King Charles III is the only heir to the British throne in the last thousand years who has spent that much time preparing for it.
After his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away on Thursday, he finally fulfilled the destiny set before him at the tender age of three, when his mother became monarch in 1952. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Charles’s wife, has been elevated to the position of queen consort.
Compared to Elizabeth’s age of 27 when she was crowned, Charles’s age of 73 makes him the oldest British monarch in history. Prince Charles is now also the leader of the Commonwealth, a postcolonial organization of 54 countries with a total population of 2.4 billion.
Of those, he is the head of state in fifteen, including Canada and Australia. However, the Queen’s death is expected to fuel a growing movement in the Caribbean and elsewhere to break free from their old colonial masters.
The seven-decade wait for the new king has been characterized by extreme privilege, conflicts, and family drama. There has been much speculation about the kind of ruler he will be since the Queen’s peaceful, broadly popular reign.
This next monarch inherits a fortune worth several million. His supporters argue that he is the most hardworking member of the royal family and has tirelessly campaigned for charitable causes and conservationism long before either was mainstream concerns, despite facing ridicule from a world that had not yet recognized the impending crisis of global warming.
A YouGov poll shows that 75% of Britons have a favorable opinion of the Queen, whereas 42% have a good view of Prince Charles and 24% have a negative thought. The shared infidelity in his marriage to Princess Diana and the apparent lack of sympathy shown by the royal family after her death in 1997 is often cited as reasons.
Others argue that it’s because he’s adopted controversial political stances, which is unusual for the traditionally nonpartisan royal family and a stark contrast to his mother. The new monarch is aware of his sometimes controversial stances.
In a speech given in January 2014, he said, “As you may maybe have noticed from time to time, I have tended to make a practice of raising my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly clear to me.”
The fact that a constitutional monarchy rules Britain makes it difficult to assess his statements, as this form of government is in stark contrast to the absolute monarchies that hold unchecked sway over the political systems of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Since this is the case, the monarch of Britain is the head of state but has little actual political power. They select leaders, convene lawmakers after a break, and legislate new policies. However, these are mere formalities that need to be rubber-stamped, and no attempts at intervention by the crown have been signaled as of yet. There would be a political crisis if that happened.
The monarch regularly confers with the head of government. The British monarch had “three rights — the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn,” as the influential 19th-century author Walter Bagehot put it in 1867.
The future monarch said in 2018 that it was “total nonsense” to assume he would be openly political because “I’m not that stupid,” suggesting he will take a different approach as monarch from his opinionated tenure as a prince.
It would help if you looked no further than Shakespeare to see the potential for transformation in Henry V or Henry IV, parts 1 and 2. Because if you become the sovereign, you must act as such,” he explained. Then, you stay within the bounds set by the Constitution.
Nonetheless, there is little indication he has intervened, and some critics fear his public opinions might produce a constitutional crisis if the government takes a position he has previously advocated, from protecting farmers to problematic design.
I Was Born In A Gilded Ballroom
A figure of immense soft authority but relatively little physical power, the Queen has always seemed well fitted to her role of quiet obligingness. However, the new monarch has always seemed out of place.
On the evening of November 14, 1948, he was born in Buckingham Palace as his father, Prince Philip, played squash. The streets of London were still littered with wreckage from the Blitz, and the people of Britain were facing severe economic suffering that would eventually lead to the creation of the modern welfare system. Once inside the palace, Prince Charles was immersed in a world of great privilege and preordained responsibility.
According to Sally Bedell Smith’s unauthorized biography “Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life,” the moment Charles was born, he “officially became public property” and was “brought to the vast gilded ballroom by the royal midwife” and placed in a cot “for viewing by the royal courtiers.”
Less than four years later, at the death of his grandfather, George V, he became heir to the throne. Smith and other biographers and royal historians believe that Charles did not have an easy childhood. Charles’s mother and disciplinarian father spent long periods away from home visiting the Commonwealth, missing his first two Christmases and third birthday.
Royal biographer Tina Brown told Keir Simmons on his podcast “Born to Rule” earlier this year that Charles was a “compassionate and emotional young man.” Hence, his “alpha male” father sent him to Gordonstoun, a harsh, spartan boarding school in Scotland. Throughout his life, Charles’s family “constantly tried to press him into this mold, because he was the future king, that he just didn’t fit,” as Brown put it.
After finishing with mediocre grades, he said it felt like “a prison sentence.” At age 21, Charles said, “something that dawns on you with the most awful, inescapable sense,” that he would be king.
Black Spider Memos
The new king has a sizable fan base, with many people regarding his decades-long environmental advocacy as prescient. Gardening is one of his passions, but in 2010 he faced mockery after he admitted he had conversations with his plants.
The Prince of Wales started the first of over two dozen charities, the Prince’s Trust, in 1976 with his Royal Navy pension of 7,000 pounds (approximately $8,500). The charity’s mission is to “assist vulnerable young people in getting their lives back on track.”
As the Queen’s health deteriorated toward the end of her life, Charles assumed more of her responsibilities, which was considered by some as a strategy to prime the public for his eventual reign. Unlike his mother, who avoided major scandals throughout her 70 years as the Queen, Prince Charles has not made things easy for himself in the background.
After a five-year legal fight, Charles’ letters to British government ministers advocating for everything from little-known environmental causes to questionable alternative medicines were finally published in The Guardian in 2015. His calligraphy made the “black spider memoranda,” as they were dubbed, a political faux pas for the monarchy.
In addition, the government watchdog Charity Commission investigated Charles’ acceptance of funds from a former prime minister of Qatar between 2011 and 2015.
The Prince of Wales reportedly handed up three suitcases for a total of three million euros (about the same amount in USD) to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, as reported by the Sunday Times. At least one of the donations occurred, and the proper procedures were followed, as confirmed by the fund’s head, Sir Ian Cheshire, in an interview with the newspaper.
In the end, the Charity Commission decided not to do anything else, according to a statement from last month that didn’t give any more details about the case. Clarence House did not confirm the details of the cash donations. Instead, it said in a statement that they “were given right away to one of the Prince’s charities, which did the right thing and assured us that all the right steps were taken.”
Britain’s “monarchists” are very worried about the new king’s record, while Britain’s “republicans,” who don’t like the monarchy, see a great chance. Since the Queen has been in charge for so long, in many ways, she has come to define Britain, a once-powerful country that is now weaker and trying to find its place in the world. A world without her is brutal to imagine, and so is a world with Charles as king.
“It will bring up many existential questions like, ‘Who are we? What do we believe in? “a royal commentator named Daisy McAndrew said in an interview before the Queen died. “What is Britain like now? What do we want now? What about Charles? Do we want a king or Queen?”
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