A well-crafted and necessary speech, well timed to the occasion. Given the fresh grief that a son has when his mother passes suddenly, the newly recognized King Charles III did a very good job in expressing the national grief ahead of his own while emphasizing the continuity that he hopes to achieve.
Charles made that explicit in paralleling Queen Elizabeth II’s famous pledge of lifetime service to her people, but with a telling addition:
FULL ADDRESS: Britain’s King Charles addresses the nation following the death of Queen Elizabeth. pic.twitter.com/cwAIm3XTsr
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 9, 2022
His pledge to “uphold the constitutional principles” seems like a deliberate signal in this setting. Prince Charles had created ripples and no small amount of controversy with his activism on policy issues, especially on energy policies. His mother had steadfastly upheld the constitutional separation of the monarch from such questions, at least in public.
Many had wondered whether Charles as king would continue that activism. Charles didn’t directly address that question, but the explicit reference to “constitutional principles” at least suggests that the answer is no.
Charles took the opportunity to seize the reins firmly, announcing the obvious transitions within the family. William gets invested as Prince of Wales immediately, as expected. (There was a brief but notable olive branch offered to Harry and Meghan as well.) The value in rolling this out at this stage is to emphasize continuity. Nearly everyone in the UK has lost the only monarch they have ever known, after all, and they want to know that someone is taking charge in her place. It also will help quell any discussion about whether Charles should have opted out in favor of William, who at 40 years of age might have been a more popular (and less controversial) monarch than his father.
As John Solomon noted earlier, Charles perhaps has the good fortune of low expectations on that score. Most people will see him as a transitional figure:
Larman said Charles’ difficult divorce from Princess Diana, his bumpy effort to sell his second wife Camilla to the British public and his youngest son’s marriage to American actress Meghan Markle and the tell-all interviews and expected book to follow all add to the new king’s early challenges as does his age at 73.
“If you take the Queen’s motto of never complain, never explain, he is a very different figure because he has complained a lot and he has explained a lot. So we know a lot more about him,” he said.
Larman said Charles likely is to be viewed as a “transitional monarch” holding the throne for his eldest son William. “I don’t think anyone has high expectations,” he added.
If Charles takes his pledge as seriously as his mother did, though, the transitional phase may be rather lengthy. At any rate, Charles made a good first step in securing the confidence of the British people.