How will King Charles III differ from Queen Elizabeth II?

If his first full day on the throne is any indication, Charles seemed poised to at least chart a slightly different course.

LONDON, UK – As the United Kingdom mourns the loss of a beloved Queen, the nation is already wondering how King Charles III will rule and if his monarchy will deviate from his mother’s traditions.

If his first full day on the throne is any indication, Charles seemed poised to at least chart a slightly different course.

As Charles traveled to Buckingham Palace for the first time as the new king on Friday, his limousine weaved through a sea of ​​onlookers and then stopped briefly outside the palace gates before exiting and shaking hands with well-wishers. Charles looked more like a US President campaigning than the youngest administrator of a 1,000-year-old hereditary monarchy.

It’s not that Queen Elizabeth II didn’t meet her subjects. She often did. But this felt different – a little less formal, a little more relaxed and personal. Charles spent almost 10 minutes greeting people pushing against the crowd control barriers, smiling, waving, accepting condolences and the occasional bouquet of flowers, while the audience erupted in a chorus of “God Save the King.”

After inspecting the tributes to his mother lined up outside the palace, he waved once more and walked through the gates with Camilla, the Queen Consort.

“It was impressive, touching, a good move to step out in front of the crowd,” said Ammar Al-Baldawi, 64, a Hertfordshire pensioner, who was among the crowds outside the palace. “I think that’s where the royal family needs to communicate with people now.”

Charles’ efforts to engage more closely with the public reflect the fact that he needs their support. Tough questions lie ahead, most notably how the 73-year-old king will carry out his role as head of state.

The laws and traditions that govern Britain’s constitutional monarchy dictate that the sovereign must stay out of partisan politics, but Charles has spent much of his adult life speaking out on issues important to him, particularly the environment.

His words have caused friction with politicians and business leaders, who have accused the then-Prince of Wales of meddling in matters on which he should have remained silent.

The question is whether Charles will follow his mother’s lead and tone down his personal opinions now that he’s king, or use his new platform to reach a wider audience.

In his first speech as monarch, Charles tried to calm his critics.

“Obviously my life will change as I take on my new responsibilities,” he said. “I will no longer be able to devote as much of my time and energy to the charities and causes that are so close to my heart. But I know that in the trusting hands of others, this important work will continue.”

Ed Owens, historian and author of “The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932-53,” said that while Charles will tread a cautious path, he’s unlikely to suddenly stop talking about climate change and the environment — issues on which there is a broad consensus about the urgent need for action.

“Not to do so would be inconsistent with the image he’s developed up to this point,” Owens said.

John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate, said he hoped Charles would continue to speak out on climate change as it is a universal issue that does not involve ideology. Kerry was in Scotland this week to meet the Prince of Wales but the meeting was canceled when the Queen died.

“It does not mean that he is involved in the daily fray of politics or speaks for any particular law,” Kerry told the BBC. “But I can’t imagine that he doesn’t feel compelled to use the important role of the monarch, with all his knowledge of it, to speak out and urge the world to do the things the world needs to do.”

Constitutionalists have debated for years whether Charles pushed the boundaries of conventions designed to keep the monarchy out of the political fray.

His so-called Black Spider Memos – named after his spidery handwriting – to government ministers have been cited as evidence that he would not be neutral in dealings with Parliament.

The debate has also spilled over into fiction.

In the 2014 play King Charles III, playwright Mike Bartlett imagines the new king, unsure of his powers and moved by his conscience, causing a constitutional crisis by refusing to pass a new law Sign restriction of freedom of the press.

It is an illustration of the tensions inherent in a system that has evolved from an absolute monarchy to one in which the sovereign plays a largely ceremonial role. While Britain’s unwritten constitution requires laws to receive royal assent before becoming law, this is seen as a formality which the monarch cannot refuse.

In an interview for a documentary aired in 2018 to mark his 70th birthday, Charles said he would behave differently when he becomes king because the monarch has a different role to that of the Prince of Wales.

Still, he challenged the criticism he’d received over the years.

“I’ve always been fascinated if it’s an intrusion, worrying about inner cities like I did 40 years ago and what happened or didn’t happen there, what conditions people lived in,” he marveled. “If that’s interference, I’m very proud of it.”

On another issue facing the new king, Charles has made it clear that he intends to reduce the number of working royals and cut spending to ensure the monarchy better represents modern Britain.

Robert Lacey, a royal historian and advisor to the Netflix series The Crown, said this initiative underscores the important role of Prince William, who is now heir apparent.

William has already made the environment one of his main concerns and he is likely to take on an even more prominent role in that area now that his father is king, Lacey told the BBC.

But there is another clue to the new king’s government plans, and that is his choice of name.

Before Elizabeth’s time, there was a tradition for British monarchs to choose a new name when ascending the throne. For example, Charles’ grandfather was known as Bertie before he became King George VI. There was some thought that Charles would choose the name King George VII in honor of his grandfather.

But Charles rejected the idea and kept his own name. It is a “clear message” that the King will continue to champion the causes he supported as Prince of Wales, Lacey said.

It was his father, Prince Philip, who outlined ways the neutral monarchy could work on youth development and the environment – “really important causes that they could advance without being accused of partisanship,” he said. How will King Charles III differ from Queen Elizabeth II?

Laura Coffey

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