The eldest son of the reigning monarch of Great Britain is traditionally invested with the title of Prince of Wales. This tradition began in 1301, when King Edward I of England, having completed the Norman conquest of Wales, gave the title to his heir, Prince Edward (later King Edward II of England). The apocryphal story that the king promised the rebellious Welsh natives "a prince born in Wales, who did not speak a word of English", and then produced his infant son, was not written down until the sixteenth century. However, Edward II certainly was born at Caernarfon, while his father was campaigning in Wales.
Prior to the conquest of Wales, only a handful of native princes had claimed the title of Prince of Wales, the country having been divided into smaller principalities for most of the post-Roman period. In 1258, the title was claimed by Llywelyn the Last, Prince of Gwynedd, having been briefly held by his uncle, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, who was recognised by King Henry III of England as rightful ruler.
The Prince Charles, the present Prince of Wales, is the twenty-first to hold the title officially. The other holders were:
- Edward II of England 1301-1307
- Edward the Black Prince 1330-1376
- Richard II of England 1376-1377
- Henry V of England 1399-1413
- Edward of Westminster (son of Henry VI of England) 1453-1471
- Edward V of England 1470-1483
- Edward of Middleham (son of Richard III of England) 1483-1484
- Arthur Tudor 1486-1502
- Henry VIII of England 1502-1509
- Henry Stuart (or Stewart) (son of King James I of England) 1603-1612
- Charles I of England 1612-1625
- Charles II of England 1630-1649
- James Francis Edward Stuart (or Stewart) ("the Old Pretender") 1688
- George II of Great Britain 1714-1727
- Frederick, Prince of Wales 1727-1751
- George III of the United Kingdom 1751-1760
- George IV of the United Kingdom 1762-1820
- Edward VII of the United Kingdom 1841-1901
- George V of the United Kingdom 1901-1910
- Edward VIII of the United Kingdom 1910-1936
The Prince of Wales is styled His Royal Highness (HRH). The same style is given by virtue of her marriage to the Princess of Wales. However, as was shown in the case of Diana, Princess of Wales, the style lapses if a Prince and Princess divorce, as it is only hers by virtue of marriage to the Prince of Wales, not in her own right.
The regalia of the Prince of Wales are known as the Honours of the Principality of Wales.