Tuesday, 21 May 2024

King Charles’s ‘biggest challenge’ as historian raises spectre of abdication

King Charles’s age poses the biggest challenge to his reign as the prospect of an ageing monarch’s “serious frailty” raises the question of the current King’s shock abdication, an historian has said. Charles III is “fit” to be king despite being the oldest person to accede to the throne, according to the royal author.

But Jeremy Black told Express.co.uk there is one crucial question for the British Royal Family, of which King Charles is head.

The question arises after Charles automatically became king at the age of 73 following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Black said: “There is a question for the Royal Family: Are they going – next time they have a very elderly monarch – to go for abdication or not?

“It could be argued that that is their biggest challenge: how to deal with the possibility of serious frailty.”

Mr Black added that luckily this was not an issue with the late Queen who was able to carry out official duties until the end of her life.

The author of A Brief History of the British Monarchy said: “The King could have some sort of idea as to how long he can keep going, but he will not speak about that in public because that will lessen his constitutional value. If you say you will retire, people pay less attention to you.”

For years before the death of the late Queen Elizabeth II there was speculation as to whether she should make way for her eldest son and heir.

If Charles himself were to abdicate, Prince William, as the next in line to the throne, would become king, with Kate, Princess of Wales, becoming queen.

Mr Black praised King Charles for raising an able successor, adding the Windsors have now secured their grip on power with William to be followed by Prince George.

He said: “[Prince William] has a high degree of inter-personal skills, broad experience, a very stable and happy home life.

“Kate is extremely popular, highly capable and both have shown a genuine commitment to engaging with a lot of people on important issues, such as mental health.”

His comments come after the Coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla in an historic ceremony at Westminster Abbey on May 6.

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More than 20 million tuned in to watch Charles being crowned king, according to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board.

The latest polling by Statista shows 79 percent of over-65s surveyed support the monarchy while 40 percent of 18-24 year-olds would rather elect a head of state.

Official photographs released by Buckingham Palace after the Coronation show an ageing group of working royals, raising questions about how well the Royal Family can connect with younger Britons.

Mr Black said despite many of the working royals being advanced in years, the Windsor family’s position is more secure than it has been in a long time.

The historian said: “As a dynasty it’s actually more stable than it’s been for ages.”

He pointed to the fact there are now three clear successors directly in line to the throne. Edward VIII’s abdication led to his brother Albert wearing the crown as King George VI.

William IV, the “Sailor King”, was the third son of George III, while Queen Victoria succeeded him to the throne as the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, who was the fourth son of George III.

Mr Black said: “We’ve got a clear succession, which is the most important thing. We have a fit monarch, an heir with a stable marriage and we don’t have another claimant to the throne.

“There is also a stable constitutional relationship between government and monarchy with separatist parties in Britain, particularly the SNP in Scotland, being relatively weak. Plaid Cymru is in a bit of a mess as well.”

Police in Scotland have been investigating the SNP’s finances since 2021 with the party’s now former treasurer, Colin Beattie, and ex-Chief Executive, Peter Murrell, having both been arrested. They were both released without charge.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price stood down last week in the wake of a report into bullying, misogyny and harassment in the party.

Mr Black told Express.co.uk Charles is fit for the role of monarch and provides great stability in contrast with US president Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump.

Mr Biden, 80, and Mr Trump, who is 76, are expected to enter the race for the Whitehouse in next year’s presidential election. When he was sworn into office as president, Mr Biden was 78, having been elected at 77 – the oldest to have attained that position.

Mr Black compared Britain’s monarch to Mr Biden and Mr Trump, saying: “[Charles] is actually fit. He can hold sentences together. He can answer questions.

“He is bringing forward a highly able successor, whereas Biden’s chosen successor [Vice President Kamala Harris] is at best lacklustre and incompetent.

“Compared to other monarchs, we’ve also avoided scandal such as that surrounding the last King of Spain.”

Former King Juan Carlos left Spain for Abu Dhabi in 2020 under a cloud of scandals which shook the Spanish Royal Family. His successor, King Felipe, has also taken a strong line against Catalan separatism.

The historian continued: “We have a king who is reaching out to minority groups. All these are powerful pluses.”

On the British monarchy’s future, Mr Black said: “[The] Coronation might have struck some as a bit ridiculous, nevertheless they [the Royal Family] come across in a positive light.

“People might grumble, but there’s no outrage. They are more worried about the cost of living, migration, energy and the Government.”

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