Charleston is the oldest and largest city in the U. S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina's coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers.
Charleston had an estimated population of 136,208 in 2018. The estimated population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, was 787,643 residents in 2018, the third-largest in the state and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States. Charleston was founded in 1670 as Charles Town, honoring King Charles II of England. Its initial location at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley River (now Charles Towne Landing) was abandoned in 1680 for its present site, which became the fifth-largest city in North America within ten years. Charles Town played a major role in the slave trade, which laid the foundation for the city's size and wealth. The city also played a large role during the Golden Age of Piracy. Despite its size, it remained unincorporated throughout the colonial period; its government was handled directly by a colonial legislature and a governor sent by London.