King Charles III begins his reign with his impartiality in question

Indeed, the most controversial political moments during Elizabeth’s reign arose from the indiscretion of others.

While the letters seemed harmless enough – centered around things like subsidies to farmers and, amusingly, the merits of publishing private letters like these – the fact that the first in line to the throne was so happy to express political views for the former. minister alarmed those who supported the convention that the monarchy is apolitical.

Charles has also controversially advocated the use of public money to provide homeopathy to the UK’s state-funded National Health Service. NHS England said in 2017 that it would no longer fund homeopathy due to the “lack of evidence of its effectiveness did not justify the cost”.

As irrelevant as knowing Charles’ views on these issues might seem at the time, it is worth remembering that for his entire reign we knew virtually nothing of Elizabeth’s personal views, let alone how she felt government funding should be distributed.

“The monarchy has enormous indirect power in that it can influence public opinion on an issue, which is arguably more important than ministerial lobbying,” says Kate Williams, a prominent royal historian and professor of public engagement with history at the University. of the United Kingdom of Reading.

It points to the time when Elizabeth II said that Scottish voters should “think carefully about the future” as they left a church service in Scotland before the referendum in 2014. “Although that isolated comment was likely aimed at being neutral, in the context of the referendum. both sides could argue that it was an endorsement of the denial of independence, ”adds Williams.

Fierce views in the media

The seemingly incompatible mess of a monarch sharing views on such issues while remaining apolitical becomes darker as we move generationally from the late queen.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were, like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, very public mental health activists. William, who will ascend the throne after Charles, has spoken of his own struggles with mental health, particularly after the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

William also used his platform to speak against racism in footballheavily implying at a time when it was a huge controversy in sport supporting players kneeling before matches, an issue that has caused a huge backlash for many football clubs in the UK.

And the now first in line has had a difficult relationship with the British media, particularly the BBC following revelations that one of his reporters, Martin Bashir, had used nefarious methods to secure an interview with his mother when he was extremely vulnerable after her divorce from Carlo.

William, Prince of Wales, guides his brother, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, followed by their cousins ​​before organizing a vigil around the coffin of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, on 17 September 2022.

Right now, support for the monarchy is high. We have witnessed the outpouring of both grief for the late Elizabeth and sympathy for the new king, who takes on the role of her life as her mother cries. But that doesn’t mean support will stay high forever.

What can the world expect from King Charles III?
Charles, in a BBC documentary shot for his 70th birthday in 2018, promised he would not get involved in controversial affairs once he became king. Asked specifically if his campaign would continue, he said, “No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid.”

He added: “I tried to make sure everything I did was not party politician, but I think it’s crucial to remember that there is only room for one ruler at a time, not two. So, you can’t be the same as a ruler. if you are the Prince of Wales or the heir “.

However, the problem facing both the king and his heir is that they cannot put these comments back in the bottle. And the existence of these views will inevitably affect their relationship with the public in the years to follow, as we move away from the era of inscrutable Elizabeth.

That said, republicanism has never been very popular in the UK. Even last week, during official events, the protests were mostly limited to a small group of people, many of whom did little more than hold pieces of paper. A disproportionate reaction from the police, in which some protesters were arrested, led to some media coverage and protests, but did not significantly shift the dial against the royals.

Ability to remain neutral undermined

Elizabeth was a particularly popular monarch. Most public research on the subject shows that older monarchists think their relative silence, with respect to their successors, was dignified and preserved the integrity of the Crown.

Many of these traditional supporters, however, have historically been skeptical of Charles and would prefer him to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

In contrast, the late queen was popular with younger monarchists despite their silence. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but it’s plausibly just a by-product of Elizabeth who has always been on the throne and that young people don’t know the difference.

However, what is also clear is that younger monarchists approve of the royal family speaking out on issues that would previously have been considered too controversial for the queen.

“It’s entirely possible that the generation that thinks royalty should keep their upper lip stiff and not talk about issues like women’s rights and mental health will go extinct,” says Joe Twyman, director of the political research organization Deltapoll.

On September 14, 2022, Prince William, King Charles III, Princess Anne and Prince Harry follow Queen Elizabeth II's coffin during a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.

“For people of a certain generation, the idea of ​​bowing to your grandmother every time you see her just because she’s the queen seems crazy,” he added, referring to the quarrel following Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey last year. in which he described how he sometimes found real life surreal.

This conflict in the precise role of the monarch is important because the institution lives or dies regardless of whether the public thinks it is worth it or not.

When King Charles III ascends the throne, great changes lie ahead for the royal family

It is likely that there will always be traditional monarchists who will defend his every action as long as it does not evolve or modernize. They tend to be the most ardent in support.

However, this group will likely become a minority before William ascends the throne. If Charles lives to 99, as his father did, William will not become king until 2048. No credible social scientist could tell you for sure what public attitudes will be towards anything at that point, be it the royal family. , climate change or racial equality.

The fact that the king and his heir have already said things on all of these issues will dramatically weaken their ability to remain neutral on these issues that will be raised in the future, which, however serious the issue is, is expected of the Sovereign.

The fact is that their perceived views on any of these issues, even if based on past comments, will continue to influence public opinion and therefore politics. If William’s poor view of the BBC leads more Brits to think that public funding should be withdrawn in the years to come, how will politicians respond to this pressure?

The monarchy has not had to face these problems for a long time because, as long as Elizabeth was on the throne, the public view of the family and its role was essentially stable.

That era is truly over. Now, Charles and William must navigate in less certain times, balancing old and new views of who they are against the pressure of being an apolitical head of state. And, unlike Elizabeth, they will do so knowing that the popularity they rely on will be less guaranteed than it was at any point in the 70-year reign of the longest-serving monarch.

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