The 7 major challenges King Charles needs to tackle ‘head-on’

CNN coverage of King Charles’ coronation

With a congregation of more than 2,000, chanting well-wishers on the streets of London and millions watching from home, the Coronation of King Charles III can be deemed a roaring success.

His official crowning marks the beginning of the new Carolean era and King Charles is finally playing the role he has spent 74 years preparing for.

The Coronation itself was the first major indicator of how the King intends to modernise the monarchy to fit into the 21st century. While the ceremony was complete with ancient traditions, it also looked “towards the future,” according to Buckingham Palace.

But Charles undoubtedly faces challenges ahead. The reports of more than £100million being spent on the Coronation come as the country faces the cost of living crisis, republican sentiment within some of the Commonwealth realms is bubbling and recent UK polls have revealed support for the monarchy is in decline.

Now King Charles’s reign has officially begun, experts have pointed out some of the key issues he will have to “tackle head-on”.

Royal relevance

Even before he became King, Charles made it clear he was striving for a more modern monarchy.

His desire for a slimmed-down Royal Family, concentrating on the immediate line of succession, has long been discussed and the focus is largely on the King, Queen Camilla and heir apparent Prince William and his family.

The scaled-back Coronation featured religious leaders from Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities — an “unprecedented gesture,” according to the Church of England, and something unthinkable in 1953 — when the last Coronation was held.

But Charles is less popular than his mother and predecessor. As the oldest monarch crowned in British history, the public has had a long time to get to know him — warts and all.

At present, polls show a gradual decline in support for the Royal Family. Last week, a study conducted by the independent National Centre for Social Research showed royalism had “fallen to a record low,” with only 29 percent of Brits regarding the institution as “very important”.

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Meanwhile, a YouGov poll last month found most didn’t care — 35 percent “very much” and 29 percent “at all” — about Saturday’s pageantry, the first major royal event in seven decades without Queen Elizabeth II.

“He’s now the head of an arguably archaic institution,” said royal commentator Russell Myers.

Speaking during the latest episode of the Pod Save The King podcast, he said: “Over the last few years, the monarchy has really struggled to make itself relevant in a modern world and that is definitely going to be one of Charles’s big, major issues to tackle in the infancy of his reign.”

The newly-crowned King will have to focus on the country’s younger people, namely Generation Z, who according to historian Anna Whitelock, see the monarchy as the “epitome of unfair society”. 

She told BBC’s Panorama last month: “Charles has a problem with Gen Z. The monarchy for the young people represents so many things that are unfair — it is the epitome of an unfair society, So the future of the monarchy for Charles, and for William, and the popular support which they need is really in the balance when it comes to the younger people.”

Bubbling Republican sentiment

“Not My King” protests have become the norm at King Charles III events and the Coronation was no different.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in central London on Saturday, with chants including “down with the Crown”, “don’t talk to the police” and “get a real job”.

Police said 52 arrests were made for offences including affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

Among those arrested was the chief executive of anti-monarchist campaign group Republic, Graham Smith, who was detained at a protest in Trafalgar Square.

Republic believe the new monarch’s discrepancies and complexities will eventually herald the end of this archaic institution. King Charles, they say, should be replaced by an elected, democratic head of state.

Writing for last month, Mr Smith said: “Support for the monarchy has dropped sharply in recent months, while support for its abolition is up by ten points in some polls. Those of us who are keen to see the monarchy abolished still have our work cut out, but suddenly this looks very possible…Let’s make this the last Coronation.”

Commonwealth qualms

King Charles also faces rumblings of discontent abroad, with certain Commonwealth nations expressing their concern over the monarchy’s colonial past.

The Republican movement, particularly in the Caribbean countries, was apparent prior to the death of Queen Elizabeth.

In 2021, Barbados became the first country to transition to a republic since Mauritius in 1992.

Now, officials in at least six other Caribbean countries have signalled they intend to remove the British King as their Sovereign.

Ahead of the Coronation, Johnny Briceno, the prime minister of Belize, said it was “quite likely” that his country would be the next to become a republic, while Jamaica said it could hold a referendum on the move as early as next year.

Mr Myers said, “If we see a cascade of Caribbean nations turning their back against the monarchy, then that could be really tricky.”

Reports also suggest Australia may be reexamining its royal affiliation. Earlier this year, it was decided Charles’s portrait would not feature on the new Australian five-dollar banknote, as the late Queen’s did. Instead, the new bill will honour the country’s Indigenous culture and history. The King’s face will still appear on coins.

Dr Bob Morris, a constitutional expert, told “It [Republican sentiment] is alive and well in a lot of places. There was a failed referendum in Australia in 1999 and I imagine the Australians will have another go at that. And indeed, I think the present government has said it — although it is not on the front burner as it were — is something that would naturally come forward when the Queen died.”

