DANICA KIRK, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) – It’s good to be queen.
No one knows this better than Queen Elizabeth II, who has no intention of backing down after 70 years on the throne. But the aging sovereign is giving Prince Charles an increasingly prominent role, delegating more responsibilities to his eldest son and heir.
This became evident last month when Charles, 73, accompanied by his wife Camilla, presided over the State Opening of Parliament, one of the most important duties of a monarch.
The subtle transition illustrates the challenges the royal family is facing as the 96-year-old queen remains on the throne and Charles becomes more of the public face of the monarchy. As the UK celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this week, the royals are working to cement the position of the sometimes misunderstood heir and demonstrate that the House of Windsor will live on.
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“Charles and Camilla are a question mark for the future when it comes to the monarchy,” said Robert Lacey, royal historian and adviser on the Netflix series The Crown. “But we are not in the position we thought 20 years ago, when the prospect of Charles’s accession to the throne seemed like a major issue. And I think it’s fair to say that the monarchy enjoys more British affection today… than it has in many decades.”
This is largely due to Elizabeth, who on her 21st birthday vowed to serve the UK and the Commonwealth throughout her life. The queen shows every intention to fulfill this promise.
But her mobility issues are forcing her to be more selective in her public engagements and open the door for Charles, who has spent the past three decades trying to get over the messy fallout of his marriage to the highly popular Princess Diana.
It took many in Britain years to forgive Charles, whose admitted infidelity and long-standing ties to Camilla ruined his relationship with Diana, known as the “People’s Princess” for her ability to communicate with the public in a way her husband never could. The glamorous young mother of Prince William and Prince Harry died in a car accident in Paris in 1997, five years after her split from Charles.
But public sentiment softened after Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.
Camille, 74, now known as the Duchess of Cornwall, has worked for more than 100 charities, promoting literacy, supporting victims of domestic violence, helping the elderly and more.
With her simple style and sense of humor, she eventually captivated many Britons. Her warmth softened Charles’s prim image and made him seem more relaxed, if not happier, as he cut ribbons, opened plaques, and performed the often boring tasks of royal duty.
Earlier this year, the Queen attempted to cement the couple’s position by expressing her “sincere wish” that Camilla be known as “Queen Consort” when Charles became king. Elisabeth’s words dismissed the argument that the relationship history should relegate Camille to a lower status, turning her from a homemaker into a future spouse with a stroke of a pen.
In the meantime, Charles was ready to intervene when needed, most dramatically when he presided over the opening of Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech outlining the government’s legislative program.
The event is a symbol of the constitutional role of the monarch as head of state of the UK and is accompanied by ceremonies and spectacles passed down from generation to generation to showcase the strength of British political institutions.
The choreography of the day emphasized the Queen, who was absent but still present. Her throne had been removed, but in its place was the Imperial State Crown resting on a cushion. Charles wore the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, not a broad ermine robe.
“Prince Charles is our longest-serving heir,” said Robert Hardman, author of The Queen of Our Time: The Life of Elizabeth II. – He is there. He’s willing to do whatever it takes if the queen can’t be there. But, you know, she swore an oath that she would reign for the rest of her life. And she looks at it that way.
Because Charles has waited so long in the wings, his hobbies are well known.
For example, he started campaigning for the environment long before it became a major issue. He is accused of interfering in politics, which is forbidden to the monarch, when he speaks out about the development of property, which he opposes, and other issues.
On a recent trip to Canada, he touched on a very sensitive topic, acknowledging the “pain and suffering” suffered by Indigenous communities whose children were taken away and abused in public boarding schools.
This may be a form of things to come.
Emily Nash, royal editor of HELLO! magazine, said that Charles is engaging with people around the world, especially on the issue of climate change.
“It’s very important to work together to try and improve things for future generations,” Nash said. “And that’s something Prince Charles is absolutely passionate about.”
Tiva Adebayo, 23, a journalist and blogger, says the royals should be more vocal on issues like this, speaking out on topics like inequality and immigration if the monarchy is going to be relevant in the future. She called the Dutch royal family a model for the future.
“I think this is the kind of monarchy we need,” she said. “So not getting involved in politics, but getting involved in politics, not getting too involved in social issues, but talking when it’s convenient, I don’t think it’s really going to be relevant.”
For now, Charles has admitted that he can be a little less stuffy in public – even more approachable. Nowhere is this more evident than in a television soap opera anniversary special.
Charles and Camilla will surprise the townspeople at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee street party on BBC EastEnders. In a clip shown after a recent episode, the partygoers are told, “You should see this mysterious guest,” before the royal couple drive up to The Queen Vic pub.
Read the AP report on Queen Elizabeth II at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii.
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