When Princess Diana gave her Panorama interview in 1995, Martin Bashir asked her if “given the marital problems” she thought her son Prince William should succeed his grandmother rather than Prince Charles.
When Diana dodged the question by saying William – only 13 at the time – was too young for her to even consider such a thing, Bashir persisted, asking her to think ahead to when William would be of age.
You must now be wondering if this was another example of his since-proven manipulation of the princess, but she answered anyway.
“My desire is for my husband to find peace of mind, and other things follow from that, yes,” Diana said. It was a vague and scathing response, not quite saying that the crown should skip a generation, but at the same time pointing out that Charles was unfit and too unstable to be king.
At that time, Diana would have found many who agreed with her.
Charles in 1995, however, was a very different proposition than the current King Charles III.
Charles was not a man you could imagine uniting the kingdom behind the royal family in 1995. If Charles had become king then, his lack of popularity might have toppled the whole house of cards.
How far he’s come in 30 years.
Everything that has happened since those days, not least Diana’s tragic death, has allowed the key characters to settle into the roles they now hold. Charles as king; Camilla as Queen Consort; William is waiting to take the reins.
It could be said that if Charles is sensible, he will have a brief stint in the limelight as king before handing over to William. The 73-year-old has long waited to take on this role and is entitled to enjoy it – but the true modernization of the monarchy will not come until William is on the throne.
However, the rules are – as Elizabeth believed – that abdication is not an option, not when one is a “defender of the faith”. King Charles nodded to him in his first speech on Friday when he spoke of fulfilling his duty “in what remaining time God grants me”. He plans to see the job through to the end – but made it clear that William’s successor is part of the picture, something the Queen carefully nurtured in her final years.
“I would also like to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue their lives abroad”
As she entered her final years, she was understandably more concerned with legacy and leaving an institution that might endure. Subtly but persistently, she showed faith in her heirs.
It was first seen in the photo taken in 2016 to mark her 90th birthday. The photo showed the Queen, Charles, William and George (only three years old at the time) standing on a platform. The same group posed for a formal photo four years later and pounded forcefully that this was the follow-up.
That was also underscored by her only appearance at the anniversary celebrations this summer, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. It was just her, Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and their three children. The main players present a vision of a possible streamlined future system, with the Queen giving her seal of approval.
In his speech on Friday, Charles introduced William as “my heir” before declaring that he will become Prince of Wales. Rest assured that every detail of the changeover has been meticulously and carefully planned for years, not least by the late Queen.
And the new king deliberately mentioned his other son.
“I also want to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue their lives abroad.”
It was warm, but it created distance – both geographically and in terms of the master plan. The show must go on and stability is key.
To that end, one has to wonder if, without her stabilizing spouses, the Queen would have felt safe enough to leave things in safe hands. In 1995, she might have agreed with Diana that Charles was so at odds with himself that he was unfit to be king.
It was certainly a significant moment in February this year, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of her coronation, when she said it was her “sincere desire” that Camilla be known as the Queen Consort. Less than a year later, Camilla is exactly that.
In turn, Kate Middleton, the first Princess of Wales since Diana, is seen as William’s “strength and support,” as well as the warm-hearted and relatable Queen consort with her late mother-in-law’s common touch-right, but without the complications.
Diana might have been right about Charles all those years ago — but we’ve all lived many lives since then. Of course she wasn’t so lucky. And if she was still here, there can be no doubt, but things could be very different.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/balancing-family-and-the-firm-will-prove-tricky-for-charles-41979431.html Balancing family and The Firm will prove difficult for Charles