Prince Charles turns 60 Friday and hanging on his coat tails is the eternal question: will he be king?
Only Queen Elizabeth knows the answer. And what she said of his son on the eve of his birthday seems to have convinced at least the British media that he is indeed to be king.
The Queen was speaking as she and the Duke of Edinburgh Wednesday visited the headquarters of the Prince's Trust in London, the charity Prince Charles set up more than 30 years ago to give disadvantaged young people a start in life.
In a rare, public statement on her son, she said: "For Prince Philip and me there can be no greater pleasure or comfort than to know that into his care are safely entrusted the guiding principles of public service and duty to others."
The son returned the compliment. In a televised documentary, Prince Charles said: "My mother provides this remarkable degree of continuity which matters a great deal. In an age that is so full of constitutional change it is useful to have someone to hang on to."
As it is, she rarely speaks of her family members. Rarer, still, about the prince. So, the words took all the more meaning.
The Daily Mail thought she meant the prince will not be bypassed for the throne. Its main article Thursday read: "Her words ride a coach and horses through the arguments of those who claim the monarch has considered passing the crown directly to her grandson William."
In a separate report, the newspaper wrote of the angst of the world's longest king-in-waiting - he became Prince of Wales in 1969: "Four years ago, an old friend of the Prince of Wales congratulated him on his 56th birthday. The Prince's response was gloomy. 'Yes,' he said, 'but I'm now the age at which my grandfather died'."
The Telegraph was pretty sure what the Queen meant. It leads the report with the line: "The Queen, in a rare public tribute to her Prince Charles on the eve of his 60th birthday, predicted that her son and heir would be a good King."
The Guardian did not analyse the Queen's observation. Instead, it published a report on the BBC documentary "Charles at 60: The Passionate Prince", interpreting one of his quotes to mean he was sure he would be king.
The newspaper article introduces the story thus: "Prince Charles has admitted he is a 'bloody nuisance' lobbying on green issues but concedes he will have to curb his campaigning when he becomes king.”
The report interprets a particular quote from the prince in the documentary: "He acknowledges that once he ascends the throne, certain things will change. 'It would be nice if some of the things were taken on by my sons. Perhaps people will realise that (the ideas) were not so mad'."
The Times is forthright: "As he reaches 60, he has more than a slight idea of what he is doing here."
The newspaper comments on the prince's prospects of becoming king: "The greatest traditionalist - in dress, religious attitude and sense of constitutional duty - is Charles himself.
“He is determined to reign, and is not the sort of man to take the Edward VIII path and renounce the throne in favour of the woman he loves. Much as he admires his son, he does not take kindly to the occasional clamour for the line of succession to leapfrog directly to a young and glamorous William."
For the moment, Prince Charles seems content as the birthday boy. He had one of this birthday treats Wednesday night at the "We Are Most Amused" comedy gala in London. The special event for his 60th featured comedy legends such as Robin Williams, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Joan Rivers.
Then, the Queen's dinner and concert for the Prince at Buckingham Palace Thursday night with members of the Royal Family. On top of it, the exclusive party thrown by his wife Camilla.