King Charles III begins his rule with questioned impartiality


The death of Queen Elizabeth II marked the end of an era for the monarchy in more ways than one. She was the last senior royal of a generation that will soon seem alien to modern monarchists.

During her 70 years on the throne, Elizabeth gave only one media interview, limited to the topic of her coronation. She has never publicly expressed a strong opinion on any issue that could be considered political or controversial. She avoided any kind of public intervention in the way the UK’s public institutions should be run.

In fact, the most controversial political moments during Elizabeth’s reign came from the indiscretions of others.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Queen “purred” with joy when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK in a 2014 independence referendum. The Sun newspaper speculated in 2016 that the Queen was backing Brexit, something former Buckingham Palace communications director Sally Osman was quick to smear during an interview on CNN earlier this week.

Contrast this with the royals who are now leading the monarchy into a new, more uncertain future. Elizabeth’s eldest child, now King Charles III, embarrassed the family when letters he wrote to former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004-2005 were published.

While the letters seemed fairly innocuous – they focused on things like farm subsidies and, amusingly, the merits of publishing private letters like these – the fact was that the first in line to the throne was happy enough to express political views against the best Ministers alarmed those who supported the convention that the monarchy was apolitical.

Charles has also controversially advocated using public money to provide homeopathy in the UK’s state-funded National Health Service. NHS England said in 2017 it would no longer fund homeopathy because “the lack of any evidence of its effectiveness did not justify the cost”.

As unimportant as it seemed at the time to know Charles’s views on these matters, it is worth remembering that throughout her reign we knew practically nothing of Elizabeth’s personal views, let alone how she felt State funds should be distributed .

“The monarchy has enormous indirect power, as it can influence public opinion on an issue arguably more important than lobbying ministers,” says Kate Williams, a leading royal historian and professor of public debate in history at the UK University of reading.

She points to the time when Elizabeth II said Scottish voters should “think carefully about the future” as they left a church service in Scotland ahead of the 2014 referendum. “While this isolated comment should probably be neutral, in the context of the referendum either side could claim it was an endorsement of the rejection of independence,” adds Williams.

The seemingly irreconcilable mess of a monarch sharing views on such matters while remaining apolitical grows murkier as we grow farther generationally from the late Queen.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been very public mental health campaigners. William, who will succeed Charles to the throne, has been on record speaking out about his own struggles with mental health, particularly following the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

William has also used his platform to speak out against racism in footballwhich, at a time when it was a major controversy in sport, is heavily implied that he supports players taking a knee before matches, a problem that has caused a major backlash from many football clubs in the UK.

And now first in line has had a difficult relationship with the British media, particularly the BBC, after it was revealed that one of their journalists, Martin Bashir, used nefarious methods to get an interview with his mother when she was searching for her Divorce was extremely vulnerable by Karl.

William, Prince of Wales leads his brother Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, followed by their cousins ​​before leading a vigil around the coffin of their grandmother Queen Elizabeth II on September 17, 2022.

At the moment, support for the monarchy is high. We have experienced both mourning for the late Elizabeth and sympathy for the new king, who has taken on the role of his life while mourning the loss of his mother. But that doesn’t mean support will stay high forever.

Charles vowed in a BBC documentary filmed in 2018 to mark his 70th birthday that he would not get involved in controversial affairs once he became king. Specifically asked if his campaign would continue, he said, “No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid.”

He added: “I’ve tried to make sure everything I’ve done hasn’t been partisan, but I think it’s important to remember that there’s only ever room for one sovereign, not two. So you cannot be the same as the sovereign if you are the Prince of Wales or the heir.

However, the problem facing both the king and his heir is that they can’t put those comments back in the bottle. And the fact that those opinions exist will inevitably affect her relationship with the public for years to come as we move further from the era of the inscrutable Elizabeth.

However, republicanism has never been very popular in Britain. As recently as last week, during official events, the protests were mostly limited to a small group of people, many of whom did little more than hold up notes. A disproportionate police response, which has seen some protesters arrested, prompted some media coverage and outcry, but hasn’t moved the dial against the royals in any meaningful way.

Elizabeth was a particularly popular monarch. Most public research on the subject shows that older monarchists think their relative silence compared to their successors was dignified and preserved the integrity of the crown.

However, many of these traditional supporters were historically skeptical of Charles and would prefer him to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

Conversely, despite her silence, the late queen was popular with younger monarchists. It’s hard to say exactly why, but it’s plausibly just a by-product of Elizabeth always having been on the throne and younger people don’t know otherwise.

However, it is also clear that younger monarchists welcome comments from the royal family on issues that previously would have been considered too controversial for the Queen.

“It’s entirely possible that the generation that thinks royals should keep a stiff upper lip and not talk about issues like women’s rights and mental health is dying out,” said Joe Twyman, director of political research organization Deltapoll.

Prince William, King Charles III, Princess Anne and Prince Harry follow the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on September 14, 2022.

“For people of a certain generation, the idea of ​​bowing to your grandmother every time you see her just because she’s the queen seems crazy,” he added, referring to the dispute after Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey last year she described how surreal she found royal life at times.

This conflict over the exact role of the monarch is important because the institution lives or dies on whether the public thinks it’s worth it or not.

It is likely that there will always be traditional monarchists who will defend any action provided it does not evolve or modernise. They tend to be the most eager to support.

However, this group will likely become a minority before William takes the throne. If Charles lives to be 99 like his father, William will not become king until 2048. No credible social scientist can tell you for sure what public attitudes will be to anything by then, be it the royal family, climate change, or racial equality.

The fact that the king and his heir have already said things on all of these issues will dramatically undermine their ability to remain neutral on such issues in the future, which is expected of the sovereign, however serious the matter.

The fact is that their perceived opinions on each of these issues, even if based on previous comments, will continue to influence public opinion and, in turn, policy. If Williams’ gloomy look at the BBC leads more Brits to think public funds should be siphoned off in the years to come, how will politicians respond to that pressure?

The monarchy no longer had to deal with these questions, because as long as Elizabeth sat on the throne, the public image of the family and its role was largely stable.

That era is really over. Now Charles and William must navigate less safe times, balancing old and new views of who they are against the pressures of being an apolitical leader. And unlike Elizabeth, they do so knowing that the popularity they rely on will be less guaranteed than at any point in the longest-serving monarch’s 70-year reign.

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