Given Charles’s age, it is less likely he will be able to visit the 14 overseas nations where he is head of state, and the additional countries that make up the Commonwealth.

It is widely understood that the Prince and Princess of Wales will be heavily involved in the regular overseas tours to ensure the link between the Commonwealth and the monarchy survives.

Calls for reparations 

Prince William and Princess Kate’s tour of the Caribbean in March 2022 was heavily criticised after particular engagements and photocalls were deemed “tone-deaf”.

Further flak came when the Prince of Wales described slavery as “abhorrent” but stopped short of issuing an apology. It came after increased calls for the royals to begin the process of reparations.

More recently, indigenous leaders from 12 Commonwealth countries, including Jamaica and Belize, issued a statement demanding that the King apologise for what they described as centuries of “genocide and colonisation”.

Last month, the King signified his support for research into the monarchy’s link with the slave trade. Buckingham Palace said he took the issues “profoundly seriously” and the Royal Household would help with the academic project by offering access to the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives.

Racist royalty

Charles, along with the rest of the Royal Family, must also challenge the perception that the Firm show systemic bias against people of colour.

This was first brought to light in Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s, interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, during which she claimed an unnamed senior royal expressed “concerns” about her unborn son’s skin colour.

Prince Harry later denied calling the Royal Family racist, explaining the alleged comments were instead a result of unconscious bias.

Later, the conversation was brought back to the fore when Lady Susan Hussey, the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting and godmother to the Prince of Wales, asked Ngozi Fulani, a guest at a Palace function: “Where are you from?”

Lady Susan subsequently resigned from her honorary role and offered her “profound apologies for the hurt caused”.

A spokesperson for Prince William said it was “really disappointing” to hear what had happened. “Obviously, I wasn’t there, but racism has no place in our society. The comments were unacceptable, and it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect,” the Kensington Palace spokesperson said.

Critics claim racism is endemic in the Royal Family. And according to royal expert Ian Lloyd, the King will now need to become more involved in public conversations on the topic.

Writing for the Independent, he said: “Charles, whose Prince’s Trust has helped young people of all backgrounds and colour, will again need to be proactive, weeding out reactionary courtiers and replacing them with a more representative staff. He and his family will have to be seen to be more involved in organisations that seek to eradicate racism in society, and to make more public statements on the topic.”

Sussex saga

Since Harry and Meghan stepped down from their positions within the Firm in January 2020, their relationship with the Royal Family has dominated the headlines.  

“They’ve had the issues of scandal and infighting in abundance within the family over the last few years,” said Mr Myers, pointing out “Meghan and Harry leaving” as a “big issue that Charles does need to tackle head-on”.

Harry attended the Coronation of his father alone as Meghan chose to stay at home in California with their children. He jetted back to the US shortly after the ceremony, reportedly in a bid to celebrate his son Prince Archie’s fourth birthday.

As well as noting the loss for the monarchy when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped down, Mr Myers acknowledged the “personal” impact it has on the King.

He explained: “His own relationship with his son, who he much loves, has been damaged — possibly beyond repair. Charles has said to both his children, Harry said in his book, that he wanted them to stop quarrelling and not make his final years a misery.”

The commentator added: “But I suppose there will still be a long way to go before those relationships are mended.”

Disgraced Duke

Amid unceasing backlash regarding his connection to Jeffrey Epstein and after a disastrous interview, Prince Andrew stepped back from all royal duties.

Three years later, in January 2022, Buckingham Palace took further action by stripping the Duke of York of his military titles and royal patronages. The aim was to prevent his then-pending trial in a civil sexual abuse case from casting a negative light on the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

A month later, Andrew reached an out-of-court settlement with his accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, though he made no admission of guilt and has vehemently denied all allegations.

For the public, however, the disgraced Duke still casts a cloud over the monarchy.

The prince has rarely been in public since his rapid fall from grace but, on Saturday, he was among those to witness the crowning of King Charles.

Crowds lining the pavements in central London could be heard booing as Andrew made his way to the Abbey.

In a surprising turn of events, he donned his Order of the Garter robes. Andrew played no part in the ceremony or procession behind the Gold State Coach, and previous reports suggested he would be banned from wearing the ceremonial attire.

It has long been said that Andrew wants to make a comeback to public life. And Mr Myers described his Coronation appearance as “a chance for him to rehabilitate his image” — “an opportunity for him that he will take”.

He described the “scandal” surrounding the Duke as yet another challenge the King will have to face.

“I think he’s got a few problems to deal with but no doubt he’ll try and hit the ground running,” he said. “He’s going to need to do an awful lot of work in those first few years.”

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