The new King Charles III has been training for this role all his life — but just what kind of monarch will he be?
Charles became heir apparent at just 3 years old when his mother was proclaimed Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 25, following the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952.
In the years leading up to his mother’s passing on Thursday at age 96, the then-Prince of Wales gave the British public and the Commonwealth a glimpse of what it would be like to have him as king as he stood in for his beloved “Mama” at various events.
In May 2022, Charles read the Queen’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament, and also took the salute at the Trooping the Colour ceremony to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee the following month as she bowed out due to mobility issues.
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, told The Post: “The one thing we can say about Charles is that he’s the best-trained monarch-in-waiting — he’s had half a century of training. He’s been Prince of Wales since 1958 and he’s the longest-serving Prince of Wales ever.
“Over the last few years, there have been various transitions going on behind the scenes. When the Queen became monarch, her father was ill and people didn’t expect him to die as quickly as he did. There was very little in place for the new reign, but this time the transition has been planned at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House for a number of years. As much as could be was readied for when the time came.”
Charles, 73, who is famously passionate about the environment and architecture and has extolled the virtue of talking to plants, has often been accused of wading into politics, far from the monarch’s accepted remit.
In June 2022, he was believed to have privately branded British Home Secretary Priti Patel’s scheme to deport Rwandan asylum-seekers “appalling” — days before a visit to the African country with his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Representing the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the pair became the first members of the royal family to visit Rwanda to mark the country’s recovery from the 1994 genocide.
A Clarence House spokesman denied he had fallen out with then-British PM Boris Johnson, saying at the time: “We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral. Matters of policy are decisions for government.”
“Charles has said himself that he will have to adapt his style when he becomes sovereign. But the question of just how outspoken he will be remains to be seen,” Little said.
“There is a consensus among those who know him and work with him that he will find it difficult to remain silent in the same way his mother did for the whole of her reign … they are very different characters.”
Asked how they differed, Little replied: “Even after 70 years, we don’t know an awful lot about the Queen. But we know considerably more about Charles in public and private. And although she was sovereign for 70 years, the Queen was a reserved, rather shy character, she was very good at compartmentalization; those aren’t traits that Charles seems to have inherited. He is more outgoing. The nature of his role as Prince of Wales hasn’t been so restricted in what he could say and do.
“I would imagine that it will be hard for him not to talk about things. He accepts that’s going to be the case, but accepting it and being able to put it into practice may well be two different things. We may just have to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
In a 2018 BBC interview to mark his 70th birthday, Charles denied that he would be a “meddling” or activist king, saying, “I’m not that stupid.”
Declaring the roles of sovereign and heir to be different, he insisted that he had always tried to be non-political, adding: “It is vital to remember there’s only room for one sovereign at a time.”
In the documentary “Prince, Son and Heir, Charles at 70,” Charles said, “You can’t be the same as the sovereign if you’re the Prince of Wales or the heir. But the idea somehow that I’m going to go on in exactly the same way if I have to succeed is complete nonsense because the two situations are completely different.
“You only have to look at Shakespeare plays, ‘Henry V’ or ‘Henry IV, Part 1’ and ‘2,’ to see the change that can take place. Because if you become the sovereign, then you play the role in the way that it is expected.
“So, clearly I won’t be able to do the same things I’ve done as heir. So, of course, you operate within the constitutional parameters. But it’s a different function. I think people have forgotten that the two are very different.”
Charles has faced criticism for decades over his campaigning on issues such as GM crops, architecture, integrated medicine and climate change. When told people have expressed worries that this would continue in the same way, Charles responded: “No. It won’t. I’m not that stupid. I do realize that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So, of course, you know, I understand entirely how that should operate.”
Asked if he could continue, as king, to use his “convening power,” he replied: “Well, you never know. But you could only do it with the agreement of ministers. That’s how it works.”
The Duchess of Cornwall added that Charles knew “his destiny,” adding: “I don’t think it does weigh on his shoulders at all.” It was not something her husband talked about very much, she said: “It’s just something that’s going to happen.”
In June 2022, Charles was accused of accepting millions of pounds in bags of cash from controversial Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar.
The UK Sunday Times said the prince was given a total of 3 million euros ($3.2 million) by Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar. The money was reportedly handed over to Charles at private meetings between 2011 and 2015 — on one occasion in a suitcase, and on another in shopping bags from London’s Fortnum & Mason department store.
The newspaper said the money was deposited into the accounts of the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund. It did not allege that anything illegal was done.
Charles’ office, Clarence House, said in a statement that the donations “were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”
Charles has long been accused of meddling in government affairs before, including his infamous “black spider” letters to ministers and other officials — so called because of his handwriting style — which were made public in 2015 under freedom of information laws.
“The Queen was deemed to be above politics and that set her apart from other heads of state. As a result, she came in for much less criticism and it also allowed her to counsel and advise her prime minister in the UK and in her other realms,” Little said. “Will Charles still lobby behind the scenes? Yes, it seems likely, but that may be the exception rather than the rule. He will have to adapt to suit his new situation and we will find perhaps that the new Prince of Wales will also step into his father’s shoes.
“We’ve seen Prince William become quite outspoken about things. If you look at his speech on the Windrush experience and how badly those people were and are still treated, it was perceived as a dig at the government of the present day.
“William will be his own Prince of Wales, but there may well be similarities as his father may not be able to do as much as he did.”
As The Post has reported, Charles and his older son formed a new power dynamic following the departure of Prince Harry from the family as a working royal.
Despite reports that Charles and Camilla may move from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, Little said he remains “unconvinced” of making a couple in their 70s move.
“We know that he doesn’t have the affection for Windsor Castle that his mother did, he won’t use it unless it’s for entertainment purposes. He will use Highgrove as his country base as it offers him a lot more privacy,” said Little: “I would use Charles and Camilla at Clarence House. Winston Churchill told the Queen and Prince Philip they had to move to Buckingham Palace, but that was then and this is now and I can’t see the need.”
After 17 years as a member of the royal family, Camilla will be a great aide to King Charles.
“She knows how to handle Charles,” said Little. “They’re growing old together and they have a tried and tested partnership which clearly works and bodes well for his time as king.”