It was a question that haunted the new king for decades: what kind of monarch would Charles be?
It is a delicate question, to arrive at the fundamental role of the wearer of the crown. To what extent could or should this individual share his opinions? What about involvement in state affairs? Or politics?
It has been a perpetual worry for Charles, whose activism as Prince of Wales in areas as diverse as architecture, organic farming and global warming has been seen by some as ahead of its time, but also left many wondering how he would rule.
And it differed sharply from the way his mother, Queen Elizabeth, filled the role, with a deep devotion to duty but little public indication of her opinions or involvement in the political affairs of the state.
Such worries were not lost on the new king.
As he turned 70 in 2018, Charles tackled the issue head-on, telling the BBC he understood he would have to act differently once he became king.
“I’m not that stupid,” he said when asked if his public campaign would continue after taking over from his mother. “I realize it’s a separate exercise from being sovereign, so of course I fully understand how it should work.”
The Act of Settlement of 1701 established the succession to the throne. Charles became king the moment his mother died Thursday aged 96. His crowning glory is likely to be months down the road.
Considering his mother’s longevity, Charles was the longest heir to the throne in British history.
“Not once, however, did Prince Charles ever complain about the wait – or even allude to the frustrations of being perpetually second in line,” author John Fraser wrote in The Secret of the Crown: Canada’s Business with Royalty.
But it was in this role that he always considered he would have his greatest influence. He has been heir to the throne for over 70 years. His time as king won’t be that long.
“He always knew that his impact on Canadian society, on British society, on Australian society will not be as king. It will be as Prince of Wales,” said Matthew Rowe, director of operations and partnership for his charitable efforts in Canada. , said before Charles’ visit in the country in 2014.
“So it’s through this charitable work that he’s really building his legacy to pass on to his citizens.”
Charles’ charitable work began in 1976, when he used his £7,400 severance pay from the Royal Navy to establish the Prince’s Trust.
A wide range of charitable endeavors
The trust is believed to have helped over 800,000 young people find work and gain skills. Actor Idris Elba, for his part, debuted on a $2,000 scholarship to attend acting school.
Charles’ charitable efforts cut a wide spectrum. In Canada alone, those who receive help range from underprivileged youth and sheep herders to soldiers trying to find a way out after their military service.
Once he is king, these charitable efforts will not be so focused, and it has been suggested in recent years that Charles is reducing his involvement in the region as he gradually takes on more and more duties on behalf of his mother. .
While his death represents the abrupt transition between the reigns, there has been a gradual change over the past few years.
Charles traveled on her behalf after giving up long-haul travel and took her place on increasingly high-profile occasions, including when he read the Queen’s Speech for the opening of Britain’s Parliament in May 2022.
In 2018, the leaders of the Commonwealth countries also endorsed him to succeed Elizabeth as head of the organization.
A decade earlier, he had sent another signal about how he would like to fulfill the role of king, suggesting that he would become ‘Defender of the Faith’ upon his coronation, rather than ‘Defender of the Faith’, acknowledging the nature multiculturalism of the country and the Commonwealth over which he will rule.
Other concerns in some quarters in recent years revolved around whether Charles would meddle in state affairs or become more deeply involved in politics than his mother ever did.
“We had this situation with the Queen being the longest-serving monarch in history, being very careful never to talk politics,” Camilla Tominey, royal commentator for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, said in an interview.
“But then we had his son and successor, Prince Charles, who was a little more politically driven. We saw him talk about architecture, climate change, sustainability and other issues.”
Plunge into political affairs?
Charles was the subject of many headlines a few years ago when it emerged he allegedly compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler during a private conversation in Halifax.
At the time, a headline suggested the remarks risked “igniting an international scandal”.
But is a monarch forbidden to meddle in political affairs or offer such opinions?
“The Queen’s predecessors were more open about their views, and at times Charles seems to follow that tradition rather than the Queen’s approach,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author, at the time.
Over time, the queen’s approach had come to be seen as how a monarch deals with the government.
But that wasn’t always the case.
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“Queen Victoria, in her correspondence, was quite open about her political views,” Harris said. “There were some prime ministers she liked and some prime ministers she didn’t like.”
Charles found himself at the center of more controversy a few years ago after writing letters – the “black spider memos”, so named for his distinct handwriting – to government ministers on issues ranging from preparedness military and the culling of badgers to the protection of fish and the preservation of historical heritage. buildings.
Defend his actions
Some saw it as he learned how government worked and something that might make sense for a future monarch, Harris said, while others thought it suggested he might try to interfere politically as a than king.
But Charles himself defended his actions. In this interview with the BBC at the time of his 70th birthday, he said he had always tried to stay away from party politics, wondering if in fact his speeches could really be considered “the interference”.
“If it’s meddling to worry about city centers like I did 40 years ago…if it’s meddling, I’m very proud of it,” he said .
In the same BBC documentary, his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, said Charles was driven by the need to help others.
“He’s quite impatient. He wants things done by yesterday, as I think anyone who works for him will tell you. But that’s how he does things. He’s driven by that passion in him to really help,” she said.
“He would like to save the world.