After more than 70 years as the heir apparent, Prince Charles is now the King and Canadians should expect a very different monarch.
By law, he acceded to the throne the moment Queen Elizabeth II drew her last breath, although a formal coronation isn’t expected for several months.
He has chosen to be crowned King Charles III, although monarchs can choose any of their given names. Charles’s full name is Charles Philip Arthur George.
Then there’s Camilla. There had been questions for years about her title but the Queen decided the issue last February on the occasion of her 70th anniversary on the throne. The Queen said it was her sincere wish that the Duchess of Cornwall would be known as Queen Consort when Charles became King.
Prince William automatically takes on a new title. He’s currently the Duke of Cambridge but as the heir to the throne, like his father, he will now become the Duke of Cornwall. He’ll inherit the Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate set up in 1337 by King Edward III for the eldest surviving son of the monarch. Today the Duchy covers 52,789 hectares of farm land and commercial property across England and generates around £40-million a year in revenue.
In his televised address on Friday, Charles named William and his wife, Kate, as the Prince and Princess of Wales, taking on the titles Charles and his late wife Diana held.
This will be a trying time for the new King. While he mourns his mother, who will lie in state for 10 days, he’ll also have to undertake a flurry of royal duties.
He’s expected to broadcast a message to the Commonwealth and go over funeral arrangements with the Duke of Norfolk, who is in charge of ceremonial state occasions.
He’ll also have to meet heads of state from around the world, participate in an oath-swearing ceremony at St. James’s Palace, and travel to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to receive official condolences.
And that is all before the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey and interment at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Once he settles into the role, the King will certainly know the ropes. He’s been first in line to the throne since he was three years old, and he’s stood in for his mother on numerous occasions, especially in her later life when she could no longer make foreign trips. In 2018, he became the de facto head of the Commonwealth.
But his style and temperament will be vastly different from his mother. While the Queen was well-known for her devotion to duty and for rarely causing controversy, Charles has never been shy about expressing strong opinions on a range of topics or held back from meddling in government policy.
He’s been outspoken about architecture – attacking modernism and blasting what he felt were ill-conceived designs – and has expressed unorthodox views on science, gardening and medicine. He famously said that he talked to trees and he once touted a cancer treatment that involved drinking carrot juice and taking coffee-bean enemas.
In 2015, a cache of memos Charles wrote to various cabinet ministers surfaced, raising questions about his attempts to influence government policy.
But he’s also been ahead of his time on issues such as climate change and sustainable farming. He was an early advocate for recycling and boasted in a BBC interview in 2021 that he ran his Aston Martin on “surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese process.” He put solar panels on his 180-year-old home Clarence House, and installed biomass boilers and a hydroelectric turbine at his Scottish estate, Birkhall.
He outlined his ideas on the environment in a 336-page book entitled Harmony: A New Way of Looking At Our World, published in 2010. He billed the treatise as a blueprint for “a more balanced, sustainable world that the human race must create to survive.”
Robert Lacey, a royal historian, said the King likely understands from his mother that as monarch he’ll have to be more measured in expressing his opinions.
“He’s studied the system and I would argue the expressions of opinion that we’ve seen him make over the years, and even interventions, reflect his own view of the fact that a prince, even, and heir to the throne, has more constitutional freedom than the monarch does,” Mr. Lacey said. “And I think the corollary of that is that as monarch he will respect that limitation.”
Like the Queen, the King will also hold weekly meetings with the British Prime Minister, which Mr. Lacey said will likely give the monarch the opportunity he needs to make his views known.
“That’s a problem awaiting prime ministers of the future,” he said.
Then there’s Camilla, his wife.
On the eve of her Platinum Jubilee in February, the Queen announced that she would like Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, to be called Queen Consort when Charles becomes King. Traditionally, the wife of a reigning king is known as Queen Consort. However, for years public opinion ran against Camilla and it had been assumed that she would be referred to as the Princess Consort.
The King was born on Nov. 14, 1948, the first child for then-princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh; the royal couple would go on to have a daughter and two more sons. When his mother acceded to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI, Charles was given the traditional title of Duke of Cornwall. He became Prince of Wales at the age of 9.
He went to boarding school in England and later to Gordonstoun in Scotland, which his father had also attended. He studied history, archeology and anthropology at Cambridge University and went on to join the Royal Air Force and later the Royal Navy. He ended his military career in 1976 as commander of HMS Bronington and launched the Prince’s Trust, a charitable organization aimed at supporting young people.
Philip was an overbearing figure, and many royal biographers have said that Charles constantly tried to please his father.
After leaving university, he rekindled his acquaintance with Lady Diana Spencer. They’d known each other for years since the Spencers had long-standing ties to the Royal Family, but they were reintroduced in the late 1970s and got engaged in February, 1981.
The public became enthralled with Diana, then a shy 19-year-old former nursery-school teacher who was 13 years younger than Charles. She quickly overshadowed the awkward and aloof Prince, who reportedly had to be pushed into marriage by his father. According to royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith, Philip wrote his son a letter spelling out that he should either propose or release Diana.
Charles obeyed his father and married Diana on July 29, 1981, in a lavish ceremony that captivated the world. They had two sons – William, born in 1982, and Harry, born two years later.
From the start, the marriage was on shaky ground. Charles reportedly cried on his wedding night, while Diana battled bulimia and loneliness. As her popularity grew, Charles’s awkwardness became accentuated and he struggled under her increasing shadow. He also sought solace with Camilla Parker Bowles, and their relationship ultimately led to a bitter breakup with Diana in 1992. They formally divorced in 1996 and, a year later, Diana died in a car crash in Paris. Hearing of her death, Charles reportedly said: “‘They’re all going to blame me.”
In 2005, he married Ms. Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony and she became the Duchess of Cornwall.
Over the years, polls have shown a preference for William to succeed the Queen. But public attitudes toward the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall softened in recent years, and both were in much higher regard, particularly after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex withdrew from royal duties and moved to the United States.
Yet there has been scandal. In 2021, Charles’s long-time aide, Michael Fawcet, resigned as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation over allegations Mr. Fawcet offered to help a billionaire from Saudi Arabia secure a knighthood and British citizenship in return for a donation. London’s Metropolitan Police launched an investigation of the charity in 2022.
Mr. Lacey said that one of the consequences of Charles becoming King could be a weakening of the monarchy across the Commonwealth. Many countries have held on to the British monarch as head of state because of the Queen’s enduring popularity, he argued. But with her gone and Charles less popular, some governments may feel it’s time to become republics.
The ascension of Charles “marks the beginning of the end of the strangely enduring phenomenon of the international monarch and the Commonwealth realms,” Mr. Lacey said.
Vicky Mochama, a Globe contributor who writes about the Royal Family, looks back at the Queen’s achievements and what the monarchy’s future might be without her. Subscribe for more episodes.