Charles will be a good king. But he shouldn't try to imitate ElizabethTHE NEW RULER SERVED A LONG APPRENTICESHIP DURING HIS MOTHER'S REIGN, BUT MANY DIFFICULTIES LOOM ON THE HORIZON. THE BRITISH PEOPLE, HOWEVER, HAVE CONFIDENCE IN HIM
by Justin Frosini, associate professor at Department of Legal Studies
“Unswerving commitment” and “unflinching dedication” are just two of the many expressions that have been used to define Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign. The great esteem and deep affection that Britons (and not only) had for the Queen were clearly demonstrated by the interminable queues outside Westminster Hall, the crowds along the streets of London and the over 4 billion people across the globe who watched the State Funeral. But now that the period of National Mourning has ended many people are uncertain as to what the future holds for the United Kingdom under the reign of King Charles III and under the rule of newly appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss.
Said very bluntly King Charles will not be able to emulate the Queen and indeed, if he holds dear the Monarchy, he shouldn’t try to do so. He is succeeding a giant and he will never reach his mother’s levels of soft power. He must reign the country with a different style, but of course the new King’s path is strewn with a good number of obstacles. First and foremost, the Monarch must endeavour to keep any family feuds out of the limelight. Prince Andrew’s appearance at the State Funeral should be his last. One of the few protests against the Royals during the National Mourning consisted of a man heckling Prince Andrew as the Queen’s hearse travelled through Edinburgh. Andrew has already tainted the Monarchy enough. Charles must also handle the relationship with his son Harry and his daughter-in-law Meghan with great care. News has it that Prince Harry has decided to postpone the publication of his memoirs until 2023 possibly to remove those pages that are most critical towards his father, stepmother and brother. This could be seen as a token of good will on the part of the fifth in line to the throne, but the tabloids will be constantly on the lookout for more royal scandals that could embarrass the King.
Stepping outside the circle of the Royal Family we can expect some changes to take place among the 14 Commonwealth countries that still have the monarch as their titular head of state. In the next few years we will almost certainly see some of these nations holding referendums in order to become republics. Indeed, minutes after signing a document confirming Charles III’s status as the new King, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda said he would push for such a referendum so as “to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation”. Some observers have even suggested that Charles might pass the leadership of the Commonwealth to one of the other 55 countries.
While Charles’ stance on environmental issues could help him to resonate with younger generations he must be very careful to remain politically neutral especially in his weekly meetings with the Prime Minister. From a constitutional perspective, on these occasions the King will be able express his views and provide advice, but the Prime Minister will not be under any obligation to follow it. If King Charles wants to avoid drawing the Monarchy into controversy he must be perceived as being above politics and impartial when it comes to performing his main constitutional functions. His mother was of course an epitome of political impartiality, whereas Charles has been criticized in the past for his involvement in controversial issues with a political dimension. In 2005 a journalist of the Guardian requested the release of correspondence concerning environmental issues between the then Prince and various ministers which ended up being resolved in court nearly a decade later. There must be no repetition of this otherwise the King could provoke a constitutional crisis.
Of course, there are plenty of clouds looming on the horizon for the United Kingdom, but it will be the task of Liz Truss and her Cabinet to meet these many challenges. And here, in theory, King Charles starts out with an enormous advantage. According to the international research data and analytics group YouGov three quarters of the British people think that Charles has provided good leadership in the aftermath of the Queen’s death, and three in five expect him to be a good king. On the contrary, still according to YouGov, Truss’ popularity stands at 21% and nearly half the nation thinks she will be worse than every other premier going back to Margaret Thatcher. The National Mourning undoubtedly brought Britons together and made the United Kingdom worthy of its name, but one cannot gloss over the fact that the aftermath of the pandemic and Brexit has left the UK with a lot of scars. The country has deep territorial tensions – Scotland wants to give independence another try and the Northern Ireland Government is on hold due to the deadlock concerning the Protocol; the Johnson years have deepened public mistrust of politics; the pandemic has revealed the need for more resources to be invested in the once sacred NHS and of course the new recession and galloping inflation will pose a serious challenge to a Tory Prime Minister who campaigned on a platform of low taxation, but has now pledged to find £130 billion to freeze the country’s energy bills.
For both King and Prime Minister it will not be smooth sailing.