Queen Elizabeth II turned 95 last week, four days after burying her husband, Prince Philip, and with him the partnership that has ruled the British royal family for nearly 70 years. Now, as the Queen faces the future on her own, her son and heir Prince Charles is reshaping the family to move the monarchy forward after Elizabeth.
Philip’s death added urgency to a transition already underway at House of Windsor. As Elizabeth’s kingdom comes to an end, Charles has taken steps to mop up the royal family and redistribute their duties. It’s a downsizing process imposed by the loss of loyal and trustworthy characters like Philip, on top of the wicked departure of Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, and the Prince’s less than harmonious internal exile. Andrew.
Buckingham Palace is reassessing Prince Philip’s funeral ceremony, people briefed at the palace said, applying lessons learned from it to Operation London Bridge, a detailed plan that has long been sketched out on how the days and weeks will unfold. after the death of the queen.
Apparently Elizabeth is in good health, the only complaint being stiff knees which made it difficult for her to climb the stairs. Real observers point out that her mother lived to be 101 years old. Buckingham Palace is in the process of planning its Platinum Jubilee, a four-day celebration that will take place in June 2022 to mark the 70th anniversary of his accession to the throne.
But the moving image of the elderly and isolated Queen, mourning the death of her husband alone in St. George’s Chapel during Philip’s funeral due to restrictions imposed by social detachment, has given many people a sense of her fragility and vulnerability. And that has led people to wonder to what extent Elizabeth will remain active, even after the pandemic has waned.
“Basically what’s going to happen is the Queen will be leaving the place little by little, with dignity,” said Peter Hunt, a former BBC correspondent who has covered the royal family. “Covid has helped in a way, because it has accelerated what any sane 95-year-old woman prefers to do: not stay up all day.”
As is always the case with the Royal Family, the details of their internal deliberations are difficult to determine and involved in speculation. Rumors that Charles and William are holding a summit to discuss the transition are dismissed by people with ties to the palace.
Hunt pointed out that the royals rarely broadcast these moments, leading outsiders to try and interpret the signs and clues. But some things already seem clear.
Although the Queen has returned to work since Philip’s death, she will never return to the busy schedule of meetings, receptions and socials she has been hosting for decades. According to knowledgeable people, she can return to Buckingham Palace just two days a week to attend meetings, preferring to stay longer at Windsor Castle, where she and Philip were quarantined during the pandemic.
Over the past 12 months, the Queen has hosted numerous videoconference meetings, showing a spiritual mood in some of these virtual gatherings. Like others working from home, she has adapted to the new environment, said a person with connections to the palace, and does not necessarily intend to return to work in her office just because it reopens. the doors.
As Prince of Wales, Charles has already taken on some of his mother’s responsibilities, including overseas trips and investiture ceremonies, during which the title of ‘gentleman’ is bestowed on selected individuals.
Charles accompanies Elizabeth to the opening ceremony of the annual session of Parliament; the next one is scheduled for May. And he spoke publicly after fury over his brother Andrew’s ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, prompting Andrew to be banned from public office.
The biggest challenge for Charles is to reconcile the workload of the royal family with its reduced ranks. It is not only today that he defends a thin monarchy, centered on him and his wife, Camilla; Prince William and his wife Kate and Harry and his wife Meghan. Princess Anne, Elizabeth’s younger sister, is also still a full-time member of the royal family.
But Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down from royal duties and move to California blew up those plans. There was no sign of a change in position on Harry’s part, nor even much hope of reconciliation between him and William when Harry attended his grandfather’s funeral. The two brothers quickly chatted as they left the ceremony, but Harry returned to the United States before the Queen’s birthday.
There is also little chance that Andrew will return to perform any real duties. Instead, the palace braces itself for more embarrassing revelations in July, when Andrew’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell is on trial in New York on charges of trafficking underage girls for the benefit of her employer, Jeffrey. Epstein. Andrew has been accused of sexual misconduct by one of Epstein’s victims. He denies the accusation.
“We will not see people competing for space on the balcony of Buckingham Palace,” said Andrew Morton, a royal family columnist whose latest book, “Elizabeth & Margaret”, deals with the relationship between the Queen and her sister. “There will only be a handful of people.”
Members of the Royal Family attend more than 2,000 official events each year, many of which involve charity. About 3,000 philanthropic organizations identify a member of the royal family as their patron or president, according to the palace. Members of the royal family also participate in dozens of military and diplomatic ceremonies each year.
With so many events and fewer family members at work, Andrew Morton told the Foreign Press Association, the family will be forced to be selective. Given his commitment to the military, a fact evidenced by the military’s participation in Philip’s funeral, and his diplomatic responsibilities, Morton predicted that the family would cut back on his work with philanthropic entities.
But that can create a different set of problems. Experts say today’s British royal family has defined itself and justified the support it receives from taxpayers largely for its public works. Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, maintained ties with hundreds of charities until he stepped down from official duty at the age of 96.
“The fundamental change that took place in the monarchy in the 20th century was the rise of social monarchy. Without this ingredient, the monarchy would not survive, ”said Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London, who has previously written on the role of the monarchy in the British constitutional system.
For people with connections to the palace, the immediate solution to the excessive workload problem is to raise another royal couple, Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, also known as the Earl and Countess of Wessex. . Edward, 57, is the Queen’s youngest son. He and his wife have become prominent figures after Philip’s death, speaking publicly about Philip’s legacy and how the family cope with grief.
According to royal family watchers, Charles saw his stature grow with the funeral. Some people have emphasized the dignity with which he conducted himself at the head of the procession following Philippe’s coffin. Others drew attention to the naturalness with which he expressed his pain. At 72, they say, Charles finally stepped out of the shadow of his father, with whom he had had a complicated relationship, to become the patriarch of the family.
“Charles looks a lot more confident, happier in his own skin,” commented royal historian Penny Junor. “He is now the patriarch of the family. This means that he has new roles and responsibilities. “
But Charles must also take into account his eldest son, William, 38, who is to succeed him as king. True observers have said that William has his own views on the structure of the family and the division of labor. And, they said, William and his father have differing views on how to do philanthropy.
While Charles has formed a large portfolio of charitable causes that he supports, William prefers to devote his time to a few causes that he promotes. As president of the Football Association, he spoke out last week against an unpopular plan to create an elite football Super League, which has reportedly attracted several of Britain’s biggest clubs.
“There is a difference between the way Charles sees things and the way William sees them,” said Valentine Low, a true Times correspondent. But, he added, “Charles recognizes and even welcomes William’s participation in these discussions.”