Royal Drama: The Unruly Family of King Charles III. On the stage at the coronation
LONDON (AP) — King Charles III lives in a palace, travels in a chauffeur-driven Bentley, and is one of the richest men in Britain, but he resembles many of his subjects in a very fundamental way: his family life is complicated – very complicated.
There are a second wifean awkward brother and an angry son and daughter-in-law, all with allies who aren’t afraid to whisper family secrets into friendly reporters’ ears.
The new king will hope to keep those tensions under control when his mixed royal family, with up to 2,800 guests, join Charles’ Coronation on May 6th in Westminster Abbey. Everyone except Meghanthe Duchess of Sussex.
How Charles manages his family drama over the coming weeks and years will be critical to the King’s efforts to preserve and protect the 1,000-year-old hereditary monarchy he now embodies. Without the respect of the public, the House of Windsor risks being lumped together with pop stars, social media influencers and reality TV contestants as fodder for the British tabloid, undermining the cachet that its role in public life enjoys underpins.
Royal historian Hugo Vickers says people should look past the sensational headlines and focus on what Charles is achieving now that he is king.
“In a way, he becomes a new man when he becomes king,” said Vickers, author of Coronation: The Crowning of Elizabeth II.
“Look at him as he is now, look at how he approaches everything, look at his positivity and look at how right he was on so many issues,” he added. “Unfortunately, he’s had these difficult times with his marriages and some other issues, but we’re living in a very difficult time.”
The horror show returned to haunt Charles last week when the King’s estranged younger son Prince Harry Dlaunched a new round of allegations Tuesday about the royal family in the middle of the coronation setup.
In written evidence of his invasion of privacy against a British newspaper, Harry claimed his father stopped him from filing the lawsuit a decade ago. The prince said Charles did not want to dig up any graphic testimony about his extramarital affair with former Camilla Parker-Bowles while he was married to the late Princess Diana.
Diana was the mother of Harry and his older brother and heir apparent William, Prince of Wales. Camilla, now the Queen consort, married Charles in 2005 and will be crowned with her husband at Westminster Abbey.
If history is any indication, attention will now shift to body language, seating plans and even wardrobe choices during the coronation, as royal watchers look for signs of thawing family tensions.
But Joe Little, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, doesn’t expect Harry to have much contact with the rest of his family. In any case, Harry won’t be in the UK for long, so there won’t be much time for fence-mending.
“The stuff we discovered (Tuesday) really isn’t going to help his cause,” Little said. ‘But do you know, will there be time to discuss all this with the King and Prince of Wales? Unlikely.”
The royal soap opera didn’t start with the current generation of royals. After all, Edward VIII sparked a constitutional crisis in 1936 when he abdicated the throne to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson.
Charles’ grandfather, George VI, is credited with saving the monarchy with a life of low-key public service after replacing his flamboyant older brother. The late Queen Elizabeth II burnished the family’s reputation during a 70-year reign during which she became a symbol of stability, cheering the nation’s victories and comforting it in darker times.
But Charles grew up in a different era, amidst the glare of media attention as deference to the monarchy faded.
He has been a controversial figure since the very public failure of his marriage to Diana, who was admired by many for her looks and compassion.
Diana claimed there were “three people” in the marriage, pointing the finger at Charles’ longtime love Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Camilla, who was initially berated by Diana’s fans, has worked hard to rehabilitate her image. Her ex-husband and children are expected to attend the coronation, with her grandchildren serving as page of honor.
It supports a range of causes ranging from adult literacy to protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. But even these efforts have created tensions.
Harry claimed in his memoir Spare that senior royals leaked unflattering stories about him to the news media in return for more favorable coverage, particularly to boost Camilla’s image.
At the time of their marriage in 2018, Harry and Meghan have been hailed as the new faces of the monarchy. Meghan, a multiracial American actress, brought a touch of Hollywood glamor to the royal family and many observers hoped she would help the Windsors connect with younger people in an increasingly multicultural nation.
Those hopes quickly crumbled amid claims that palace officials were insensitive to Meghan’s mental health issues as she adjusted to royal life.
Harry and Meghan left frontline royal duties three years ago and relocated to California, from where they have repeatedly voiced criticism of the House of Windsor.
In a 2021 Interview with Oprah Winfrey They hinted at racism at the palace and claimed an unidentified member of the royal family inquired about the color of their unborn son’s skin before he was born.
harry, in a Netflix series that aired last year, said the episode was an example of unconscious bias and that the royal family needed to “learn and grow” so they could be “part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
The repeated attacks led to months of speculation as to whether the couple would be invited to the coronation. The palace finally answered this question two weeks ago when it announced this Harry would attend but Meghan would remain in California with her two children.
And then there’s Charles’ brother Prince Andrew, who became a toxic time bomb within the royal family once the world learned of his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and that of the financier longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell.
Epstein, who was convicted of sex crimes in 2008, died in a New York jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on a second charge. Maxwell was convicted last year for helping procure young girls for Epstein, and he is Serving a 20-year prison sentence in a federal prison in Florida.
Andrew gave up his royal duties in 2019 after a disastrous job interview with the BBC, in which he tried to explain away his ties to Epstein and Maxwell. He was stripped of his honorary military titles and patronage as he prepared to defend a civil lawsuit filed by a woman who says she was forced to have sex with the prince as a teenager.
Andrew denied the allegations, however settled the lawsuit last year before it came to court. Although the terms of the agreement were not made public, The Sun newspaper reported that Charles and the late Queen paid the bulk of the estimated £7million ($8.7million) settlement.
“I think it was inevitable that when Charles became king, a lot of personal things would come back to haunt him,” Little said. “I think as for the king, all he has to do is shrug his shoulders and get on with the work at hand.”