Long in the Queen’s shadow, Charles takes on a bigger public role
It’s good to be queen.
No one knows this better than Queen Elizabeth II, who shows no signs of stepping down after 70 years on the throne. But the aging sovereign is giving Prince Charles an increasingly important role, delegating more responsibilities to his eldest son and heir.
This became evident last month when Charles, 73, accompanied by his wife, Camilla, presided over the State Opening of Parliament, one of the monarch’s most important duties.
The subtle transition illustrates the challenges facing the Royal Family as the 96-year-old Queen remains on the throne but Charles becomes the increasingly public face of the monarchy. As Britain celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this week, the Royal Family is working to cement the position of a sometimes misunderstood heir and demonstrate that the House of Windsor will live.
“Charles and Camilla are a question mark for the future when it comes to the monarchy,” said Robert Lacey, royal historian and adviser to Netflix series ‘The Crown’. “But we’re not in the state we thought we were 20 years ago, when the prospect of Charles taking the throne looked like a major challenge. And I think it’s fair to say that the monarchy is straddling British affections with more power today…than she has had for many decades.
Much of this is due to Elizabeth, who on her 21st birthday pledged to serve Britain and the Commonwealth for the rest of her life. The queen shows her firm intention to keep this promise.
But her travel issues force her to be more selective in her public engagements and open a door for Charles, who has spent the past three decades trying to navigate the fallout from the messy breakdown of his marriage to the ever-popular Princess Diana. .
It took years for many Britons to forgive Charles, whose admitted infidelity and longstanding ties to Camilla torpedoed his relationship with Diana, known as ‘the people’s princess’ for her ability to connect with the public in a way that her husband never could. The glamorous young mother of Prince William and Prince Harry died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, five years after her split from Charles.
But the public mood has softened since Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.
Now known as the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, 74, has taken on roles in over 100 charities, focusing on promoting literacy, supporting victims of domestic abuse, helping the elderly and other issues.
With a down-to-earth style and a sense of humor, she ended up winning over many Britons. Its warmth softened Charles’ sweltering image and made him look more relaxed, if not happier, as he cut ribbons, unveiled plaques and performed the often mundane tasks of royal duty.
Earlier this year, the Queen sought to bolster the couple’s position by expressing her ‘sincere wish’ that Camilla would be known as ‘Queen Consort’ when Charles becomes king. Elizabeth’s words dismissed arguments that the relationship’s history should relegate Camilla to a lower status, turning her from house wrecker to bride-to-be with the stroke of a pen.
Charles, meanwhile, was ready to step in whenever necessary, especially when he presided over the opening of Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech, setting out the government’s legislative programme.
The event is a symbol of the monarch’s constitutional role as head of state of the United Kingdom and is accompanied by ceremonies and pageantry passed down through the centuries to demonstrate the strength of British political institutions.
The choreography of the time put forward an absent but always present queen. His throne was removed, but in its place the imperial crown of the state sat on a cushion. Charles wore the uniform of a Fleet Admiral – rather than sweeping ermine robes.
“Prince Charles is the oldest heir we have ever had,” said Robert Hardman, author of “Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II.” “He’s here. He’s ready to do whatever needs to be done if the queen can’t be there. But, you know, she took an oath that she was going to rule for her life. And that’s how it is. let her see him.
Because Charles has been waiting in the wings for so long, his passions are well known.
For example, he began campaigning for environmental causes long before they became mainstream concerns. He has been accused of meddling in politics, something the monarch is forbidden from, by speaking out on property developments he opposed and other issues.
On a recent trip to Canada, he delved into a very charged issue, acknowledging the “pain and suffering” suffered by Indigenous communities who had children abducted and abused in state-sponsored residential schools.
This may be the shape of things to come.
Emily Nash, the royal editor of HELLO! magazine, said Charles is engaged with people around the world, especially on the issue of climate change.
“It’s basically about working collaboratively to try to make things better for future generations,” Nash said. “And that’s something Prince Charles is absolutely passionate about.”
Tiwa Adebayo, 23, a journalist and blogger, says the royal family needs to speak out more on issues like this, speaking out on topics like inequality and immigration, if the monarchy is to be relevant in the future. She cited the Dutch royal family as a role model for the future.
“I think that’s the kind of monarchy we want,” she said. “And so that kind of not getting involved in politics, but getting involved in politics, not getting too involved in societal issues but speaking out when it’s appropriate, I don’t think that’s going to really fly more.”
For now, Charles has acknowledged that he can be a little less stuffy in public, more approachable even. Nowhere is this more evident than in a special jubilee appearance on a soap opera.
Charles and Camilla will surprise residents at a street party to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on the long-running BBC show EastEnders. In a clip shown after a recent episode, revelers are told ‘You have to see this mystery guest’ – before the royal couple pull up in a car next to The Queen Vic pub.
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