Britons Won’t Welcome King Charles’ Progressive Style


King Charles has a history of supporting progressive policies, but that might now be something his constituents want. (Courtesy of Twitter)

For many of us, Queen Elizabeth II felt immortal. As the longest reigning monarch, ruling England for over 70 years, Queen Elizabeth’s reign was defined by reservedness and duty to the Crown. She was a constant in England, meeting 15 British prime ministers and 14 U.S. presidents during her reign. As King Charles III steps into her enormous shoes as the King of England, we can expect him to take a different path from Queen Elizabeth’s courtly approach, from his view on the monarchy to his involvement in the issues facing the Commonwealth. 

During her time as monarch, Queen Elizabeth understood the unique position of the monarchy in England. The reality is that the king or queen is just a ceremonial head of state with no real political power; They are only able to reign with public consent. This understanding informed Queen Elizabeth’s removal from both England’s politics and her own family drama, preferring to delegate these tasks to other people. 

However, King Charles will not follow the same approach. Even during his time as the Prince of Wales, Charles chose to take a more active approach to the role. Charles was heavily involved in charitable organizations and causes during his time as prince, taking his involvement in these causes to the limit of monarchical power. Compared to the rest of his family, Charles has always been more active on political issues, like climate change. Even though during his ascension speech, King Charles pledged to remove himself as the head of these charities, the British public can still expect that he will speak out on these issues as the Head of State, even if it leads to controversy.

The British public have already seen Charles push the extent of his power when in 2015, he was accused of attempting to influence the British government on several issues. Using his connections as the Prince of Wales, Charles received confidential documents on the inner workings of the British government and engaged in personal lobbying efforts on a number of political issues. While Queen Elizabeth liked to keep a specific removal from the political fray, it’s far more likely that King Charles’s style of leadership will be far more active and will push the royal prerogatives to the limits (without going beyond them). 

King Charles also clearly intends to reduce the number of working royals in order to cut expenses. During a time of economic unrest for Britain and the Commonwealth, Charles wants to ensure that the monarchy is updated to represent modern Britain and ease the financial burden of the Royal Family on taxpayers. In this effort, we can expect to see the royal working family be slimmed down to Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Prince William and Kate Middleton. In later years, we can expect to see Princess Anne and Prince Edward step away from working duties when Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children come of age and can begin active royal duties. 

King Charles begins his reign at a time of unique challenges and delicate British politics. England is confronting its worst bout of inflation since the 1970s, and with skyrocketing energy bills as the country goes into the winter will test how active a role King Charles will take in discussing his opinion on the Commonwealth and policies being passed by Parliament. 

As the British public look to the future leader, he will be constantly compared to Queen Elizabeth and her style of ruling, since many British citizens have only seen her reign during their lifetime. 

Yet, King Charles and his active style is not something the British public particularly wants to see. Nearly half of Britons believed that King Charles should abdicate and let Prince William become the next King of England. This reflects the British attitude on what a ruler of England should look like as Prince William has spoken multiple times about how when he takes the throne he would like to rule like his grandmother as opposed to his father. Furthermore, compared to the rest of the Royal Family and his predecessor, Charles has a lack of popularity among the public. Before her death, Queen Elizabeth’s popularity was around 81% among the British public, signaling a support from the public on the queen’s leadership style. In contrast, Charles’ popularity in the same poll was 54%, putting him below other royal figures such as Kate Middleton and Prince William. The British people don’t want a ruler that pushes the boundaries, they want a ruler that understands what the Crown is: a head of state in name only. 

King Charles will also have to contend with the fact that there are members of the Commonwealth who may decide to leave the monarchy after the death of Queen Elizabeth. In Scotland’s referendum to stay in the commonwealth, many people said that they voted to stay in the Commonwealth because of the queen. However, it may be that those same people who voted to stay in the Commonwealth don’t want a new style of leadership from their ruler. Already since the queen’s passing, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda announced plans to hold a referendum on becoming a republic with the King as the head of state within three years. It is already evident that some of the colonies under the Commonwealth do not hold the same regard for Charles and the active style that he will take to the role that they did for Queen Elizabeth and her impartial and courtly approach. 

King Charles has some good points about his approach to the monarchy, but his active style will not be appreciated by his constituents. He needs to understand what the Crown is. More than anything he is a figurehead and a representation of Britain. Impartiality best fits the modern monarch; Queen Elizabeth understood this and King Charles will need to as well to even have a hope of capturing the same love the British people had for their former leader.

Samantha Scott, FCRH ’24, is an international political economy and political science major from Columbus, Ohio.