Prince Charles always dreamed of having a daughter – to the point where he is rumoured to have expressed in the delivery room his brief dismay that Prince Harry wasn't a girl.
So when Kate Middleton married his eldest son Prince William after seven years of dating, the king-in-waiting couldn't have been happier that he finally had one.
"Charles always loved Kate, from the moment Wills brought her home," says a source.
"She's been a welcome addition to the family who handles herself perfectly, and he's got a real soft spot for her."
Now, Woman's Day can reveal that Charles, 72, is leaning on his daughter-in-law more than ever after a "horrendous past year".
So far in 2021, his father Prince Philip passed away, Harry moved to the US permanently, and most recently his most trusted aide Michael Fawcett has been forced to step down amid a misconduct investigation.
"Charles is incredibly lonely," says a source. "So many key people in his life have left him in one way or another."
Indeed, just last week Charles spoke of his grief at losing his dad in April, just months shy of his 100th birthday.
In a new interview with the BBC for documentary Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, Charles became visibly emotional as he recalled his final conversation with his father.
Charles called Philip to discuss his birthday – and was forced to speak up due to the almost centenarian's failing hearing.
"We're talking about your birthday! And whether there's going to be a reception!" Charles says, adding that Philip responded, "Well, I've got to be alive for it, haven't I?"
He would pass peacefully the next day.
"We were lucky to have him for nearly 100 years," Charles muses.
His touching words hide a man who, according to our insider, is "suffering greatly from the changes of the past year".
"To his surprise, though, this series of unfortunate events has brought him closer to Kate, who's been a real rock for not just William, but Charles as well," says a source.
"He's always enjoyed her company, but lately he finds himself calling her up, just to chat and enquire after the children.
"It gives him a real boost and a sense of normality that he craves.
"Kate is truly the daughter he never had, and he's grateful for her calming presence in such stressful times.
"It's not like Charles isn't close with William, but they have a rather businesslike dynamic at times. And given the huge weight of expectation on them both, it isn't a surprise.
"But with Kate, Charles finds he can just be himself – a father-in-law and a grandpa."
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