King Charles III: Britain's Eco-Friendly King

Un aspecto esencial de toda monarquía consiste en proporcionar estabilidad en tiempos difíciles. Sin embargo, el ascenso al trono del rey Carlos III ha generado un debate sobre la necesidad de reformar y modernizar la institución.

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Sarah Davison

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Charles III is king of the United Kingdom and fourteen other realms, including Canada and Australia. He also heads the Commonwealth, a post-colonial group of fifty-four independent countries comprising 2.4 billion people. Heir to the British throne from the age of three, he knows how to execute the ceremonies required of him impeccably, and has proven himself extremely hard-working. Britain is a constitutional monarchy and the sovereign has no direct political power; however, as prince, Charles acquired a reputation for candour or, as he puts it, for “sticking my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly obvious to me.” 

en education

Born in London’s Buckingham Palace on 14 November 1948, Charles Philip Arthur George grew up in a world of immense privilege, but also preordained duty. In 1952, his grandfather George VI died prematurely and his twenty-five-year-old mother became Queen Elizabeth II. Charles’ childhood was marked by absent, distant parents who continually toured. His trajectory was determined by a committee that included the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Rather than be home-schooled, the prince was sent to the strict Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland, an experience that he later described as “a prison sentence.” He then spent a year at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia, before ending up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the UK, where he studied archaeology, anthropology and then history. His degree was the first ever earned by an heir to the British crown.  

PRINCE OF WALES

In the 1970s there was an unemployment crisis in Britain and sentiment was turning against the royal family. Charles, named Prince of Wales in 1969 (a title that is not hereditary) was sent to the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth to study Welsh history and language. His mentor was Edward Millward, an eminent academic and a Welsh nationalist. Charles took the title seriously and became a dedicated advocate of Welsh issues.

Charles’ personal interests were all carefully chosen and approved by royal advisors as what were then considered non-political causes: ecology, architecture, Middle Eastern art and alternative medicine. He approached them with passion; in 1970, he made a speech condemning the “horrifying effects” of all forms of pollution and called attention to the threat posed by “indestructible plastic containers.” 

BLACK SPIDER MEMOS

After leaving university, Charles served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. He returned in 1976 to found the Prince's Trust, a charity that offers skills training to thousands of young Britons. Critical of modern architecture, he founded the Prince of Wales’ Institute of Architecture, an organisation involved with urban regeneration and development projects. He set up the organic food brand Duchy Originals as part of his questioning of modern farming methods. In 1998, he founded the Prince’s Foundation, dedicated to a more sustainable future for Britain.

Prince Charles’ interest in good causes amused the popular press and he was nicknamed Britain’s “worrier-in-chief.” But the revelation that he was writing letters — so-called “black spider memos”, a reference to his handwritingurging MPs and even the Prime Minister to take action on key issues, caused serious concern. While the content of his memos turned out to be benign, it opened a debate on the degree to which the royal family can influence the government.

TROUBLED TIMES

Charles III ascended the throne in September with Britain’s legacy of colonialism still weighing it down. Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia may all remove him as head of state in his lifetime. The King has also inherited family scandals: in 2021 his brother Prince Andrew was stripped of his royal duties because of his association with sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, while relations between the King and his son Harry, regarding his decision to step back from his royal duties, remain tense. There are also serious questions about the fundraising activities of Charles’ charitable operations. The police are investigating the Prince’s Foundation after allegations of offers of honours or British citizenship in exchange for massive donations. 

THE NEAR FUTURE

So, what does the immediate future hold for the British monarchy? There are plans to slim it down to just seven key members of senior working royals. There will be a more rapid and agile approach to communications and greater transparency. It has been reported that King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, may move into an apartment in Buckingham Palace, like a “flat above a shop.” There may also be increased public access to the Palace and gardens.

SPEAKING UP

The King has insisted that he will take a different approach as monarch from his opinionated time as Prince, and will never be openly political. He will still, however, hold a weekly audience with the Prime Minister in conditions of absolute confidentiality. What happens behind these closed doors is a matter of interest; after all, the new king is of the opinion that planet Earth is facing catastrophe, while the new UK Government seems less convinced. Some believe that the stakes are so high that while Charles III may not be an outspoken King, he may be a King that risks constitutional crisis by speaking out on certain issues.  

Camilla: Rottweiler to Queen Consort

Charles’ personal life has been much scrutinised. In 1981 he married Lady Diana Spencer in a royal wedding that was a global media event. Their sons Prince William and Prince Henry (known as Harry) were born in 1982 and 1984. Charles’ marriage to Diana collapsed amidst rumours of infidelity with Camilla Parker-Bowles, with whom he had a long-standing relationship. A transcript of a suggestive, secretly-recorded 1989 phone conversation between them (known as ‘Camillagate’) made matters worse. Princess Diana even reportedly called Camilla a “rottweiler". In 1996, Charles and Diana divorced and a year later Diana died in a car crash. Popular feeling for her was so great that many questioned Charles’ suitability to be monarch at all, while Camilla was vilified. He subsequently spent much effort and expense in modernising his public image and gradually began appearing in public with Camilla. They quietly married in 2005 and she, over time, won respect as the future king's loyal wife. While Camilla never took the title Princess of Wales, associated with Diana, she now becomes the Queen Consort as the wife of a reigning king.

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