Welcome Back Bonnie King Charles

king charles iii (july 2023)

King Charles has returned to public life, albeit in a more limited way than we (and he) had probably imagined at the start of his reign.

That’s a relief, I’ve missed him and I’m not sure I expected to. Strangely enough, I’m not alone.

If you read the papers, you’ll see how much coverage is taken up with royal stories. The media needs them as much as they need the media, whatever each side says.

And, currently, there’s a dearth of royal stories.

We have poor dear Queen Camilla doing her best. She’s all smiles but we know it’s not easy for her. She wasn’t born to it and she took a lot of stick before she arrived in this position so she could be forgiven for refusing to comply. Fortunately for us, she continues gamely but, still, it must be hard to be going it alone.

The Princess Royal, another game lady, is also out and about as a royal representative, and she seems more comfortable in her role. The Prince of Wales – is it just me or does anyone else still think of Charles when they hear that title? – is being seen a little more than he was.

William, as handsome and charming a man as he is, doesn’t quite have the appeal of his darling wife. Seeing him on our screens is not the same as catching a glimpse of the gorgeous, vibrant Catherine, all smiles as she appears to be loving every moment of the slightly dull task to which she’s been assigned.

I miss her. I think we all do. And I miss Charles too. His delight in his accession to the long-awaited role was a joy to see.

I had expected the transition from the late Queen Elizabeth to Charles to be more difficult than it actually was, to me at any rate. I think his enthusiasm and joy was part of the reason I found it easy to wish him all the best. I’d been comforted by the Queen’s calm presence – the only monarch I’d ever known – and expected a little bit of turmoil when it came to him taking over the job. There seemed to be none, neither for me, nor for any other subject or citizen. A few republicans protested but no-one seemed concerned.

Charles was helped by the loving family he’d gathered around him and, pretty much at the top of that was Catherine, youthful, good-looking, glamorous, wife of the heir to the throne and mother to three delightful children. A fairy story come to life.

And just as everything was going so well, the top team fell ill and were rightly removed from our gaze and returned to cloistered lives within their well-fortified walls. That seems to have left a void that we have yet to fill.

Charles’ slimmed down monarchy is looking positively sparse now. The young ones, Beatrice and Eugenie, are not “working members” of the royal family while Prince Harry’s done an exit stage right for at least the time being. So, currently, the only ones left are the rather older generation.

An older person is not without his or her charms. They can be wise, tolerant with senses of humour that can see the ridiculous in everything.

Unfortunately, while there’s nothing wrong with being older, youth has a vibrancy that we all need to experience and include in our lives. It’s what gives us hope.

I’ve come to feel that, since noticing and realising their absence, the royals are almost irreplaceable. Some of us are lucky enough to have our own families but they all come with imperfections and we’re close enough to see them first hand. I know the royals do too but they’re distant enough for me to get enjoyment from their dramas but not actually to be affected by them.

As an observer, I’d suggest the gift of the monarchy is that it has an aspirational element to it that allows us to imagine it as perfect (while accepting that the key players are not) and we gain a sense of normality when we see them going about our business. They represent order in what can sometimes seem like a chaotic world. The “other” as solid and safe perhaps.

We’ve been lucky in recent years. We may not realise it but most of us are living in good times. No, not all things are equal. There remains huge discrepancies between the haves and the have nots and there is too much pain and deprivation around the world to even begin to describe it. But we in the West have had it pretty good.

It’s not looking quite so good now and we seem to be running into darker times. We have geopolitical instability and, on the domestic front, a political class of all persuasions that is listing like a giant liner with no-one at the helm. And we, the passengers on that luxurious but directionless ship, are all feeling a little unsteady.

We know – or suspect – politicians are not as solid as we’d like them to be and the people of the UK tend to be quite tolerant of their foibles. But that’s when there’s an alternative to divert us, when there’s a figurehead to be there at our most fearful to help us feel better and to let us know it will be all right in the end.

Do you remember the Queen’s speech in the middle of Covid, telling us “we will meet again”? It cheered me up. Even at the time I knew she had as much clue as I did but she spoke with such authority, conviction and sincerity, that I couldn’t help but be convinced. She gave us back our hope.

So did our Prince – now our King – for a few months until the shock announcement of his illness caused him to slip out of sight. And then we lost sight of his beloved daughter-in-law, our Catherine.

I hadn’t realised my need for some kind of figurehead. Perhaps we are always glad of a replacement parental figure regardless of age. All I know is I’m glad Charles is back and I hope he’ll be about for a long time to come. I’m very much hoping Catherine will be on view soon too.