LONDON - In a lifetime spent as heir to his mother Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III cultivated a range of interests and passions, from architecture to the environment. But at an age when most people have retired, he now finds himself having to ensure a successful, if tricky, transition before the crown passes to his eldest son and heir, Prince William.
Since his mother’s death last September, Charles, 74, has thrown himself into the largely ceremonial role as a politically neutral, uncontroversial head of state, despite his record of often outspoken views. He has been a visible presence in all four nations of the United Kingdom, heading a push for unity after a turbulent recent past marked by Brexit and calls for Scottish independence.
Unlike his mother, who cultivated an air of mystery and distance, Charles has shown himself to be much more accessible, at ease smiling and shaking hands with crowds at public events.
That chimes with his desire for a more modern, open monarchy that keeps the ancient institution relevant, particularly to younger Britons, and as republican sentiment mounts in the 14 other countries outside the UK where he is also king. Charles also heads the 56-nation Commonwealth grouping, which comprises about a quarter of the world’s population.