Periodically you will see a variation of this question in media articles, usually when there's no news to report. However, by asking this question I'm not trying to follow the crowd.
I hope that the Queen will live a long time because I'm not sure that Prince Charles is up to the task. Let me clarify this. The Queen sets a good example of staying above the fray when it comes to political issues and controversial topics. Prince Charles on the other hand, does not. According to his official site, he actually sees his role as being able to highlight today's issues, bringing them to the forefront.
'And being Prince of Wales produces more freedom now, and being King would be a little bit more suffocating. And because I know the character I would think that the top job, as I call it, would bring enormous limitations to him, and I don't know whether he could adapt to that. ' Diana, Princess of Wales Panorama Interview
Note that when Diana said, in her much quoted Panorama interview, she hit the nail on the head. Many saw this as evidence that Charles should not become king. But it was true then as it is true now. Will Charles be able to reign in his tendency to wade in to the fray? Remain strictly neutral with political matters, as the sovereigns role clearly demands and requires?
In his time as Prince of Wales, Charles has spearheaded many initiatives and been a catalyst for change. On the other hand, he has also caused a ruckus with his comments. A rather notable example of this is his speech criticizing architectural changes to historical buildings. Can you imagine the queen doing this?
His father Prince Philip is no stranger to saying controversial things. Maybe Prince Charles is more like his father than he realizes. But unlike his father, he was born to become king. His role, like his father, is undefined. In a sense, it's what you make of it. As consort to the Queen, Prince Philip has a certain freedom in his actions. Where what he says or does ultimately has no bearing on the future of the nation. Prince Charles as monarch, taking a stand, could be seen to confer an unfair advantage on the issue he takes the side of. While it is nothing new to hear political figures do this during elections to win votes, Charles is not running for office or trying to gain popularity. He has a captive audience; albeit one whose loyalty seems to diminish each year.
After all of these years could we accept a monarch's change of style? Does limiting his natural outspoken tendencies adhere to a tradition that is antiquated? Most monarchs have followed the traditional script. The last monarch to want change was King Edward VIII when during a visit to depressed Coal mining villages in Wales he said, "something must be done." While possibly feeling for the cause he stopped short of doing anything. Had he not abdicated it's interesting to ponder just how he might have changed things. Would the monarchy be different from what we know it today?
Will Prince Charles go with the traditional script as those before him? Does he have a choice?
Time will tell.
© Marilyn Braun 2007
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