The Choices Charles Faces Already Weighs Down His Reign

Charles+cannot+fill+the+void+his+mother+left+behind+after+70+years+of+service.+%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29

Charles cannot fill the void his mother left behind after 70 years of service. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Hannah Devlin, Contributing Writer

Queen Elizabeth II passed away peacefully at her residence in Balmoral Castle, Scotland, on Sept. 8, 2022. Queen Elizabeth became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in 2015, and this past February, she celebrated her seventh decade on the throne. 

Needless to say, her 70-year reign has encapsulated many important historical moments, from the aftermath of WWII to more recent events like Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. The queen’s impact goes far beyond the events she ruled over. In the seven decades that Queen Elizabeth reigned, she became a symbol for the British and a constant presence in a world where so much is subject to change.

At 73 years old, Queen Elizabeth’s son Prince Charles — now King Charles III — transitions into his new role as monarch. There are many questions and concerns about what this change means for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. 

As he ascends to his role as king, there is no way for Charles to fill the legacy that his mother left behind. Charles was the longest-serving heir to the throne. The queen had 70 years to cultivate a connection with her subjects. Charles will not have the time or relationship with the British public that his mother did. 

Britons are still grieving the loss of the queen, and their attachment to her as a figure will not fade overnight. This grief may interfere with receptivity to Charles, as people are not ready to welcome a new presence so quickly after her passing. This is just one reason that I believe Charles will struggle to have the same popularity and image as the queen.

Prior to the queen’s death, Britain was already in a fragile state — the country has faced economic challenges like inflation in recent months as the threat of recession looms. The country is not at its strongest point, so it is reasonable to wonder whether Britain can handle a transition of power right now.

Polling and approval ratings have already shown that Britons are far less impressed with King Charles III than his mother. While Queen Elizabeth maintained a 86% approval rating, a polling from May indicated that Charles’ stood 21 points lower than his mother’s at 65%. The fact that Charles is coming into his rule with economic hardships already in place will likely exacerbate these low approval ratings. Many people have already expressed the desire for Charles to stay out of politics and limit his involvement. 

Considering the current economic difficulties, this reaction from the public puts Charles in a difficult position. While it is the natural instinct of a ruler to try to help solve their country’s hardships, I believe that it would be in Charles’ best interest to listen to the desires of the people. No matter how he gets involved, there will be people who are unhappy with his activity. To avoid being painted in a negative light so early on in his rule, I think that Charles should attempt to lay low at the moment.

Besides the fact that there is a general disliking of Charles, there comes the issue of unfamiliarity. 80% of the British public has only ever known Queen Elizabeth as their monarch, according to a poll from 2017. The longevity of her reign has allowed the cultivation of a deep relationship between the queen and her kingdom’s people. This connection is something rare, and, without the proper time and care, it may be irreplicable.

With this in mind, there are rising concerns about how Charles will maintain support for the Royal Family, especially considering the fact that young Britons are more in favor of replacing the monarchy with elected state officials. Not only is Charles responsible for representing the Royal Family in Britain, but he must also maintain support in the Commonwealth. 

Not only does Charles have to account for this lack of a relationship, but he must also address the anti-colonial presence that has risen recently. This presence was exemplified by Barbados’ break away from British rule earlier this year. With Queen Elizabeth’s recent passing, nations may see this transition of power as an opportunity to separate from the Commonwealth, especially considering Barbados’s success. In order to combat this anti-colonial sentiment, I believe that Charles will have to appeal to these nations early on in his reign.

Additionally, there may be cause for concern about what the queen’s passing means for the Royal Family itself. In an interview that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – completed with Oprah in 2021, Prince Harry explains that despite his distance from the family, he still has a great deal of love and respect for his grandmother. He also says that his relationship with Markle has complicated his relationship with his father, explaining that Charles stopped taking his calls at a certain point. I believe that with the queen’s passing, the divide between Prince Harry and the other members of the Royal Family will deepen. If part of the reason why Prince Harry and Markle kept their relationship with the family was due to their respect for the queen — as they explained in their interview — their connection to the family’s other members will weaken without her presence.

For a family as powerful and renowned as the Royal Family, it is important to present a united front. Taking into account that there is an anti-monarchy movement present in Britain, the troubles within the Royal Family will be magnified. As the matriarch of the family, Queen Elizabeth’s presence unified members and created the appearance of a collective front.

The whole world will feel the impact of the queen’s passing. Her reign was one of unprecedented longevity and service, and the absence of that will be felt not just by her subjects. It is undeniable that Charles has big shoes to fill in his ascension to the throne — and I do not think he will.

Hannah Devlin, FCRH ’24, is an English major and classical civilizations minor from Port Washington, N.Y.