Queen paved the way for the transition to Charles in later years
In retrospect, it seems like she was grooming us from the start.
Whether due to age, ill health or a sense that the end was near, Queen Elizabeth II has spent much of the last two years working things out, trying to ensure that the family business would continue to operate after his death.
The transition started slowly, with the Queen handing over more public duties to her son and heir, the current King Charles III, as she entered her twilight years. But it kicked into high gear in 2022 as Elizabeth celebrated 70 years on the throne. She first expressed her wish that Charles’ wife Camilla be known as Queen Consort after her death, and then the future King took center stage for four days of Platinum Jubilee festivities.
“Elizabeth II was laying the groundwork for the succession,” said historian Ed Owens. “We have seen many more Charles over the last 10 years replacing his mother in a number of key situations at key public events. And that, I think, was partly intentional in that the monarch… wanted his son to naturally gravitate into the limelight, to make it look as good as possible like a smooth transition .
Charles’ increased role began gradually as the Queen began to cut back on long-haul flights, prompting the then Prince of Wales to take his place at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2013 in Sri Lanka.
The Queen became head of the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 independent countries with ties to the former British Empire, when she ascended the throne and defended her role in world affairs throughout her reign.
In 2018, Elizabeth expressed her “sincere wish” that Charles would follow her as head of the Commonwealth and its leaders agreed.
The previous year, Charles represented the Queen at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony to honor the nation’s war dead, laying the monarch’s crown at the foot of the Cenotaph in London. It was the first time the Queen had not performed the solemn ritual, marked by columns of aging veterans marching past the monument, except when she was pregnant or abroad.
But what had been a subtle change became more evident after the coronavirus pandemic led Elizabeth to seek refuge at Windsor Castle outside London and the death of her husband Prince Philip reminded the nation queen mortality.
This was underscored by the image of Elizabeth, her face hidden behind a black mask, sitting alone in St George’s Chapel as she mourned the loss of the man who had been her ‘strength and stability’ during over 73 years old.
On the anniversary of her accession to the throne in February, the Queen decided to end the long-running controversy over Charles’s wife status.
Camilla has been a divisive figure in Britain because her long-term relationship with Charles was blamed for the breakdown of his first marriage to much-loved Princess Diana. The mother of Princes William and Harry died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, five years after her messy split from Charles.
When Charles married Camilla in 2005, he made it known that he wanted his wife to become queen when he took the throne. Diana fans objected, saying it would dishonor the princess.
But public attitudes towards Camilla, 75, have warmed in recent years as she has taken on roles in more than 100 charities, focusing on issues ranging from literacy to domestic violence. His down-to-earth style and sense of humor softened Charles’ stuffy image and made him seem more relaxed.
When the Queen weighed in on February 6, she obliquely acknowledged that her reign would come to an end.
“When, in time, my son Charles becomes king, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support you have given me,” she said. “And I sincerely hope that, when the time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her loyal service.”
Late last year Elizabeth was seen using a cane for the first time, and in April she revealed a bout with COVID-19 had left her ‘very tired and exhausted’ .
In May, the Queen delegated one of her most important public duties to Charles, asking him to preside over the State Opening of Parliament and deliver the annual Queen’s Speech setting out the government’s legislative agenda.
The event is a symbol of the monarch’s constitutional role as head of state and comes with centuries of tradition aimed at demonstrating the strength of British political institutions.
At the time of the Platinum Jubilee, the Palace advised that the Queen’s ongoing “mobility issues” would limit her role.
Instead, Charles took center stage.
He donned full military uniform to review the troops in the Queen’s birthday parade, sat in a position of honor at the front of St Paul’s Cathedral for a service celebrating her reign and greeted her mother at a gala concert, appearing with Camilla By her side.
After his death, Charles and Camilla were warmly greeted by crowds of mourners outside Buckingham Palace, with the new monarch shaking hands and chatting with well-wishers who burst into a chorus of ‘God Save the King”.
The reaction and Charles’ first days in his new role suggest the public is, at least for now, on board, former BBC royal correspondent Michael Cole said outside the palace this week.
“Look at the thousands of people who came here of their own free will,” he said, waving his hand at the crowd. “They are not transported by bus. They are not ordered to be here. They are not given little flags to wave. It’s not North Korea. This is not a parade for Putin in Red Square. These people came to express their respect for the dead queen and to show, a big word, affection.
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