King Charles III waves to the crowd, September 16, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales (POOL / Frank Augstein)
Some had nicknamed him the activist prince. After having put on the heavy clothes of king, Charles III, so different from his mother Elizabeth II, must now embody an impartial and serene monarchy, whose every word and gesture will be commented on.
Head of state with largely symbolic power, a man of sometimes controversial passions, he is no longer supposed to have the slightest opinion in public, which would risk appearing as political interference.
His first statements will have reassured the most pessimistic. Since the death of Elizabeth II on September 8, Charles III, “aware of the weight of history”, has declared that he will follow in her footsteps and serve all his life.
King Charles III during his first televised address, September 9, 2022 at Buckingham Palace, London (POOL / Yui Mok)
He acknowledged that he could no longer “devote as much time and energy to charities and causes” that are dear to him, first and foremost ecology.
Gatherer, he traveled to Scotland, Northern Ireland before Wales on Friday, the three constituent nations of the United Kingdom with England.
The new King Charles III greets his subjects upon his arrival at Buckingham Palace on September 9, 2022, the day after the death of Queen Elizabeth II (POOL/Yui Mok)
Accessible, it offered a walkabout in front of Buckingham Palace, another in Belfast. A woman planted a kiss on his cheek, an unimaginable freedom under Elizabeth II.
In the immense wave of collective emotion since the death of the 96-year-old queen, his popularity has surged, he has long been the unloved of the royal family: 63% of Britons think he will make a good king (YouGov poll) . 15% believe the opposite. In May, they were at 32% against 32%, with 35% undecided.
– Disunited family –
At 73, Charles III is the oldest monarch to accede to the British throne. He had been waiting since he became crown prince at 3 and a half, an awkward and lonely child.
Graph showing the evolution of Charles III’s popularity rating (AFP / )
He had time to train: he traveled to nearly 100 countries, met many of the greats of this world, shook millions of hands. Inaugurations, medal ceremonies, state dinners and garden parties, he knows. Bonds too.
“He fully understands what the monarchy is and how our constitution works,” monarchy expert Penny Junor told AFP.
He “will not allow himself the freedom of speech that Charles Prince of Wales allowed himself. He has moved on. The king is the one who is above controversy, above all divisions, above opinions, it is the one that federates, that brings together”, adds Isabelle Rivière, another royal expert.
Elizabeth II, who reigned for 70 years, represented continuity in the enormous changes of the century.
Charles III will have to represent change in continuity: in the United Kingdom, but also in the 14 other kingdoms of the Commonwealth, some of which aspire to become republics.
King Charles III and his son Harry walk behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, during the procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, on September 14, 2022 in London (AFP / LOIC VENANCE)
And he will also have to manage the image of a disunited family, his brother Andrew who became an outcast after a sex scandal, his son Harry who is about to publish a book secrets.
Although he was more present, often replacing his mother in declining health, many knew little of King Charles beyond his overhyped divorce from Princess Diana, his affair, still married, with Camilla married in 2005, and his commitment to the ecology, which in the 1970s passed it off as an original.
For years, he has insisted on the urgency in the face of global warming, defends organic farming, alternative medicine, short circuits. It has published its carbon footprint since 2007.
A critic of modern architecture, he also had two small towns built on his land, combining his ideas of traditional architecture and sustainable development.
After setting up his first charity, the Prince’s Trust, in 1976, which helped over a million people, others followed, for which the prince raised millions of pounds. He was president or benefactor of more than 420 charities.
– Impatient King –
Accustomed to being served, willingly maniacal – rumor has it that a valet irons his laces – he does not like to be contradicted.
“He’s a bit self-centered, he grew up being the center of his universe, with people telling him he was wonderful,” says Penny Junor.
Overview of the heritage Charles will receive when he becomes king after the death of his mother Elizabeth II (AFP / )
He’s also impatient, a trait evident in a grueling first week.
During the proclamation ceremony in London, he makes it clear by a curt gesture and a silent grimace that he wants a pen holder left on the table where he must sign a document to be removed immediately.
In Northern Ireland, he gets angry over a leaky pen. “God, I hate this,” he said, wiping his fingers. “I can’t stand this damn thing,” he said before leaving the room.
“He wants things done by yesterday,” Camilla, now queen consort, told the BBC on her 70th birthday. He “would like to save the world”.
In the 2000s, he had written to ministers to talk about health, education, the war in Iraq or illegal fishing. These “black spider memos”, in reference to his calligraphy, had been perceived by some as interference.
His sometimes criticized lifestyle will now be fed by the sovereign allowance – 86 million pounds (99 million euros) – paid by the taxpayer, the income of the Duchy of Lancaster – 24 million pounds a year – and private wealth from his mother.