Charles Philip Arthur George, the Prince of Wales before the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, is now officially known as King Charles III. He was born on November 14,1948, and is the first-born son of Elizabeth and Philip. As monarch, the 73-year-old grandfather of five will serve as the king of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth sovereign states.
Described by biographers as a sensitive man, it is said that he is a keen gardener and enjoys tending to the organic garden in his countryside manor. He is also believed to be a skilled watercolour painter and has interests in traditional countryside practices such as hedge laying. As a young man, commentators say he did not have much in common with his parents, relations of which would improve as he got older. He studied in Britain and Australia, reading archaeology, anthropology and history at Trinity College, Cambridge in the late 1960s before becoming a Royal Air Force pilot.
Conducting royal service since the late 1970s, he was 30 years old when he married a shy 19-year-old nursery teacher named Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.Prince Charles was with the Queen at Balmoral facing the sad reality the death of his beloved mother would lead to the greatest transition of his life. Charles, 73, now King Charles, has been next in line to the throne for seven decades by a distance the longest wait in the history of the British monarchy. Neither he nor his courtiers have ever wished to speak publicly about the moment it is over.
The prospect of the Queen’s death has always been considered a matter of great private sadness. He never wanted to think about accession because it meant the death of his mother but with the Queen’s doctors voicing concern for her health and her other children and grandchildren scrambling to be with her.
The role of heir that has defined Charles’s life since the age of three, when his mother acceded to the throne in 1952, appeared to be drawing nearer. A new, inevitably shorter, chapter of Charles’s life will begin. Becoming monarch of the United Kingdom and 14 Commonwealth realms from Canada to Australia will allow him to answer a question that has followed him for decades: after a lifetime of outspoken interventions in public life, what kind of king will he be? In the immediate days he faces the twin challenges of personal bereavement and leading the nation in mourning. He will be focused on the personal and the family, but for the palaces it will be a question of the right things to say and do that lead the nation in mourning but also establish the first steps of the new reign. Charles, they added, had a deep emotional facility with bereaved people, which they predicted would serve him and the country well in any period of mourning.
The focus of attention was squarely on the family as the Queen’s children and grandchildren gathered around the Queen. The Duke of Cambridge, who is in line to become the Prince of Wales and first in line to the throne, rushed from Berkshire to Balmoral, while Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, remained in Windsor to take care of their children, George, Charlotte and Louis, who had their first full day at their new school. Now his father has become king, the Duke of Cambridge will also take on the responsibility, and multimillion-pound income, of the Duchy of Cornwall estates. In June he gave a very personal address to his mummy at a celebration of her platinum jubilee outside Buckingham Palace. After Queen death Prince William said, I’m ready to accept more responsibility from the Queen Guardian.
The younger members of the family have increasingly taken on royal duties. William and Kate have increased their profile, stepping into formal roles at the request of the Queen. For example the Duke of Cambridge last year took on the role of lord high commissioner and opened the general assembly of the Church of Scotland. Charles will take over a role meant to represent stability in times of change, at a time of great political and social flux. But with decades of active duty as the Prince of Wales behind him he will hope to rise to that task.
Not least, despite his age he will represent a different generation to the Queen, becoming the first British monarch to have gone to school. The new king has met scores of foreign leaders, interacted with numerous British governments and established a network of charities and causes that have plugged him into at least some of the concerns of ordinary British people and led him into conflict with others.
He turned his own court into a kind of grand salon for convening the powerful gathering business leaders, faith leaders and politicians to tackle issues ranging from sustainability to urban renewal. His views on alternative medicines, architectural style and farming have sometimes led to clashes with other parts of civic society, but he has cast himself as a kind of tribune of the people reflecting, he believes, the views of the quiet majority.
In 2014, one courtier who has known Charles for many years asked by the Guardian to suggest what kind of king he will be, said: He will be true to his beliefs in his contributions. Rather than a complete reinvention to become a monarch in the mould of his mother, the strategy will be to try and continue with his heartfelt interventions, albeit checking each for tone and content to ensure it does not damage the monarchy.
As recently as June, amid reports Charles had expressed views opposing the UK government’s policy on deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, Clarence House issued a statement saying he would remain politically neutral as monarch. A future climate king takes over at an uncertain time for the United Kingdom and the world. At the COP26 climate conference last year in Glasgow, Scotland, then-Prince Charles warned world leaders that they must adopt a war-like footing to deal with the global threat of climate change and biodiversity loss. Charles has made similar pleas since and in the years before; he has championed environmental causes since it was a bit unusual for someone in his public position to do so.
And now, he may be among the most prominent figures to take up the cause, as he ascends the throne following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. The queen died 8th September Thursday, at Balmoral, a royal estate in Scotland. The palace earlier in the day had taken the unusual step of putting out a statement saying The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. She was 96 years old. Charles is now officially King Charles III. The coronation the crowning ceremony for the new sovereign won’t happen for a number of months, but his status as king is already set.
As king, Charles is also Britain’s head of state, as well as the head of state for other countries in the Commonwealth Realm who still recognize the monarch, including Australia, Canada, and the Bahamas. In 2018, the queen also named Charles the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, which is the United Kingdom plus a group of 53 countries that have cultural or political ties to it, including as part of its former empire.
Charles has been the longest serving heir-apparent, and his positions, causes, and scandals have been scrutinized his entire life.
Though Charles has taken on more and more royal duties in recent months, it does not change the momentousness of this succession. There will be moments of uncertainty, and those uncertain moments will be in every field where the monarch has a position. There will be uncertainty politically, uncertainty perhaps culturally, perhaps uncertainty socially. And King Charles will begin his reign at an uncertain time for Great Britain and the world. The United Kingdom has left the European Union, and is trying to establish its position in the world in the aftermath of Brexit. Brexit is testing the unity of the kingdom itself, just as a new prime minister, Liz Truss, has stepped into office amid inflation, energy crises, and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The British monarchy has always been a tool of soft power, both within the country and without. Charles, after waiting 70 years in the wings, is likely to have his own views on how he can use his soft power and influence. His public record may offer some clues as to how he will rule, but so might the institution of the monarchy itself. The reason the monarchy has survived is by constantly searching out new roles for itself, said Ed Owens, a historian of the modern British monarchy. And this may be the guiding principle for the new king: making sure the monarchy survives. King Charles’s succession is monumental, in part because it took so long for it to happen.
Queen Elizabeth has ruled for an entire generation. She has helped the nation weather all of these crises over the last seven decades, and so their identity, British national identity, is really wrapped up in the figure of Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth ruled during the decolonization of large swaths of Africa and the Caribbean, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the end of the Cold War, the 2008 financial crisis, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and more. Elizabeth took the throne at a young age, being as much shaped by the role as she shaped it.
The writer is a researcher and columnist. He can be contacted at [email protected]