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THE MOMENT Queen Elizabeth II took her last breath, her son the Prince of Wales immediately became King Charles III. As such, his reign is already over a day old. On Friday, he met with crowds outside Buckingham Palace as their new sovereign. Yet their warm reception and the global outpouring of condolences for the passing of his mother will likely be nothing more than a honeymoon.
An impossible act to follow
Queen Elizabeth II is an almost impossible act to follow. Over the course of her reign, she displayed every necessary characteristic her subjects could ask for; duty, discretion, class, dignity, majesty, empathy, emotional intelligence, and many others. The reaction to her death across Britain and around the world is a testament to how admired she was.As her successor, Charles will inevitably be compared with his mother and will likely fall short. This on its own poses a significant challenge to his sustained popularity as king.
Over the years, Charles was known to be politically opinionated and regularly let his thoughts and feelings slip on a number of issues. He himself has admitted to being an “inveterate interferer and meddler,” a truth exemplified by the release of the “Black Spider Memos” of letters and memorandums he had written to British government officials over the years.
The memos, released in 2015, exposed Charles’s views on everything from climate change and conservation through to education and the military. However, the political impartiality of the modern monarch remains sacrosanct, something that the Queen understood all too well. Any further political expressions will only harm his popularity by either entrenching republican sentiment or making traditional Royalists turn away from him.
When asked in 2018 whether he would continue making political statements, the then Prince replied: “No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid. I do realize that it is a separate exercise as sovereign. So, of course, I understand entirely how that should operate.”
The legacy of Diana
Charles’s relationship with his first wife, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was a source of global controversy that was only exacerbated by her tragic death in a car accident in Paris in 1997. Many people, particularly supporters of Diana, felt that Charles treated her badly and his long-term love affair with his now wife Camilla Parker Bowles meant the marriage was doomed to failure.
In a famous interview given by Diana to BBC Panorama, she remarked that there were “three of us in this marriage” and also questioned his suitability to be king. The late princess’s enduring popularity and resentment towards her husband will forever prove a thorn in the new King’s side and there sadly remains very little he can do about it.
Rising Republican sentiment
Although support for the monarchy has varied over the years, it is likely that many long-term anti-monarchists will use the Queen’s death to push forward their ideas for a British Republic. As of now, there is no realistic mechanism that would lead to the unraveling of the British constitution, although the rise of an open anti-monarchist political party or movement could make this a reality. The British Royal Family continues to rely on the support of the country, and should this begin to waiver it may be fatal.
Keeping the union together
Although inherently a political issue, the very unity of the British state remains under very real threat. Despite a 2014 referendum that its proponents promised would settle the problem for a “generation,” the question of Scottish independence remains ever-present. The country’s autonomous leadership, particularly its First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, continues to pledge a second referendum amid polling data that suggests they may win.
The prospect of a united Ireland is also more likely than ever after republican forces took control in Northern Ireland’s parliament earlier this year. Meanwhile, questions of Welsh and English independence also loom on the horizon. Charles will be unable to have a direct impact on the continued unity of the United Kingdom, although a thriving monarchy will remain its bedrock. Should Charles lose popularity, the strength of independence movements is only like to gain strength.
His own children
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Charles is the behavior of his son Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his American wife Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. Together, the pair have practically threatened to derail the monarchy by giving exclusive interviews involving intimate details about their family life. Although they now live in the United States, their desire to be seen as both celebrities and progressive icons victimized by the British throne has done immense damage to the monarchy and will continue to do so. Unless Charles can keep his son and daughter-in-law under control, then one can expect plenty more controversies over the coming months and years.
Ben Kew is English Editor of El American. He studied politics and modern languages at the University of Bristol where he developed a passion for the Americas and anti-communist movements. He previously worked as a national security correspondent for Breitbart News. He has also written for The Spectator, Spiked, PanAm Post, and The Independent
Ben Kew es editor en inglés de El American. Estudió política y lenguas modernas en la Universidad de Bristol, donde desarrolló una pasión por las Américas y los movimientos anticomunistas. Anteriormente trabajó como corresponsal de seguridad nacional para Breitbart News. También ha escrito para The Spectator, Spiked, PanAm Post y The Independent.