Monday September 12, 2022

Charles III has to remain apolitical

Charles III has to remain apolitical

King Charles III

It will take quite a bit to get used to the change for the people in Britain, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Cornwall of living under Charles III, the new monarch who succeeded Elizabeth II after she passed away on September 8. For 70 years it was “Her Majesty the Queen”. They now must get used to “His Majesty the King”. This might seem a minor detail, but in this minor detail lies the shift in mood and attitude to the monarchy. Out of long habit, Queen Elizabeth II was a part of the life and politics of Britain.

She was not involved in the politics of the country though the government, whichever party was in power, was run in her name. In her annual address to the Parliament, she faithfully read out the statement prepared by the party in power. She knew the rules of a constitutional monarchy as it has evolved in Britain over more than 450 years, since the times of Elizabeth I in the second half of the 16th century. In the tumultuous constitutional struggle of the 17th century of the Stuart kings – James I, known as the “wisest fool in Christendom” to Charles I, who was beheaded because he wanted to ignore the Parliament in 1649 to Charles II who was exiled because he wanted to take England back to Roman Catholicism in 1688. Then followed the rules that the monarch will follow the advice of the cabinet and the cabinet will be based on the majority in Parliament.

Charles III must be deeply aware of the constitutional history of England, and he is not the one to ruffle feathers in any way. He is a conservative in his mental make-up. He disapproves of 20th century’s steel-and-glass architecture, he is fond of English poetry in its classical sense. But he is modern when he accepts that Britain is a multi-racial and multi-religious polity. Charles III is more open to the changes that had happened in Britain in the last half-century and more. He not only accepts the change that has taken place in the country, but he also takes interest in the change that is taking place. He is a contemporary and he understands the challenges of the present.

The challenge that Charles III might face is the growing indifference and irreverence of the new generation towards an institution like the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II inspired both respect and affection across the generations as could be seen in the outpouring of grief. Charles III has the difficult task of retaining the respect for the monarchy through his bearing. He must strike a balance between being too aloof and mixing freely with everyone. This is something that his mother did superbly. Whatever the rebellious mood among the young, the English people have managed to preserve their institutions and there is a sense of pride in traditions. Monarchy is part of the British tradition, and it would survive because of this innate respect and fondness of the people for traditions.

The English people realise that there is no empire to boast of, but the English political and cultural traditions are valuable and that they need to be preserved. Charles III can convey this image of being heir to the monarchical tradition because of his conservative attitude. This is something that the British admire in the royal family.

The only red line that Charles III needs to avoid is that of political intervention of any kind. The British people and politicians do not want the monarch to meddle with political issues. Charles III will have to tread carefully on political matters where he might have an opinion and which he must avoid airing it.

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