It’s been almost a week since Queen Elizabeth’s death, so it’s time to think about what’s next. Of course, the British know that they have a new monarch, whom we in the Czech Republic are now getting to know under the new name of Charles III, while for decades before that we called him Prince Charles. But what does this mean in practice? Will Karel lead Britain in a new, unexpected direction? He will give way to his lifelong inclinations, for example his love for the environment. Will the UK have its first ‘green’ king?
The American magazine The Atlantic captured the way the late empress worked very accurately. “The Queen, in a sense, didn’t do much. She traveled tirelessly, smiling and encouraging, but unlike many of her predecessors, she did not seek political influence. Instead, she penetrated people’s imaginations and controlled them. A third of Britons (including opponents of the monarchy) admit that they dream about the Queen,” colleagues from the respectable magazine write, adding that they mean socially acceptable dreams – for example, about the Queen stopping by for tea.
The Financial Times describes the same approach in a less colorful but similar way: the Queen, they say, “was very careful not to interfere in Britain’s political affairs”. That is, of course, so that she does not do so openly. What happened behind the scenes and especially during regular private audiences with prime ministers and prime ministers, in the sphere of informal influence, we probably won’t find out right away.
In fact, it is possible to say that the late monarch’s recipe for the survival of the monarchy lay in strict dispassion and elevation above the daily routine. Thanks to him, she was able to function as a cohesive element, after all, her support was around 80 percent until the end. This would not be possible if she openly held any “controversial” views on which there is not the widest possible social consensus in Britain. A monarch who would provoke a significant part of society with his attitudes in a modern democracy would obviously provoke his opinion opponents not only against himself, but quite possibly against the entire institution – unelected, hereditary, with a legitimacy that, by definition, stands on very shaky legs.
King Charles III knows this. undoubtedly much better than the commentator of Respekt, he probably thought about it all his life in the circle of his family “company”. After all, he himself also said and confirmed it. In an interview years ago, he explained that he was fully aware of the fundamental difference between the role of heir to the throne, a position he had held all his life, and the task of a king or queen. “You cannot be the same in the role of monarch and Prince of Wales. The idea that I will somehow continue in a completely unchanged way is complete nonsense because both roles, both situations, are completely different.’
Of course, we cannot know to what extent Charles III. he lives up to his words. But if so, it is most likely that we cannot expect King Charles III to continue to actively promote the interests of Prince Charles, i.e. topics of the environment, decaying architecture, homeopathy, but quite possibly also support for Tibet or a bitter dislike of Vladimir Putin. If today’s monarch has learned anything from his mother and predecessor, he knows that this is exactly what “can’t be done”, because then the question immediately comes up as to whether opinions should be democratically voted on after all. And the answer is unlikely to be favorable to the monarchy.
Of course, the absence of political activism does not mean that everything will run smoothly as before. That’s not even possible, Queen Elizabeth cannot simply be plastered over with an effigy of Charles. He cannot repeat her story of a young woman ascending the throne at a moment of national distress after World War II. Elizabeth’s strength also lay in the fact that she represented an optimistic counterbalance to the objectively declining influence of Britain in the world, including decolonization. Nevertheless, it can be expected that, at least initially, the changes will take place more within the institution itself, i.e. the royal family. And it doesn’t tend to make decisions very collectively (hence the many heartbreaking stories about the heartless queen that resonate so well in the tabloids and on the movie screen).
If Elizabeth II. There was some criticism among British experts on the monarchy, then the decision to keep a wide range of active members of the royal family. The British ensemble, which is often unable to stack itself on a smaller tribune, pales in comparison to the monarchies of Spain or Scandinavia. This entails not only the feeling that the common subjects have to “feed” too many idle snobs, whose role is difficult to understand, but also the risk of scandals and scandals.
A slim royal family, in which official functions would only belong to the narrowest circle of people in close proximity to the monarch, would not have to deal with, for example, Uncle Andrew’s pedophile tendencies or dramas between siblings who have a realistically different chance of actually ruling one day. That is, she would deal with them like any other family in private and would not complicate the operation of an important state institution.
Charles III indeed, he has spoken in the past about wanting to correct his mother’s move and reduce the number of active family members. Whether and how this will happen remains to be seen – and it is certainly not possible to expect any revolutionary solutions within weeks or months. At the same time, in the way that Charles III. will play his part, a lot will matter.
Until now, the reader may have the feeling that the inner workings of a strange institution may not interest him. The reality is, however, that until the incredibly popular figure of Elizabeth II. it was not only a prerequisite for the success of the series on Netflix, but also a guarantee of the cohesion of the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. According to some analysts, Karl is even in danger of having his mother’s popularity turn unpleasantly against him – that it will turn out that the loyalty of the subjects is tied more to the personality of the late monarch than to the institution as such.
At the same time, the United Kingdom faces the strengthened centrifugal tendencies of Scotland and Northern Ireland after Brexit. In Scotland, the ruling nationalists are seeking a repeat of the independence referendum, and that may indeed take a different course without Elizabeth (and after leaving the EU). In Northern Ireland, on the other hand, in the recent elections, the republican party Sinn Fein, which has been striving for long-term unification with Dublin, won. Even in this case, the combination of a new monarch and an unwanted departure from the EU looms as a potentially explosive mixture in the longer term.
Add to that the war in Ukraine, inflation and the energy crisis – and suddenly it is clear that even changes in the course of the royal family, intended as a way to consolidate the authority and popularity of the new king, can have far-reaching consequences.