Upon the death of his mother on September 8 2022, King Charles III immediately ascended the British throne as the 40th monarch in history counting from William the Conqueror. He becomes the Head of the Commonwealth – comprising 56 independent countries, 15 of which he is the head of state. His role comes with great expectations – a burden even, especially at a time when many question the relevance of a political monarchy which by nature does not suit a modern democratic setting. It is expected, therefore, that King Charles will strive to demonstrate the relevance of his stool to his subjects and to the external world. Here, we take a tour into the King’s political/public lifestyle, his approach towards racism and climate change as an attempt to predict what to expect during the reign of the longest-serving Prince of Wales and the first heir to the British throne to receive a university degree.
On a political/public note, King Charles before ascending the throne was the Prince of Wales, a title specifically bestowed on the heir apparent to the British throne by the sovereign – in this case, the Queen while she lived. When Charles arrived in Wales, he faced visible opposition but this rather revealed the true qualities he had in leadership, for he became the epitome of hard work and showed genuine affection for the country. Soon, he won over even his critics. Also, as Prince, Charles had reportedly launched the Prince’s Trust with his £7,500 navy severance pay – a charity which had helped more than a million disadvantaged youngsters by the time of his accession to the throne.
Even though the circumstances surrounding Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan almost ruined his perceived good parenting style, it is said that Charles had been a better parent by far compared to his own parents. He had been an active presence in the lives of his children.
The King’s time as Prince of Wales was not without its controversies. Newshub writes of some of the scandals attributed to the King including reportedly dodgy donations made by Charles and accusations of his attempt to influence the British Government in 2015. As King and having advanced considerably in age, it is hoped that the scandals, if they happened, would be put aside and the true leadership potential would take over. Obviously, the British and the whole world will now more than ever watch the King’s excesses carefully.
On the question of racism, Marca gave a glimpse into King Charles’ racist tendencies, especially towards Meghan. In 2021 during Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the pair admitted that Meghan had been criticised by a member of the Royal Family for her skin tone. Marca cited Christopher Anderson’s book ‘Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan’ to have revealed the source of the ‘offensive remark to be Charles’. It says that Charles had asked his wife Camilla what she anticipated the offspring of Harry and Meghan to look like. “Gorgeous of course”, Camilla had replied. But the King insisted he wasn’t talking about beauty. “I mean, what do you think the complexion of their children will be like?” he asked. While the accusations had been said to be fictitious by his office, it will nevertheless take more than that to relieve him of the burden of proving to be non-racist. This is especially because many observed during the period of Queen Elizabeth’s death that King Charles exchanged pleasantries with only the White, excluding the Blacks who also came to offer their condolences. Patrick Vernon hopes that the King may prove these wrong by proving he has a black antecedent in Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. Patrick says that it would be nice if as part of the king’s engagement with black communities, he gives them a sense of belonging by saying “I too have Black ancestors”. It is difficult to say that would be enough even for the King.
An ardent environmentalist, it is said that Charles is keen on environmental preservation and organic farming. In fact, he was outspoken on climate change long before the subject became common worldwide. At a time when climate change has had its negative toll on every country on earth, especially those on the African continent, the King’s enthusiasm in this line is delightful. It evidences that one key contribution of his reign to the British people and the world at large will be lasting solutions to the climate question.
In conclusion, I believe that no responsibility is without its challenges. This point in King Charles III’s life presents many of these challenges and expectations but like Patrick Vernon, I wish the King well. “It is a new era. He will be many things the Queen was not, but he will have to work to gain the affection there was for her.” I hope he gets it right a second time.