Omid Scobie’s new Yahoo UK column this week is about King Charles III, the first weeks of his reign and what the future holds. Scobie says something interesting which I’ve seen repeated by a lot of the right-wing royalist media, which is that Charles is enjoying some kind of bump in popularity because his mum died. Is that true? Like, is there genuinely British polling on it? Or are royal reporters just catching a vibe of “King Charles is super-popular right now!” I also thought Charles’s first two weeks of kinging were kind of shambolic, but that’s because I was mostly paying attention to the fact that he briefed against his son Harry and Meghan the minute QEII died, then he banned Harry (a combat veteran) from wearing a uniform, then he refused to put Lilibet and Archie’s royal titles in the line of succession, plus all of the other petty, passive-aggressive and grossly punitive sh-t he did. That is where we will allow Scobie to take over. Some highlights:
Will Charles make the goodwill last? The public sentiment and goodwill following Her Majesty’s death has seen the new Carolean age off to a strong start, but Charles’ biggest test will be making it last. Unlike the Queen’s near-impeccable reign, her son has stepped into her pristine shoes with mud and all.
Financial impropriety: In the 18 months leading up to this moment, his media coverage was dominated by an ongoing police investigation into allegations of cash for honours scandals linked to his charity, the Prince’s Foundation, that lead to the resignation of the foundation’s CEO. There were also the reports that Charles had accepted significant charitable donations in plastic bags stuffed with cash. While none involved any wrongdoing by the King, the claims raised serious concerns about his personal judgment and put him in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Charles might not have time to carve out a legacy as king: Charles is no doubt hoping for his own successes. Though he is currently enjoying fevered support from monarchists, the question still remains whether he can extend that to the rest of the nation and younger Brits? Recent polls show that Gen-Z and young millennials—many of whom were still moved by the death of the Queen—are less interested in the monarchy than ever. And while it may not appear to be his highest priority, it’s worth pointing out that the elder royalists rushing out to buy commemorative newspapers aren’t going to be around forever.
Charles did try to be progressive: Ultimately, Charles needs to ensure that the monarchy keeps up with the times. In some ways it’s something he has been doing since first taking on royal duties. Whether it’s his focus on environmental activism since the 1960s, his deep interest and presence in Britain’s panoply of faith communities, or the 40 years of charitable contributions the Prince’s Trust has made to disadvantaged youth, even naysayers would be hard pushed to suggest that the King hasn’t tried to be progressive in the best way a sheltered heir can.
Racism & the Sussexes: But there’s room for improvement. The racism that was alleged by the Sussexes still lies in the tall grass it was kicked into and The Firm’s silence during the Black Lives Matter movement is still hard to forget for those it mattered to. And as more of the 14 Commonwealth Realms move towards ditching the monarchy and calling for reparations (an inevitable outcome for countries seeking full de-colonisation), the carefully scripted “personal sorrow” over the slave trade first wheeled out by Charles will continue to not be an acceptable response for the monarchy’s significant role in it. The departure of those realms (Antigua and Barbuda being the most recent to announce plans for a republic referendum) will see the power of the House of Windsor continue to shrink on the world stage.
Charles has to be a friend to multicultural Britain: If anything, the Royal Family will soon need more of the U.K. on its side. For that to work, multicultural Britain has to see an ally in King Charles. A voice unafraid to speak out against the systemic and pervasive racism that impacts so many lives. So far, he’s not done much of that.
An actual downsizing: As the nation falls further into its cost of living crisis, and news of interest rate hikes brings the country closer to a full-blown recession, Charles’ talk of a slimmed down monarchy also won’t be enough. With less royal residences occupied, and royal duties now mostly being carried out by himself, Camilla, three of his siblings and the new Prince and Princess of Wales, the public will need to quickly see how the Royal Family can cost the country less under Charles’ reign.
Sink or swim: It’s a sink or swim moment for the new King, who must quickly adapt to the times we are in and connect with people from all walks of life if he wants success. For if he drowns, it won’t just be him who disappears to the bottom—he’ll be bringing the entire monarchy down with him too.
I genuinely believe that Charles has seen the writing on the wall when it comes to Commonwealth nations dumping the British monarch as their head of state. While Charles paid lip service to the importance of the Commonwealth while his mother was alive (the Commonwealth was one of her big issues), I think Charles has always known that those countries would head towards the door as soon as QEII passed. Maybe he still cares about Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but actions speak louder than words, and Charles’s actions show a man who is prepared to merely speak to a limited domestic audience.
Scobie wrote: “Multicultural Britain has to see an ally in King Charles. A voice unafraid to speak out against the systemic and pervasive racism that impacts so many lives. So far, he’s not done much of that.” The thing is, I do think Charles cares about “multicultural Britain” up to a point, and he’s done far more outreach to diverse British communities over the years than, you know, William or anyone else in that family. But yes, Charles is fundamentally unwilling to address racism head on or even acknowledge systemic racism and the white power structures which prop him up.
As for the cost of the monarchy… well, that’s funny because Peggington and Buttons are absolutely going to spread themselves out in about seven different homes and Kate is going to buy all of the buttons in Europe.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.