His first year on the throne has been one of consolidation and continuity but the King still wants to use his reign to make the world a better place.
As he prepares to mark the first anniversary of his accession – always a bittersweet moment for any monarch because it naturally evokes sad memories of their predecessor’s passing – royal sources have spoken about Charles III’s ambition to create a lasting legacy.
“Does he want to help create a better world? Absolutely,” a senior aide said, setting out the 74-year-old monarch’s hopes of helping world leaders to find ways to combat climate change and bring greater understanding between different communities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
“Climate, community, Commonwealth and culture” is the mantra at Buckingham Palace, as the new King seeks to put his stamp on the 1,100-year-old monarchy.
Courtiers bridle at the suggestion that Charles is shaping up to be a political King because of what they regard as the misleading implication that he wants to interfere in party political controversies. But they acknowledge he wants the monarchy to be a force for change and not just a ribbon-cutting institution overseeing the opening of hospitals and schools.
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For decades as Prince of Wales, he was a one-man campaign group, using his position to initiate public debate over controversial issues and warn of impending disaster in the case of the environment.
As King, he recognises he can no longer do that. But those close to him say he is determined to use his “convening powers” to bring policymakers, innovators, and others together to help solve the nation’s and the world’s most pressing problems – within the constraints and constitutional parameters of his role as head of state.
Most observers agree that he started very well, providing a seamless transition in the aftermath of his mother’s death when many had feared the shock of losing Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after 70 years would herald a crisis for the UK and for the Royal Family. But there have been a few bumps in the road since – his well-documented family problems with Prince Andrew and Harry and Meghan, for example – and now some experienced royal watchers detect a loss of momentum.
“My fear is that after a great start, the King seems to be drifting a bit, spending weeks in his beloved Scotland and not dealing with two problems – the future of the Commonwealth and the top-heavy number of homes he now uses,” the royal author Phil Dampier told the Daily Express.
Add to that a failure to visit any of the 14 overseas realms where he is also King, little sign so far of fulfilling his pledge to open up royal residences to greater public access, and an inability to heal the divisions in his own family, and the picture is not quite so rosy.
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A portrayal in one Sunday newspaper of him as merely a caretaker, a continuity King keeping the seat warm for a more reform-minded King William V has raised a few eyebrows inside the Royal Household.
His supporters point to the longstanding mission statement of the British monarchy, to act as a focus for national identity, unity and pride and to give a sense of stability and continuity.
The trick and the key to the Royal Family’s success has been to do that while also changing with the times in an almost imperceptible way. Is King Charles doing the same?
“In five years’ time people will have a very clear idea of a Carolean Age and what that entails,” one aide said, insisting that a year is insufficient time to judge the man.
Courtiers promise opening up the royal residences, including privately-owned Balmoral, is still very much on the agenda but they are still grappling with the complexities of arranging it.
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