For endlessly waiting Prince Charles, it might be good not to be the king


September 9, 2015

LONDON: England’s Prince Charles started not being the king when he was born: Nov. 14, 1948. He continued not being the king when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, became Britain’s monarch on Feb. 6, 1952.

September 9, 2015

LONDON: England’s Prince Charles started not being the king when he was born: Nov. 14, 1948. He continued not being the king when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, became Britain’s monarch on Feb. 6, 1952.

As his mother’s reign entered its fifth, sixth and seventh decade, he remained merely the Prince of Wales. And, when Elizabeth becomes the longest-serving British monarch at about 12:30 p.m. EST, her 66-year-old son will still be waiting in the wings.

It’s tough to want a job when getting it requires that your 89-year-old mother shuffle off this mortal coil. “If it comes to it, regrettably it comes as a result of the death of your parent,” Charles once said.

But the prince has shown a few signs of impatience.

“Impatient?” Charles said in 2012. “Me? What a thing to suggest! Yes, of course I am … I’ll run out of time soon. I shall have snuffed it if I’m not careful.”

Charles — the United Kingdom’s longest-waiting heir who, if his mother dies, will also be oldest to assume the throne — seemed to be joking, but … was he joking? There have been reports to the contrary.

“[I] remember the time he visited a Brixton youth club in the 1980s,” John Rentoul of the Independent wrote. “One youth, delighted to see him, exclaimed, ‘You gonna be king, man, you gonna be king!’ Charles replied drily, ‘That’s the general idea.'”

While it’s easy to make always-a-bridesmaid jokes at Charles’s expense, they may be off the mark.

“The idea that he would not be king is not something that has entered his mind,” Catherine Mayer, the author of “The Heart of a King,” a controversial book about Charles, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “The idea that it would not happen in the normal course of events is alien to him.”

Still, the prince is a noted philanthropist, a vegetarian outspoken on issues such as climate change. This isn’t necessarily the royal way, and taking the throne might stifle him. In 2013, for example, Mayer reported Charles referred to the responsibilities of a monarch as “prison shades” — a quote Buckingham Palace disputed.

“It’s a well established constitutional fact that the Monarch must remain neutral in all matters,” royal-watchers Royal Central wrote in 2013.”The Queen has managed this flawlessly, though will the Prince’s desire to help and promote change for the better cause issue with this?”

Maybe not. Last year, the Guardian reported that Charles was planning to reinvent the throne if he ever got to sit on it.

“Prince Charles is ready to reshape the monarch’s role when he becomes king and make ‘heartfelt interventions’ in national life in contrast to the Queen’s taciturn discretion on public affairs, his allies have said,” the paper wrote. “In signs of an emerging strategy that could risk carrying over the controversy about his alleged meddling in politics into his kingship, sources close to the heir say he is set to continue to express concerns and ask questions about issues that matter to him, such as the future of farming and the environment, partly because he believes he has a duty to relay public opinion to those in power.”

Indeed, the release of the “black spider memos” — correspondence from the prince, known for his trademark scrawl — in May revealed exchanges with Tony Blair, among other political figures, some thought meddling. If Charles is supposed to be a figurehead, he might not be that good at playing statue.

For the prince, holding his tongue might not be the biggest problem. A more difficult question: Does the public still want him? Some Britishers seem to prefer a younger, sexier monarch.

“While seven in ten Britons think Britain should remain a monarchy, many British people still believe Prince Charles should make way for Prince William as the next monarch,” Tom Sykes of the Daily Beast wrote in “King Charles: The Monarch Nobody Wants.” “40% of Britons say Prince Charles should give up his right to be the next king in favor of his son.”

Abdication, however, is complicated. Theoretically, Elizabeth could give up the throne anytime, perhaps easing the transition for Charles. But only one British monarch — Elizabeth’s uncle Edward, in 1936 — has stepped down, and rumors of abdication in the past have proven groundless.

The Queen doesn’t even want to celebrate her long reign. She just wants to keep reigning.

“She has let it be known with some emphasis that she does not want a fuss to be made,” the BBC elegantly explained. “It is evidently viewed as bad form for one long-lived queen to be seen in any way to be celebrating the passing of a record set by another long-lived queen.”

Meanwhile, the public certainly doesn’t seem to want Camilla, Charles’s second wife, as queen. Just 34 percent of 2,000 Britons surveyed earlier this year in a Daily Mail poll had a positive view of her.

“These are shocking figures for Charles PR machine to contemplate after a decade of assiduously attempting via every trick in the book to soften Camilla’s image and encourage the populace to warm to her,” Sykes of the Daily Beast wrote.

Elizabeth, however, is a near-nonagenarian. Sometime — likely not in the too-far-distant future — Charles will have to decide: Does he want to be king, or doesn’t he?

“Yes,” Mayer said. “Does he want his mother to stand down? No.”

Courtesy: Washington Post