What next for the new king?

The challenges facing Charles and William in their new roles

Under the invasive and unforgiving eyes of the world’s television cameras, and a couple of minor displays of petulance aside, King Charles III negotiated the immensely challenging and highly emotional period between the passing of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral, with grace and dignity. And in the circumstances, those small displays of ill-temper – both when he was attempting to sign documents of state – were entirely forgivable. He may be our new king, but he’d just lost his much-loved mum. So, through incredibly trying moments, and mostly in full public view, His Majesty made an admirable and well-received start to his reign. But what next? Will Charles III be the continuity king or a meddling monarch? Ascending the throne at the age of 73 assures that his reign will never compare to his mother’s in terms of longevity. But he knows that the UK and Commonwealth has already moved on from what became known as the “New Elizabethan Age”, and that however long his time in the top job lasts, if the monarchy is to survive and thrive through the twenty-first century and beyond, he must instigate and where possible, see through, important changes. Where, then, does the new king begin and what should be his priorities?

King Charles III has already indicated that he favours a slimmed-down monarchy, which in the main is likely to find favour with his subjects. Huge displays of public support and love for the Royal Family were clearly evident after Queen Elizabeth’s passing, but there are republican voices and sentiments out there too – though they were little seen or heard during that period. And even the staunchest of royalists are not immune from the current cost-of-living crisis, which is unlikely to end in the near future, so many will welcome cutbacks on the spending of public money on barely recognised royals. And talking of money, Charles III, already incredibly wealthy, has inherited hundreds of millions from Queen Elizabeth. He will pay zero tax on that inheritance, whereas the rest of us would pay 40 per cent. Might the offer of a voluntary contribution to the nation’s tax coffers cheer his hard-up subjects? Then there’s all that real-estate, the numerous palaces, castles and other homes. Does he really need them all? He’s reckoned to hate Buckingham Palace, apparently all the royals do. Its only publicly significant function is for those balcony photoshoots on royal occasions, and they’ll never seem the same without the late Queen centre stage – or balcony. So, what to do with it?

Pull it down and rebuild? One of Charles’ main interests is architecture; why not oversee the creation of a new purpose built, royal mews housing complex for London’s most needy? What a legacy. Then there’s the environment, another cause close to the King’s heart. How can he help most? He’ll certainly want to. Then of course, looming large, is the massive question of the potential break-up of the Commonwealth? So much to do, and so little time.

And for the next king?

They are undoubtedly popular, perhaps, now that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is no longer with us, the most popular of all the royals. The handsome young prince (well, not quite so young anymore as he reaches his forties), his beautiful princess and their three adorable children, especially the youngest, that mischievous little Louis. As Mary Poppins might say, they’re “practically perfect” – a dream for the hard-pressed Buckingham Palace PR team, more accustomed in recent years to handling tricky queries relating to more controversial princes. But with his dad becoming King Charles III, controversies regarding William, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the British throne, have already begun to emerge. To begin with, there’s that title – Prince of Wales. It’s been a massive issue in Wales for centuries. Since 1301 the title has been held exclusively by Englishmen and is seen by many as a symbol of historical oppression. When Charles was invested Prince of Wales in 1969, aged just 20, there were plenty of opposing voices. He left Cambridge for a term and went instead to Aberystwyth University, to study all things Welsh and have a bash at learning the language. Initially the move didn’t go well, with protesters holding up “Go Home” signs on his arrival. And though he gradually won over many critics, the simmering discontent has bubbled away ever since. So, what does Wills do to sooth the critics, bearing in mind that his uni days are long past and that thousands have already signed a new petition calling for an end to the Prince of Wales title? Uproot the family and move to Wales? Unlikely, but if he really wants to be an involved and committed prince of the Principality then maybe it’s worth considering. Even part-time?

Then there’s another inherited royal title, although this time it’s not the title that raises questions, but the income that goes with it. The new Prince of Wales also became the 25th Duke of Cornwall following the king’s accession to the throne, and with that comes an annual income of around £23m a year. The Duchy of Cornwall estate is valued at over £1 billion and is one of the largest and oldest in Britain. It extends across 23 counties and includes the Oval cricket ground and 67,000 acres of Dartmoor. William is entitled to the annual surplus generated by the Duchy’s portfolio, comprising buildings, land and financial investments. He previously spoke of his passion for farming in a television interview, so will no doubt be involved with elements of the Duchy’s business. But that huge income he receives may well anger some cash-strapped Brits battling the massive cost-of-living crisis. And what about the continuing feud with Harry? As big brother, should William be the one to hold out the hand of friendship and say, “Come on, bro, we can get over this and be buddies again?” Worth a try? It could help the PR.

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