He was born in Buckingham Palace as Charles Philip Arthur George on Nov. 14, 1948. At the age of three, he became the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom; at nine, the Prince of Wales; at 20, a Knight of the Garter; King at 73 and on May 6th, at the age of 74, he will be crowned His Majesty Charles III, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
The last coronation of a British monarch occurred in 1953. For most of us, this will be the first time we have witnessed a coronation. Unless you were physically present in Westminster in 1953, it will be the first time anyone has seen it take place in living color.
King Charles III has spent his entire life under the intense glare and scrutiny of the press, with every move and gesture recorded and reported by the media. Yet, despite the prevailing opinions of the general public, he remains a keen outdoorsman and sportsman, enjoying hunting and shooting competitions. He has been the patron and President of the National Rifle Association (UK) since 1977 and has participated in target-rifle competitions, representing the House of Lords in the Lords vs. Commons match held at Bisley, the home of the National Matches of the United Kingdom since 1851.
The National Rifle Association of America’s National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA, has two guns that have a direct link to the new King. One is a Feinwerkbau Omega 124 air rifle with a custom stock and engraving done by Don Robinson of Halifax, England. The other is a Westley Richards side-by-side 12-gauge shotgun engraved by the Brown Brothers and presented to the then Prince of Wales and his bride, Lady Diana Spencer on the day of their wedding, July 29, 1981.
The Feinwerkbau was exquisitely crafted by Robinson, who inlaid numerous symbols of the Prince of Wales into the stock using differing exotic woods for contrast. The three feathers are known as the Prince of Wales’ feathers. They are the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales, consisting of three white ostrich feathers inside a gold coronet. A ribbon below the coronet bears the motto Ich dien, which, translated from German, means “I Serve.” This has been the traditional symbol of the Prince of Wales since the days of Edward the Black Prince in the 1300s.
The in-file correspondence that was amassed in 1989—when the gun was donated to us—stated that Prince Charles wished to personally donate the gun to the NRA of America as a gesture of gratitude for the NRA’s assistance in the 1940 Campaign to Save a British Home. In this program, thousands of Americans donated firearms to the British Home Guard for use in the event of a German invasion. As the 1937 Gun Control Act in Great Britain had effectively ended the private ownership of firearms, there was a clear danger of the “tiny island nation,” as Churchill phrased it, being overrun by the German army. Ads were taken out in American Rifleman magazine in November of 1940 and in August of 1941 for useful firearms. Some 25,000 firearms of all types and two million rounds of ammo were rushed to the defense of Britain. In June of 1942, long after the threat of Operation Sea Lion (Hitler’s planned invasion of England) had passed, the program was abandoned. America sent soldiers to finish the job.
Three-quarters of a billion people watched Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Frances Spencer on July 29, 1981 at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. More than 600,000 lined the streets of that city in hopes of catching a glimpse of the royal couple in what was described as the wedding of the century.
To commemorate the event, the firm of Westley Richards made an exquisite side-lock side-by-side 12-gauge shotgun and commissioned J.P. and A.M. Brown (a.k.a. The Brown Brothers) to inlay the gun with gold engraving and numerous symbols that tied in to the royal couple. To say it is stunning would be to do it a disservice, as stunning only begins to describe its beauty.
The gun was originally purchased by Kenneth E. Behring, former owner of the Seattle Seahawks, and subsequently auctioned off. It was acquired by Robert E. Petersen of Petersen Publishing in Los Angeles, CA, and in turn gifted to the National Firearms Museum from the Petersen Estate in 2010. It is one of the most popular exhibits in the Petersen Gallery.