Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on September 8, 2022, after a remarkable 70-year reign. Her son, King Charles III, 74, ascended to the throne on the same day, becoming the oldest monarch in British history to do so.
According to Buckingham Palace, the king will spend the day “quietly and privately” at the royal family’s rural retreat in Balmoral, Scotland, where he will be joined by his wife, Queen Camilla, and other members of his family. There will be no official public event to commemorate the occasion, as the king has expressed his wish to keep it low-key and respectful.
“In marking the first anniversary of Her late Majesty’s death and my Accession, we recall with great affection her long life, devoted service and all she meant to so many of us,” the king said in a brief statement today. “I am deeply grateful, too, for the love and support that has been shown to my wife and myself during this year as we do our utmost to be of service to you all.”
A year of achievements and controversies
The past year has been a busy and eventful one for King Charles III, who has had to face several challenges and changes as he assumed his new role. Some of his achievements and controversies include:
- His coronation: The king was crowned on April 23, 2023, at Westminster Abbey, in a lavish ceremony that was attended by dignitaries and celebrities from around the world. The date was chosen to coincide with St. George’s Day, the patron saint of England. The coronation was also marked by protests from anti-monarchy groups, who demanded a referendum on the future of the institution. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested by the police, who clashed with some of the protesters outside the abbey.
- His constitutional role: The king has been more outspoken and active than his mother in his constitutional role, which involves giving royal assent to laws passed by Parliament and appointing the prime minister. He has also met regularly with political leaders and expressed his views on various issues, such as climate change, social justice and education. Some of his interventions have been welcomed by his supporters, who see him as a modern and progressive monarch, while others have been criticized by his detractors, who accuse him of overstepping his boundaries and interfering in politics.
- His international relations: The king has made several trips abroad to strengthen Britain’s ties with other countries and promote its interests on the global stage. He has visited France, Germany, India, China, Japan and the United States, among others, where he has met with heads of state and government, as well as business leaders and civil society representatives. He has also hosted foreign dignitaries at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences, such as President Joe Biden of the United States and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
- His personal life: The king has faced some scrutiny and criticism over his personal life, especially regarding his relationship with his wife, Queen Camilla. The couple married in 2005, after a long and controversial affair that began when they were both married to other people. Their marriage was not approved by Queen Elizabeth II or the public at the time, but they gradually gained acceptance over the years. However, some still resent Camilla for her role in the breakdown of Charles’ first marriage to Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997. The king has also had to deal with some family issues, such as the ongoing legal troubles of his younger son Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle.
A year of public opinion
The public opinion on King Charles III has been mixed and fluctuating over the past year. According to a survey by YouGov, an online research firm, the percentage of Britons who said the king was doing a good job spiked to 63% in the immediate aftermath of the queen’s death. Twelve months later, more recent surveys from YouGov and others indicate this support has dropped off a little, to 60%, compared to 32% who hold a negative view of his performance. As has been the case for some time, younger Britons are far more likely to believe the monarchy should be scrapped compared to older ones.
“There’s an ongoing trend of falling support, younger people will not be won back to the monarchist cause,” said Graham Smith, who runs Republic, an organization that wants to abolish the monarchy. “The monarchy is now being propped up by the over-65s. Sooner rather than later overall support for the royals will drop below 50% − then the game is on,” he said.
However, not everyone agrees with Smith’s prediction. Some royal experts and commentators believe that the king has done a commendable job in his first year and that he will continue to win over the public with his dedication and vision.
“I think he’s done a good job. He’s been very active, very engaged, very involved in the issues that matter to him and to the country,” said Robert Jobson, a royal biographer and journalist. “He’s also been very respectful of his mother’s legacy and very supportive of his family. I think he’s shown that he’s a king for the 21st century.”