Opinion: King Charles’ biggest problem isn’t his crown, but his voice | CNN

Editor’s Note: Holly Thomas is a writer and editor based in London. He is the Morning Editor at Katie Couric Media. she tweets @HolstaT, The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author only. See more opinions on CNN.



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The general consensus was that it was surprisingly good. When Britain’s new king – a title the public is still holding on to – addressed the nation for the first time on Friday, there was some apprehension what his tone might be.

A more outspoken, less conformist figure than Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III in his previous role as prince tended to bypass tradition and put his own spin on things. Finally, he set foot on the line. He paid tribute to his “dear mother” and vowed to emulate her unwavering commitment to “lifelong service”.

Overall, the message was poignant and respectful, no small feat for a man who might be in the awkward position of a parent’s death to start the job of a lifetime. The constant theme was duty. It was also the watchdog of his mother’s seven-decade-long leadership, and so the British public could be forgiven for assuming she knew the meaning. But the words are open to interpretation, and while the crown may be hereditary, a monarch’s sense of duty is not.

For the Queen, duty translated into fairness, discretion, and predictability. A woman by whom we could set our clocks—a largely silent, always-seeming figure. She did not always succeed, and her approach was not unsuccessful insurance against public scrutiny. Charles’ track record suggests a different reading of duty altogether. Against the backdrop of the uncertainty created by the loss of his mother, it could shatter the institution he has sworn to uphold.

As Prince, Charles was apt to regularly express his beliefs on topics ranging from climate change to herbal remedies. Most infamously, he lobbied the government directly through his so-called “spider memos” of 2004 and 2005 (named in reference to the Prince’s handwriting), addressed to then-prime minister Tony Blair and other senior ministers.

His material ranges from demands related to his agricultural donations to urging that the Blair government re-prioritize its defense spending – all of which violate the monarchy’s unwritten constitutional obligation to remain above politics.

It was far from a solitary breach. As recently as June, according to the Times, Charles had been heard criticizing the government’s policy of deporting migrants to Rwanda. An official spokesman said at the time that “we would not comment on undisclosed private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except that he remains politically neutral” – but did not deny the status of Charles’ report, which has been a concern for many of his was like ideas, was in step with most of the British public. But what if soon the head of state had come out in favor of the plan?

When he turned 70 in 2018, Charles announced he would not be so “stupid” to remain so outspoken as King, but it was probably already too late. Decades of campaigns in the name of progress were uneasy in contrast to the archaic privilege that enabled him to lead them. By definition, figures of worship are inaccessible, and the queen’s apolitical silence created a distance between her and her subjects, which made her a legend far easier than she might have otherwise been.

Behind closed doors, she lobbied to hide her personal wealth, but she had the understanding to keep her feelings about the outside world close to her chest. Speaking, Charles outlined the strangeness of an unelected official claiming a free spot on the world stage – and revealing the future king as uncomfortably fallible.

Charles’ outspokenness also dashed an important piece of potential armor: the benefit of the doubt. The Queen’s reticence to voice her opinion allowed the public circle to project their perceptions on her, and usually, these were flattering.

This summer, she was the most popular member of the royal family. In contrast his more outspoken firstborn boasts only 42% approval, and absent his reassuring presence, he stands on even weaker ground. Charles’ report of a plan to limit the working royal family to just seven active members shows that he is well aware of the need to modernize to suit public opinion. Unfortunately, the formalities demanding a royal death have drawn the recent outrage again into sharp focus.

As always, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s appearance on British soil over the past few days has evoked callbacks to their controversial departure from royal duties two years ago. The alleged tension between the couple and the new Prince and Princess of Wales has spilled over into coverage of the Queen’s death, prompting acquaintances. taking sides between commentaries.

Worse yet, the arrest of a heckler as the Queen’s coffin in Edinburgh on Monday put Prince Andrew in the spotlight again. According to the Daily Telegraph, the man in Andrew was heard shouting “You’re a sick old man” – and someone else in the crowd replied “God save the king.”

A lawsuit brought in 2019 by Virginia Giuffre claimed she was forced to engage in sexual acts with Prince Andrew when she was young, in a way that did not destroy her reputation. It also exposed the error of the most faithful interpretation of royal duty. Apart from approving a statement from Buckingham Palace revoking Andrew’s military affiliations and royal patronage, the Queen has never spoken publicly about the matter. But she has stood by him in public, and after the prince reached an out-of-court settlement with Giuffre earlier this year – acknowledging Giuffre’s anguish, but neither confirming nor against her. Her specific claims were denied – The Telegraph reported that the Queen would pay at least part of the sum of £12 million.

Perhaps the queen believed that the decision to support her son was a personal one. Perhaps she argued that it was in the public interest to cancel the story that cast the darkest shadow on the monarchy since the death of Princess Diana and threatened to tarnish her platinum jubilee. Maybe she just believed in him, full stop. Whatever she thought, her choice was not considered neutral, and never could be.

That is the problem facing Charles today. Innocence once lost is lost forever, and neutrality rarely returns once surrendered. In speaking his mind so generously before becoming king, Charles missed his chance to assume the throne with a blank slate. But as the queen demonstrated even during her long reign, and especially in her final months, every monarch is human, and silence is not necessarily benign.

When she chose to stand alongside Andrew, the public didn’t just see a personal preference. It saw royal patronage. Even if Charles does get himself censored here, it is unlikely that the Crown will ever recover his appearance of fairness.

Change is already in the air. Over the past few days, anti-monarchy protesters have been driven away by mourning crowds in England and Scotland, and Commonwealth leaders have noted the opportunity to “debate the constitutional order” presented by the Queen’s death. For the past 70 years, the most powerful argument in favor of the Crown has been the assurance that it has provided as a surefire point in a changing world. Now that point is rotating on its axis.

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