraft.
Charles has made regular tours of Wales since he was a young man and today makes regular trips abroad with Camilla on behalf of the United Kingdom.
He founded the Prince's Trust – which aims to help disadvantaged young people – in 1976 when he was 28, after leaving the Royal Navy, and continues to be closely involved with the charity.
Charles attended the notoriously austere Gordonstoun near Elgin, where he is reported to have been bullied. He has described the experience "Colditz in kilts". He left with two A-levels, in history and French. Despite only achieving a B and a C, he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read anthropology, archaeology, and history.
Perhaps as a result of his father's unhappy school experiences, family tradition was broken with William who was sent to Eton (his grandfather, two uncles, and two cousins had all also attended Gordonstoun). There he studied geography, biology, maths, and art history at A-level. After leaving school, he took a gap year, during which he took part in British Army training exercises in Belize, and taught children at a school in southern Chile. He went on to study at the University of St Andrews, gaining a 2:1 in geography after changing from his original history of art course.