In Depth

What kind of king may Prince Charles be?

Concerns raised about whether Prince of Wales would continue to interfere in politics as monarch

“I hope I did you proud, Mummy,” said The Sun’s splash after Prince Charles stepping in for the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament this week.  

The monarch missed the ceremony for the first time in 59 years on the advice of doctors, leaving her clearly “emotional” eldest son to deliver the Queen’s Speech on her behalf, “in a historic change to protocol”, the paper reported.  

The Prince of Wales’ presence in the House of Lords on Tuesday “was a striking visual moment in an ongoing transition of power”, said The Washington Post. And as “Britain’s longest-waiting king-in-waiting” got his “moment in the spotlight”,  the paper added, “it was possible to glimpse what he might be like as king”.

‘Championing issues’

As king, Charles “is likely to continue championing issues he has already been passionate about”, said The Telegraph.

Climate change is expected to remain high on the 73-year-old prince’s agenda. At the opening ceremony of last year’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Charles delivered a speech calling for urgent action and warning that time had “quite literally run out”.

And in a pre-recorded address last month to the Our Ocean Conference, hosted by the US and the Republic of Palau, he warned that “we are quite literally poisoning ourselves” through pollution. 

His outspoken stance on environmental issues has been praised by campaigners, but concerns have also been raised about how that commitment fits with his royal duties. “Wonder how Prince Charles felt about reading out a #QueensSpeech with big fat zero in it on environment…” tweeted former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas following Tuesday’s ceremony.

‘Heartfelt interventions’

Over the years, several government ministers have been on the receiving end of private letters sent by Charles – nicknamed the “black spider memos” because of his characteristic handwriting – about topics ranging from farming to grammar schools. 

Such interventions have earned the prince a reputation for being meddlesome, in contrast to the Queen, who has been praised “for almost completely keeping out of public debates on political matters”, said The Guardian in 2014. 

Royal insiders told the paper that Charles wanted to reshape the monarch’s role and make “heartfelt interventions” in national life as king. “He will be true to his beliefs and contributions,” said one source.

‘Slimmed-down monarchy’

Royal experts have suggested that as king, Charles might seek to reduce the ranks of the Royal Family. “There’s this sense that Charles wants a slimmed-down monarchy to make sure that everybody is doing their bit and [there are] no so-called hangers-on,” said The Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey in her Royal Insight video series. 

Speculation is rife about who might make the final cut. “We can expect Camilla to take a leading role, as is customary from the monarch’s spouse,” said Marie Claire. “As for the rest of the Royals, the future heir Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge will almost certainly retain their current roles.”

Looking further to the future, three of Charles’ grandchildren – George, Charlotte and Louis, currently third, fourth and fifth in line to the throne respectively – are also likely to take on increasing royal responsibilities.

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