King of a tricky transition
London: During a lifetime as heir to his mother Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III cultivated a range of interests and passions, from architecture to the environment.
But at an age when most people have retired, he must now ensure a successful, if delicate, transition before the crown passes to his eldest son and heir, Prince William.
Since his mother’s death last September, Charles, 74, has thrown himself into the largely ceremonial role of a politically neutral and uncontroversial head of state, despite his often outspoken record of opinion.
He has been a visible presence in all four nations of the UK, leading a push for unity after a turbulent recent past marred by Brexit and calls for Scottish independence.
Unlike his mother, who cultivated an air of mystery and aloofness, Charles proved to be much more approachable, comfortable smiling and shaking hands with crowds at public events.
It fits with his desire for a more modern and open monarchy that keeps the old institution relevant, especially for young Britons, and as republican sentiment rises in the other 14 countries outside the UK where it is also king.
Charles also heads the 56-nation Commonwealth grouping, which comprises around a quarter of the world’s population.
He also called for unity there to help solve “the most pressing issues of our time”, including climate change.
Recent royal visits have seen him visit a group of refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region and a charity for the elderly.
He hosted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and celebrated the second anniversary of his wife, Queen Consort Camilla’s “The Reading Room” book club on Instagram.
– In the shade –
Charles lived for 70 years in his mother’s shadow, with his sole role as heir to support her “in her role as the focal point of national pride, unity and allegiance”.
But although he threw himself into his new job, his youngest son Harry stole some of the limelight, with the release of his autobiography ‘Spare’ and a Netflix series.
Harry’s settling of scores made headlines just as Charles sought to stamp his authority.
Not everyone welcomed it with open arms, however, and some royal crowds saw anti-monarchy protests, including egg-throwing.
On the popularity front, Charles (63%) lags behind his mother (81%) and William (72%), according to YouGov pollsters.
But royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said: “His ratings in the polls aren’t too bad at all.
“If someone ascends the throne when they’re over seventy, you’ll get respectable marks, and they did it because they’re conscientious,” he told AFP. AFP.
“He has a different personality from his mother,” added Peter Ricketts, former UK ambassador to Paris.
“The Queen was respected for being the Queen, for being there for so many decades.
“The King, I think, will be respected for that, but also because he’s someone who brings personal beliefs to the job, and he’ll find subtle ways to communicate the importance of saving the planet to future generations.
“And he has a very special platform to do that.” (AFP)