He’s also been amazed that, just because he says something should be done, doesn’t mean it’ll happen.
Being King – just like being Prince of Wales – apparently means you often have to stand in a queue.
Now 74, Charles finally has the title, the riches, the houses and the world acclaim. But is being king all it’s cracked up to be? Is it a case of being “careful what you wish for?”
The first thing to say is that the monarch is discharging exactly the same duties as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who was 96 and still reading her red boxes daily when she died.
If today he finds the burden of kingship tough, spare a thought for his mother. But by all accounts, things are going smoothly, and Charles has slotted into the timeless Palace machine, which in many respects has remained unchanged since the days of Queen Victoria.
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Still possessed of that reforming zeal that hallmarked his decades as Prince of Wales, he wants change – and he wants it now.
But, as a courtier explained recently: “He feels there’s so much he wants to get done in all of his causes and interests – and he’s impatient.
“He’ll say, ‘I want help with this, I have to help with that’ but it’s much harder now because there are so many checks and balances as monarch. That’s frustrating for him.”
Even at his Coronation, Charles discovered you can’t always get what you want.
Though technically “his” day, the newly-minted King was overruled by both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Duke of Norfolk, whose hereditary position as Earl Marshal put him – not Charles – in charge of the ceremony.
Edward Fitzalan-Howard had toiled long and hard to bring in a modern-day Coronation fit for the 400 million people worldwide who were going to watch it on TV, but found it a struggle to convince Charles of the need for change.
Such reforms as the Duke managed to shoehorn into the ceremonial back in May were received by Charles with reluctance – and the knighthood of the Garter, which should have gone to the Duke this summer, has yet to be bestowed.
Charles was also reportedly equally vexed by Justin Welby, the Archbishop, who insisted on delivering a sermon Charles did not want.
A sermon has not been offered at a Coronation since 1911, but the Archbishop insisted, causing friends of the King to accuse him of turning the event into the ‘“Justin Welby Show”. But being sovereign does have its bonuses and the laggardly investigation into the cash-for-honours scandal which overshadowed Charles’s last year as Prince of Wales has melted away.
There were claims Charles’s former right-hand man Michael Fawcett had engineered cash payments to help secure a knighthood for Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
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Supporters of the King will say that’s not how it was and anyway, Charles knew nothing about it.
However, those who have followed the case closely criticise the lukewarm Metropolitan Police response to a problem they feel was fundamental to the honesty and probity of the Crown.
In short, police appear to have tugged their forelocks to the Palace.
Fawcett was never interviewed by the police. So is that the end of the matter?
It shouldn’t be – but honourable men have surrounded the throne to protect the new King and they seem to be doing an effective job.
A Palace courtier recently remarked that Charles was unprepared for the problems and tasks awaiting him, but one lesson he had discovered early is that you may be King but you remain the servant of politicians.
In her brief seven weeks as prime minister, possibly the only memorable thing Liz Truss did was to stop Charles from giving a speech at the Cop27 climate change summit in Egypt – something deeply personal to him and an event that had been planned for many months.
Ms Truss, less than a month into the job, ordered Charles to stay away and the King – almost as new in his job and not wanting to rock the boat – complied.
Opinions differ as to whether he should have caved in to political pressure, and indeed whether he has laid a trap for himself for the future. It was to have been Charles’s first overseas trip, an opportunity to lay out his stall to a global audience, but that and other overseas ambitions have proved less fruitful than maybe he hoped.
His first state visit to France back in March was cancelled after riots over President Macron’s pension reforms erupted in Paris, Bordeaux, and elsewhere. He and Queen Camilla will travel to the French capital later this month. And then Australia – as always, a thorn in the royal side, as the recent Women’s World Cup clearly demonstrated.
A big row erupted over Prince William’s decision not to attend the final in Sydney, with many accusing him, as president of the Football Association, of caring less about the fortunes of England’s female squad than he did their male counterparts.
William’s defenders pointed out he was prevented by protocol from attending – he couldn’t set foot on Australian soil until the new monarch, his father, had done so.
Fingers then pointed at Australian premier Anthony Albanese, saying he had not extended an invitation to Charles, who therefore was prevented from visiting this important outpost of the Commonwealth.
A frustrating nil-nil political draw. The row detracted from the Lionesses’ epic performance in the World Cup – but had nothing to do with Charles, any more than it did William.
Sometimes, the King was learning, things are beyond your control and you just have to make the best of it. Indeed, the Commonwealth – the international body Queen Elizabeth II prized and cherished above all else and solid as a rock for 74 years, also suddenly started to look a little shaky. Charles, as head of the 56-nation group, will have been alarmed by Australia’s decision in July to cancel the 2026 games on grounds of cost.
They were due to take place in the state of Victoria, but political leaders now say they can’t afford to host the Games, which have been going since 1930. Hard on the heels of that bitter blow came the news that Alberta, Canada, had come to the same decision about hosting the next Games in 2030.
For a monarch, any diminution of their realm is something to be avoided at all costs – and the Games are an essential part of the ties that bind the Commonwealth’s increasingly independent-minded and self-reliant nations.
Charles will have his eye on the history books of the future when the effectiveness of his reign will be measured against his predecessors on the throne – and most certainly wouldn’t want the Commonwealth to dissolve on his watch.
But again, it’s out of his hands.
Closer to home, worries about Scottish independence are clearly playing a big part in his thinking. The number of photo opportunities of His Majesty wearing the kilt since accession far exceeds those of him wearing a suit. And, even in London, he’s made sure his able right-hand man Lt Col Johnny Thompson, is seen in full Scottish regimentals just a step behind him.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out he is worried about a breakaway Scotland.
These are the big issues but, as always, it’s domestic trivia which makes headlines. The continuing headache of Prince Harry will probably never go away. Prince Andrew, similarly, is a continuing worry – all the more so because of the many details of his relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Now, and in the future, both men pose a considerable threat to the King’s reputation. All that said, Charles can look back on his first year with satisfaction. Opinion polls are strongly in his favour.
The people, who once considered Queen Camilla Public Enemy No 1, have come to recognise not only her sterling personal qualities but her sincere commitment to her dual role as queen and supportive wife. She seems to be enjoying herself – even if at the weekends she insists on retreating to her personal hideaway, Ray Mill House, to relax.
The King is an earnest man with a profound desire to help the underdog – more so than any of his predecessors. Charles knows his reign can never match that of his mother, but by all accounts, that’s no longer a worry.
He has said he wants to build a legacy of stability and continuity, in order to hand over the monarchy to his son William in as good a shape as it was handed to him.
But all that comes at a price.
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