How will King Charles III differ as a monarch?

King Charles III expected to ‘slim down’ monarchy

Prince Charles waving
Prince Charles with Rishi Sunak on a walkabout in south London in May to meet young people supported by The Prince’s Trust Kickstart scheme
(Image credit: Paul Grover – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The reign of King Charles III has begun following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, at the age of 96, but it’s been revealed that Charles has been practising for the role for some time.

The new King was holding weekly audiences with the then prime minister David Cameron when he was heir to the throne, reported The Times. The former Tory PM said that Charles, as the Prince of Wales, “held meetings with him so that he could prepare for the role and think about how he would conduct himself,” the paper said.

Describing Charles’ wait for the throne as the “longest apprenticeship in history”, Cameron told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that the audiences he had with Charles suggested that he would be “brilliant” in the role – “brilliant at listening, brilliant at asking questions, giving wise advice and sage counsel”.

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Cameron was interviewed on the programme along with another former prime minister, Gordon Brown, who told Kuenssberg he believed Charles would definitely change the monarchy.

“I think that what Prince Charles has already indicated is that the monarchy will be smaller. It’s going to be more like a Scandinavian monarchy in the future, but not in a bad way – more informal,” he said.

At 73, the former Prince of Wales is the oldest monarch to ever take the British throne. No monarch “has prepared for the crown longer” in the “millennium-long history” of the Royal Family, said NBC News’ London correspondent Alexander Smith. The reign of Charles “promises to be unlike his mother’s”, Smith added.

‘Championing issues’

As king, Charles “is unlikely to stop fighting for the causes he has championed for decades”, said The Telegraph.

Climate change is expected to remain high on his agenda. At the opening ceremony of last year’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Charles delivered a speech calling for urgent action and warning that time had “quite literally run out”.

And in a pre-recorded address to the Our Ocean Conference, hosted by the US and the Republic of Palau, in April, he warned that “we are quite literally poisoning ourselves” through pollution.

His outspoken stance on environmental issues has been praised by campaigners, but concerns have also been raised about how that commitment fits with his royal duties. “Wonder how Prince Charles felt about reading out a #QueensSpeech with big fat zero in it on environment…” tweeted former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas after the now king stood in for his mother at the State Opening of Parliament in May.

‘Heartfelt interventions’

Over the years, several government ministers have been on the receiving end of private letters sent by Charles – nicknamed the “black spider memos” because of his characteristic handwriting – about topics ranging from farming to grammar schools.

Such interventions earned him a reputation for being meddlesome, in contrast to the Queen, who was “frequently praised” for “almost completely keeping out of public debates on political matters”, said The Guardian in 2014.

But David Cameron told the BBC that he “never felt Charles tried to influence me improperly in any way”.

“I think it is entirely right that the heir to the throne can discuss things with politicians”, he said, adding “many of the causes he took up back in the 60s and 70s might have looked rather fringe but he picked his subject superbly, became an expert in things like climate change and the environment long before politicians.”

Royal insiders told the paper that Charles wanted to reshape the monarch’s role and make “heartfelt interventions” in national life as king. “He will be true to his beliefs and contributions,” said a source.

‘Slimmed-down monarchy’

Charles has inherited the throne after a particularly difficult few years for the Royals. The family has been hit by a string of controversies including sexual assault claims against Prince Andrew and allegations of a cash-for-honours-style affair involving Charles’s charity empire, although there was no suggestion of wrongdoing by him.

As he now takes over the throne, Vox argued that while Charles “may be the climate change king”, he “will also have to grapple with where the institution of the monarchy fits with Britain’s place in the world, and with the very idea of Britishness”.

Insiders have previously suggested that as king, Charles might seek to reduce the ranks of the Royal Family. “There’s this sense that Charles wants a slimmed-down monarchy to make sure that everybody is doing their bit and [there are] no so-called hangers-on,” said The Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey in her Royal Insight video series.

Speculation was rife about who might make the final cut. “We can expect Camilla to take a leading role, as is customary from the monarch’s spouse,” said Marie Claire earlier this year. “As for the rest of the Royals, the future heir Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge will almost certainly retain their current roles.”

Looking further to the future, three of Charles’ grandchildren – George, Charlotte and Louis, now second, third and fourth in line to the throne respectively – are also likely to take on increasing royal responsibilities.

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