A peek at the new monarch of Britain, King Charles III, his wealth, and his likely way forward…
By Nichola Marie
At the stroke of Queen Elizabeth II’s demise on September 8, 2022, her eldest son, Prince Charles, became king. The ancient rite of British monarchy continues, though in a modified version – since the past few centuries, the monarch is only a titular head in the UK – which means they reign but do not rule. As King Charles III, he is the king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He is also head of the Commonwealth, an association of 56 independent countries including India and 2.4 billion people; he is the king of 14 of these countries where the king is the head of state. He is also the titular head of the Church of England, and head of the military and the judiciary. He carries several other royal titles and duties, and enjoys some unusual rights, including travelling without a passport, driving without a licence and owning all the mute swans in England!
A new era
Born on November 14, 1948, Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor is, at 73, the oldest monarch to take the British throne. Don’t forget, his mother was the longest-reigning British monarch, ruling for 70 years. He has also had the longest training for the job, so to speak, spending decades as the Prince of Wales, as next in line to the throne. In the modern world, where the monarchy is viewed as increasingly redundant, all eyes are trained on King Charles III, who has enormous shoes to fill. His ‘Mummy’, after all, had consistently been a symbol of steadfastness in Britain, with popularity ratings that were the envy of heads of state, and was easily one of the most recognised persons on the planet.
Monarchy itself comes at a cost. Accounts for the Sovereign Grant, which funds the Queen and her household’s official expenses, released in June 2022, show the monarchy cost the taxpayer £102.4m during 2021-22 – an increase of 17% from the previous financial year. With the UK economy in the grip of a deadly crisis, these are not easy times. Yet, the people of the UK still hold the monarchy close to their hearts…. In a survey carried out by YouGov between April 30 and May 2, 2022, 60% of people were in favour of keeping the monarchy, while 13% said they didn’t know. The ratings for the new king are also on an upward trend. A new YouGov poll shows that support for Charles has risen dramatically. His popularity has climbed from 32% to 63% in terms of those who think he will do a good job as king.
However, he might want to keep a few other points of that survey in mind… many feel he should not meddle in political issues, as royal interference in these matters is not considered appropriate, especially by older generations. The younger lot is a lot more encouraging of his speaking up on various issues he believes in, including the environment.
The shape of things to come
Since becoming king, Charles has repeatedly said he would follow his mother’s example. This would mean developing the capacity to survive serious shifts in society and successive challenges, external and internal.
Over his long and steady service as the Prince of Wales, he has carried out his official and ceremonial duties and established more than 20 charities… Now, he needs to entrench himself as a global symbol of grace and stability even in upheaval. He is expected to trim the monarchy by reducing the number of working senior royals who are supported by taxpayers, and reduce the overall multimillion-pound annual cost of the royal show. Over his long and steady service as the Prince of Wales, he has carried out his official and ceremonial duties and established more than 20 charities, including The Prince’s Trust, The Prince’s Foundation and The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. Now, he needs to entrench himself as a global symbol of grace and stability even in upheaval.
Speaking to the BBC, leading constitutional expert Professor Vernon Bogdanor maintains that Charles is well aware of the need to be less outspoken. He will also need to reach out to a multi-cultural, multi-faith Britain which is immensely diverse compared to the country that was inherited by his mother. He will need to act as a unifying force, making special efforts to connect with ethnic minorities and disadvantaged groups. Besides current affairs, he will also have to face changing views about the monarchy’s imperial, colonialist and racist past.
As he sends out the overriding message of his new reign being about continuity and stability, he will need to be careful not to blot his copybook – leaky fountain pens will be the least of his worries! After many, many decades of being in the wings, this is King Charles III’s time to shine. Godspeed!
A king’s treasure
On the plus side, as the new head of The Firm — the nickname that Prince Phillip is said to have used for the royal house of Windsor — Charles has inherited US$500 million from Queen Elizabeth, including her castles, jewels, art collection and a horse farm — all of it tax-free. As per a Forbes estimate, he also now oversees the late monarch’s whopping US$42 billion portfolio of assets held in trust for the kingdom, including billions in investments — and other opulent palaces, glittering jewels and priceless art.
As her eldest son, Charles has inherited the Queen’s private estates, including her beloved castle in Balmoral, Scotland, where she died, as well as Sandringham, which also houses the thoroughbred horse farm, the Royal Studs. He also had his own lucrative annual income received from the Duchy of Cornwall, which earned him US$27 million this year (and which his eldest son, Prince William, will now inherit). Through his charitable foundation (which William also inherits now), Charles owned the largest organic food brand in the UK, as well as a nature retreat and crafts centre in Transylvania. Whatever be his other concerns, wealth will not be one of them!
The Prince in India
• During his visit to the country in 1980, as a 32-year-old bachelor, the erstwhile Prince Charles visited the sets of the Hindi film ‘Ahista Ahista’ at Rajkamal Studios in Mumbai. That’s when pretty actress Padmini Kolhapure greeted him with a peck on the cheek — which became something of a sensation in the media across the world.
• In 2003, during his nine-day visit to India, he met then President Abdul Kalam and took a ride on the Delhi Metro. He also had a 20-minute meeting with the dabbawalas (lunchbox deliverymen) of Mumbai at Churchgate, showing interest in learning about the way they worked.
• In 2017, he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation.
• In 2018, he launched a US$10 million Development Impact Bond (DIB) to help improve education for over 200,000 children in India.
• In 2019, he met then President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, planting a champa sapling in its herbal garden. Later, the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation and the All India Institute of Ayurveda also signed an MoU to conduct clinical research on depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia.
• On his 2019 visit, he celebrated his 71st birthday with school children in Mumbai.
• A regular practitioner of yoga, in a video statement, he addressed the virtual yoga and healthcare symposium ‘Wellness After Covid’, on the importance of yoga in post-COVID recovery. A quick glance at His Royal Highness’ past brushes with our country…