How far can the political influence of King Charles III in the government of Great Britain go?

King Charles III receives Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the first official audience at Buckingham Palace after the inauguration of the new Conservative leader. (Aaron Chown/PA Wire) (POOL/)

In Great Britain the monarch stays out of politics. This is an unwritten principle, but widely accepted by society and the country’s system of government. Although the crown retains enormous powers, it should theoretically be out of the political contest. It is assumed that he manages the affairs of the kingdom in accordance with the advice and wishes of the government in power and that the king or queen only talks with him or her in highly confidential weekly meetings. But it is also known that the queen elizabeth (Isabel) had crucial interventions in the policies of both the United Kingdom like the other nations of the commonwealth in which she served as head of state. And in the case of charles iii (Carlos Tercero for those who Spanishize him), who today officially assumes the reign, we know that he has strong opinions and worked for causes ranging from climate change to modern architecture and alternative medicine. Also, of his more liberal views of what could be the nucleus of the Conservative Party, today in government.

Being Prince of WalesHe actively promoted his causes with ministers and let his press office publicize them through the usual unofficial channels of London media newsrooms. For example, not long ago he had a public discussion with the Minister of Education over the low quality of teaching and shortly before Queen Elizabeth died in September, he expressed his opposition to government plan to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda.

However, the new king made it clear in an interview with the BBC that he understood that he should behave differently if he assumed the throne. “It is clear that I will not be able to do the same things that I have done as heir”he said, adding that he would not meddle in political matters as a sovereign, since “I’m not that stupid.” He reinforced this point with his first address to the nation as king: “My life will change, of course, as I take on my new responsibilities. It will no longer be possible for me to devote as much time and energy to charities and the issues I care about so much.” “That work will be passed on to others,” he said, adding that “I will uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.” This implies that while he won’t make his views public, he will let the royals speak on social issues, particularly his son of his, William, the new Prince of Wales.

Queen Elizabeth with US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in the Great Hall of Windsor Castle.  The queen herself maintained political dialogue with hundreds of world leaders for 70 years.  (Steve Parsons/Pool via Reuters)
Queen Elizabeth with US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in the Great Hall of Windsor Castle. The queen herself maintained political dialogue with hundreds of world leaders for 70 years. (Steve Parsons/Pool via Reuters) (Pool/)

walter bagehot, the Victorian dean of English constitutionalists, wrote in 1867 that “the monarch has a right to be consulted and can encourage and advise.” And contemporary analysts suggest that the king may even have more government experience than the prime minister of the day. It was clear in the 70 years on the throne for Charles’s mother that she saw 16 British Prime Ministers and more than 150 from other Commonwealth realms pass through. In the case of Charles, he will also recount his experience, he has been waiting 50 years to get to place the crown and despite his eccentricism, a certain youthful disdain and his almost natural distance from the reality of his subjects, held firm positions against royal customs and privileges (he was strongly opposed to hunting animals) and always supported liberal positions of British society that are now widely installed on the political agenda.

Formally, the monarch inaugurates each new session of Parliament, although the speech, in which the measures to be adopted are laid out, is supposed to be written by the occupant of the government in the Downing Street residence. In theory, it has many other prerogatives, such as the signing of treaties or the declaration of war, but over the centuries they remained in the hands of governments or parliament. The king also has the power to dissolve parliament and remove a prime minister, forcing an election. However, this power was never exercised in the modern era of the monarchy. But there is a gray area that depends on the monarch on duty. During the battles for the Brexit there were deliberations in the halls of Buckingham Palace about what would happen if the government lost a vote of no confidence and the queen was forced to ask another leader to try to form a government.

There is a precedent in this sense that did not occur in the United Kingdom but in Australia, in 1975, but where the queen acted through her “viceroy”. The queen’s representative in the country, Sir John Kerr, used his powers to remove Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, after informing Elizabeth and consult with the palace advisers in London. Whitlam had failed to win parliamentary approval of a budget and refused to call an election. Kerr saw this as a constitutional crisis requiring elections and, to the scandal of Australians, he made it happen.

Charles III, ecology.
King Charles III was a pioneer in defense of the environment with very clear positions on caring for animals and preventing climate change. (Reuters)

Other times, gestures or passing comments are used to influence events as they happened. in 2014 when the Scottish independence referendum was called. On the Sunday before the vote, the Queen had a brief exchange with a woman in the cemetery of Crathie. “On Thursday you have an important vote. I hope people think very carefully about the future”, he told him when the cameras recorded him. She obviously was inferring that they should be cautious and therefore keep the status quo. The nationalists accused her of being an interventionist, but from a legal point of view, the queen had not broken any protocol. Scotland is still part of the kingdom.

The press was also used to indirectly express their opinions, such as when the queen stood up to margaret thatcher because the prime minister refused to support the sanctions against the apartheid south africa. Elizabeth was concerned about the damage this might do to the Commonwealth, and also more generally about the impact of Thatcher’s policies on the UK’s social fabric. He Sunday Times He made a lengthy note about the queen’s discontent based on “palace sources.” Other times, he used that power to lobby for her own interests. Guardian revealed that in the 1970s the queen intervened to secure an exemption from financial transparency laws for the crown’s private investments.

Visit of Carlos III to Mexico
The then Prince of Wales, Carlos, during an official visit to Mexico. The now king has extensive experience in international relations. (Darkroom)

Another journalistic investigation known as “the black spider memos” (because of the particular calligraphy) revealed the content of 27 cards that the then Prince of Wales and now king sent different ministers and members of the government who were clearly political pressure. His demands ranged from better equipment for troops in Iraq to a mass cull of rodents and badgers to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis. He also called for greater availability of alternative medicines, lobbied for a specific person to lead a campaign against supermarkets that mistreat farmers, and proposed that his own assistant report to Downing Street on the design of the new hospitals. Lord David Blunkett, former Labor Secretary of Education, recalled that the then prince pressured him to will extend the hours of grammar teaching in the schools. The prince is also known to have been an early advocate of organic farming, sustainability and climate awareness.

Now, with his head crowned, Charles assures that he will be more conscientious and quotes shakespeare through the words he wrote for the young man Henry V when he becomes king. “The idea, somehow, that I am going to continue exactly the same, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense because the two – the two situations – are completely different”he said in his interview with the BBC with his obviously perfect accent for that theatrical recitation.

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