A global backdrop of re-examination of the history of colonialism and slavery has seen protesters tear down or make faces of statues in British cities and universities such as Oxford and Cambridge changes their courses, an institution that was once a symbol of the British Empire is likely to face new scrutiny.
Anna Whitelock, a professor of modern monarchy history at City University London, said Charles would try to “maintain continuity” while signaling that the royals were ready for change. But he faces a series of questions.
“What place does the monarchy have in a multi-faith, multi-ethnic society?” Whitelock asked. “And is that the right rallying point for the country? And should it be the monarch representing the UK abroad? What does it say about us? Is it a bastion of tradition that everyone should applaud? Or is it really a test of real progress that doesn’t represent the inclusive, diverse society people hope Britain will now become? “
And there’s another, more personal question, lurking in the background: Is a 73-year-old white male the best person to deal with those issues?
Charles has waited longer than any other heir to the throne and in many ways embodies the modernization of the monarchy. He was the first monarch without a home education, the first to earn a university degree, and the first to grow up in the increasingly harsh eyes of the media as respect for the royal family dwindled. bland.
He has been hailed as an early supporter of the environmental movement and has won much praise for his efforts to improve the lives of young people in underprivileged communities.
But he also has a reputation, perhaps unappreciated, as a somewhat claustrophobic older man, more at home on the polo field or one of his country’s establishments than in the frenetic cities. the heat of modern English football.
Charles also alienated many people because of his messy divorce from the much-loved Princess Diana, and by imposing rules that forbade the royal family from meddling in public affairs, participating in debate on issues such as environmental protection and architectural conservation.
As Great Britain mourned his mother, it became clear that Charles was ready to become a more personal monarch. He made a point as he waded into the crowd of wise men, pausing to shake hands and exchange a few words, more like a US presidential candidate calling for votes than a politician. The king inherited the crown from an ancestral line that lasted from 1066.
One woman even kissed him – a level of familiarity that no one would dare to Elizabeth.
In Monday National mourning For the late queen, Bertram Leon embodies the challenges Charles faced.
A proud Englishman with roots in the Windrush generation of immigrants to the UK from the Caribbean after World War II, Leon was at Westminster Abbey representing the St. Lucian in honoring the queen. Now, he hopes Charles will take the monarchy in a new direction.
“The king is really going to change, perhaps modernize the monarchy to the image he thinks it is today,” said Leon, the Order of the British Empire pinned to his chest. “We cannot relive the 1920s, 30s or 50s, when Elizabeth took over. We’re in the 21st century now, and I think things are going to be seen and seen a little differently. “
In addition to being king of Great Britain, Charles was also the head of state of the 14 “kingdoms” that held the monarch as their sovereign after gaining independence from the former British Empire. It is in these remote countries, stretching from Australia and New Zealand to the Caribbean, that Charles may face his first challenges.
The pressures were apparent earlier this year when Prince William and his wife, Kate, faced calls from the royal family to apologize and compensate for slavery during a trip to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas to celebrate 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne.
During that visit, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the royal family that his country has “moved forward”, months after Barbados severed ties with the monarchy.
The royal family has also faced criticism from within after Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, abandoned their royal duties and moved to California. In a public announcement Interview with US TV presenter Oprah Winfrey Earlier this year, the couple alleged that the palace had been insensitive to Meghan, who is biracial, and that a member of the royal family asked about the color of their first child’s skin before he born.
Charles sought to resolve domestic and foreign tensions at home first address as king.
“Wherever you may live in Great Britain, or in kingdoms and territories all over the world, and whatever your background or beliefs, I will endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I’ve had all my life,” he said.
Charles also faced concerns about how he would behave as king.
The laws and traditions governing Britain’s constitutional monarchy dictate that the monarch stay away from partisan politics, but Charles spent much of his adult life speaking out on important issues for him, especially the environment.
His words caused friction with politicians and business leaders, who accused the then Prince of Wales of meddling in matters he should have kept quiet.
The question is whether Charles will follow his mother’s example and stifle his personal opinion now that he’s king, or use his new platform to reach a wider audience.
“Of course, my life will change as I take on my new responsibilities,” says Charles. “I will no longer be able to devote much of my time and energy to charities and issues that I care deeply about. But I know this important work will take place in the trusted hands of others.”
The king was clear that he intended to minimize the monarchy, limit the number of working royals and reduce the cost of supporting them.
But for 10 days, Britain spared no expense in honoring Elizabeth, who had become a comforting symbol of stability during the tumultuous years of her long reign.
All the scenes that have become synonymous with royalty were on display as uniformed members of the royal family solemnly walked behind the carriage carrying the queen’s coffin leaving Buckingham Palace, cannons and Church bells rang in lament and world leaders filled Westminster Abbey for her. funeral.
But it’s a contest with a purpose, honoring the queen’s life while also reminding the public of the monarchy’s role in public life and linking people to the royal family in times of grief. shared.
Historian Robert Lacey, author of Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor, says: “People often criticize the British monarchy or even laugh at it as frivolous, circumstantial and empty. “
“Well, an occasion like this shows that it’s not emptiness, but glitz and circumstance represent something.”
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