While Charles III became king of the United Kingdom upon the death of his mother on September 8, 2022, the world just watched his coronation last week. Though he is a new king, Charles III is a veteran of the monarchy, with there being no doubt that he will have less time actually in his current role than the time it took to get there. The question is how he will he use the precious time that he has.
What will be the legacy of Charles III? Will he simply be remembered as the oldest person to become King of England, having been heir apparent for the longest time of any previous monarch, or will he shape the English monarchy according to his philosophy about humanity and the natural world we’re privileged to inhabit?
King Charles III is a 21st-century monarch. His interests in climate change, architecture, and sustainable farming that seemed ahead of their time when he first expressed interest in them are now priorities for other leaders. He created the Prince’s Trust to provide opportunity for those who seek it, including financial support for education, training programs, and professional advancement for youth and young adults who because they lacked financial means were at risk of becoming casualties of society.
While living in the shadow of Queen Elizabeth II, times changed—and with them, Britain’s role in the world and in Europe. As many of us learned from the televised versions of the royal family and British monarchy, King Charles will have little-to-no coercive power to shape the country according to his philosophy and vision. He is in the unenviable position of finally attaining his place in the sun as king, while having less freedom to speak out about the causes that he championed as Prince of Wales. As a monarch that possesses no executive or political power, he in many ways must continue to live in the shadows.
Some say that his smoothest path might be as a transitional or think tank monarch where he can convene bodies of people to put forward 21st-century ideas while being careful not to be too provocative.
The world will be watching.