When the Queen finally died at age 96, she had become a beloved figure around the world, a symbol of stability and continuity in a tumultuous age. Having lived through the trauma of the Second World War, her last months were spent in the awareness of another war at the eastern edge of Europe. The sense of duty she brought to her office stood in stark contrast to the predominant ethos of expressive individualism that had overtaken the west during the second decade of her reign.
Now her eldest son takes the thrones of the United Kingdom and of 14 other Commonwealth realms, including Canada, as Charles III. At this point, it is difficult to say how he will conduct himself as King, but I believe we can safely make three observations in these first months.
Legacy and responsibilities
First, it is far from true to say that he was unemployed until age 73, as some wags have put it. As a full member of The Firm – a term used to describe the Royal Family at work – King Charles has decades of experience behind him, fulfilling the normal round of official duties in his capacity as Prince of Wales and heir to the throne. As the Queen slowed as she aged, he assumed more of the responsibilities belonging to Britain’s head of state.
Second, although King Charles has not been as beloved a figure as his late mother, he is heir to a legacy of considerable good will and admiration that she earned during her seven decades of service to her country and to the Commonwealth. Sad to say, the media are not as respectful of the royal office as they were in 1952, yet I believe that our new monarch will rise to the occasion, taking every opportunity to connect with his people on a personal level. He may not be a gregarious person, but neither was his late grandfather, who endeared himself to his people through his courage and dedication during the war.
Third, while pro-republican sentiments are expressed in several of the King’s Commonwealth realms, with Barbados only recently severing its ties to the Crown, he is supported by the reality that constitutional monarchies have an enviable record of stability and prosperity. Many Brazilians I know believe that their country was a better place when Dom Pedro II reigned over the Império do Brasil from 1831 to 1889.
God save the King!
As one of His Majesty’s Canadian subjects, I welcome our new monarch and pray that God will bless him, giving him the strength and wisdom to discharge his responsibilities well. And, although it will feel strange to sing the Royal anthem with changed nouns and pronouns, I think I can speak for virtually all Canadians when I say: God save the King!