The Queen is dead. Long live the King.
Poor old Charlie-Chuckles. Heir to the throne for 73 years. Then, what can only have been an extremely difficult week, trying to merge “grieving son” with “Kingly bearing”. To top things off, his fountain pen kept throwing ink at him.
The flipside of the quasi-canonisation of Queen Elizabeth by the media over ten days of national mourning, is that he’s on a hiding to nothing. How to live up to his mother’s legacy?
Let’s put aside arguments about whether a constitutional monarchy is appropriate or problematic and assess the task ahead of the new King.
The state of the nation.
The country is nervously emerging from the pandemic, with concerns about the real state of the economy after the ravaging it received. The UK has still not stopped arguing about Brexit, and many in Scotland are agitating for another referendum on independence. A nuclear power has invaded a smaller neighbour, only to discover that being a Goliath can be really uncomfortable if you come up against a David. The words “nuclear weapon” are frighteningly common in the discourse. The US is busy re-writing its own laws and arguing over what it means to be in the land of the free. Italy has elected a government that’s a sort of gangster, fascist, populist hybrid. Interesting times.
The week after the funeral, the new British government made a bold attempt to set a new record in being the shortest administration in British history. Carefully, the new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, dismissed the senior civil servants with economic expertise in his department, before announcing that henceforth the government was going to work out the most politically savvy moves, the most economically savvy moves and do the exact opposite. He presented his plan to the House (Parliament) on Friday. Market reaction was muted. (Mostly, this would be because most of “the market” were enjoying a long, mostly liquid, lunch. It was a Friday, after all.) However, as people digested the measures being taken, the pound plummeted and yields on gilts soared. Hedge funds made a killing, shorting the pound. Now - if you don't know exactly what that means, don’t worry, that makes you normal.
Essentially, the government had said:
“Everything is a mess. Tax in the UK is very high and growth very low. We’re going to cut taxes to make growth. Let’s go.”
All the people that do understand shorts, gilts and hedge funds, listened, thought for a minute and said “huh?”
I’m writing this on the 28th of September, but planning to publish it in the first week of October, by which stage, things will have moved along.
The family firm
The funeral gave the nation reminders that not all is well in the House of Windsor. Prince Andrew, erstwhile friend of Jeffrey Epstein, had paid multiple millions of dollars to a woman that he claimed not to have met, much less bedded when she was still a child. He is said to want to return to public life. I’m not sure his brother will buy into that.
Then, there’s the tricky second son. Harry. Another “retired” royal. Prince Harry had chosen to stop being a working royal and to live with his wife in the US. I daresay “The Crown” will explain it all in detail. The new King’s consort, Harry’s step-Mum, is said to have laughed at the Prince’s suggestion that he’d rather like a half-in, half-out arrangement.
Be you a monarchist or not, the affection for the Queen was palpable during the period of mourning. Yes, of course such feelings were amplified by the media coverage, and the relentless myopic canonisation, but nevertheless, they were there. I suspect, largely because of the constancy of the Queen. Even when less popular, I think people believed that she cared. In 2022, many in the UK are in food poverty, energy poverty, all sorts of poverty. Homeowners are trembling at what their next mortgage payment might be. Business is confused as to what the plunging pound means.
Poor old Charles. He’s screwed, isn’t he?
His only chance is to emulate his mother, balancing concern about the world’s current lunacy with a reassuring demeanour that says “This too will pass.”
And pass it will.