King Charles III: The royal family a year after Elizabeth’s death

Sitting at a timber desk in London’s St James’s Palace during his proclamation ceremony on September 10 last year, something was bothering the new British King.

It was two days after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and many commentators were speculating how King Charles III would take on the mammoth role after so many years in the wings.

Would he be as unflappable as his mother?

For the 73-year-old’s critics, that question seemed to be quickly answered through two “stationery” incidents in the sombre days leading up to the Queen’s funeral.

The first was at that palace desk, as Charles pantomimed a look of menace toward an aide about a stationery tray that had encroached on his personal space.

Three days later in another palatial estate, he virally melted down over a malfunctioning fountain pen.

“Oh God, I hate this [pen]!” Charles said as he handed the leaking object to his patient wife, Camilla.

“I can’t bear this bloody thing … every stinking time.”

After seven decades of unruffled rule under QEII, was a flappable King in the castle?

Not quite, going by the first 12 months of Charles’ tenure (and consider his stationery tantrums came during an exhausting period of duties since his beloved mum’s death).

Despite some predictions that the monarchy’s foundations would crumble with the passing of Elizabeth, a recent UK poll shows that nearly two out of three Britons think the former Prince of Wales is doing a “good job”.

The same YouGov poll found that 62 per cent of Britons feel the UK should continue to have a monarchy.

What then, has Charles III done in his first year that has kept the Poms so pleased?

Steady hand

According to the UK Times, a source said that Charles was “surprised” at the heavy workload that came with being handed the keys to the kingdom, and so he decided he would be a “steady-as-she-goes” monarch.

Australian royal expert Giselle Bastin sees the wisdom of that approach.

“Charles would not want to make any dramatic gestures at this early stage in his reign,” Dr Bastin, an associate professor at Flinders University and British royals researcher, told TND.

“As he would want some of the focus to remain on his late mother.”

Indeed, his latest outing – at the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering in Scotland on September 2 – was a festival his mother enjoyed attending.

“It’s great that the royal family has carried on this tradition,” said Peter Fraser, president of the Braemar Royal Highland Society.

No politics

As promised, Charles has also steered clear of politics.

“He’s been very quiet on public issues since becoming king,” notes Dr Bastin.

Such issues include climate change, to which, as the Prince of Wales, Charles brought much valuable awareness.

But “he’d be aware that the British people, and the parliament in particular, would be watching to make sure that he honours his role as a constitutional monarch and does not meddle in public affairs [or] affairs of state,” Dr Bastin said.

Popularity by stealth

Instead, Charles and Camilla have remained “decidedly low key in the way they are presenting themselves,” Dr Bastin said.

And going by the polls, that approach has scored them points.

“Charles would be well aware of the enormous popularity of his mother and the considerable legacy that she left behind,” Dr Bastin said.

“And he wouldn’t want to be seen as trying to compete with that in any way.”

Faulty spare

Popularity hasn’t been a concern, but the King has inherited some internal issues.

Four months after the Queen’s passing, came the first “Harry” bomb under Charles’ reign – the release of his son’s explosively critical and awkwardly revealing memoir, Spare.

In his first speech as King, Charles expressed his “love” for his younger son Harry and wife Meghan, who moved to the US in 2020, leaving behind their royal lives.

However, “There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of a lot of effort behind the scenes to repair the relationship,” said British royals expert Cindy McCreary, an associate professor with the University of Sydney’s Department of History.

“Maybe that is going on, but you would think that that sort of effort would be leaked, if it was in fact happening.”

Bigger problem?

On the other hand, the King appears to be trying to repair the public image of his brother, Prince Andrew – friend of the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

In late August, the 63-year-old prince was photographed in a car with the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, as the family headed to church at Balmoral, before the first anniversary of the Queen’s death.

It led to speculation the King was bringing Andrew, who settled a sexual assault lawsuit for reportedly £12 million (despite vehemently denying the accusations) and was stripped of his royal duties and military and HRH titles by the Queen, back into the royal fold.

“There is this very public effort to rehabilitate Andrew,” Dr McCreary told TND.

“And that does seem to be inconsistent, and it seems very odd.”

What about Us?

For some, it was also an oddity for the King not to visit his Commonwealth subjects in his first year.

But Dr McCreary speculates that while the late queen ruled with a global approach after taking on the role aged 25, the King, given the age he came to the throne, is “probably avoiding long-haul travel”.

And his apparent focus on his homeland could be another factor driving up his approval in the UK.

“I think we need to think about how he views his role as King of the United Kingdom versus his role as King in the Commonwealth realms, places like Australia,” Dr McCreary said.

“I think it’s very clear that he’s put much more emphasis on the former rather than the latter. And I think that that will continue.”

Still, Rob Jobson, the royal editor of London’s Evening Standard, is critical of the King’s decision not to venture far and wide.

“I’d say the palace made a mistake by not going to visit Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the first year,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Otherwise, the poll has spoken – after decades in waiting, King Charles III has so far passed muster.

As a friend told the Times: “He seems really happy and comfortable in his own skin, which hasn’t always been the case.”

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