King Charles III: the embodiment of everything inherited

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral was majestic, historic and very, very long. It was a procession of prayers and hymns, trumpets and solemn bagpipers, all tucked into two services and one funeral, and watched by a worldwide audience. But the two minutes of silence during the ceremony at Westminster Abbey were especially moving. During that brief, silent interlude, a little slice of the world stopped chattering and spinning and gave in to reflection, not just on the impact the 96-year-old monarch had during her reign, but on what it means to love, to grieve and finally move on.

It is the continuing that is always the struggle. And that is the primary duty, the fundamental role, to King Charles III. At 73 years old, he is the senior king, not so much a reflection of the future as a reminder of all the work that needs to be done in the here and now. His presence is a complicating factor for all history and turmoil and empire building that he symbolizes. He is the white male heir at a time when white male privilege has been powerful at all levels questioned. He is the embodiment of everything inherited. He is a distillation of our contemporary grievances.

Monarch buried next to Prince Philip in Windsor

He is not what the world should see. But if he is to fulfill his duty, he must be seen. Possibly.

Charles follows a sovereign who ruled for 70 years, one of the most famous women in the world, a confidante to a long procession of prime ministers and often the only woman with a voice in a room full of male leaders. Maybe she didn’t say or do enough about her life. But still, there she was. She was widely admired for taking on a task for which she was minimally prepared. And she endured it. By the time she was an eminence grise, President Biden said she reminded him of his mother. More than a few of her subjects considered her the grandmother of the country. These characterizations may say more about our relationship with prominent older women—and our need to distil them into a warm and vague stereotype—than about her maternal nature.

Lawmakers swore allegiance to King Charles III, who was proclaimed the new monarch on September 10. The occasion was marked with gun salutes and trumpets. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard/The Washington Post)

Popular culture, from “The Crown” to “The Queen,” made her a flawed but determined figure. A woman who grew in both her role and her symbolism. If princes and princesses are the stardust of fairy tales, queens are the heroines. On social media, the designation is applied to any woman at the top of her game or someone who has overcome obstacles. She gets a set of fire emojis instead of a crown.

But what is a king? What’s this one king? Charles is a grandfather many times, but rarely is grandfathering considered the defining or most memorable characteristic of a man. He is not the unlikely hero of a fairy tale or an example of someone who has achieved a hard-fought professional victory. He hasn’t challenged stereotypes or gone where no one has gone before. He has had a lifetime to prepare for a role that was given to him and so there is little reason to marvel at his willingness, only to be stunned by any failures.

What we saw on Monday was a man walking solemnly in his ceremonial uniform behind the Queen’s coffin. He looked pale and burdened, whether with grief, the lifelong duty he’d sworn to uphold, or the simple physical challenge of getting through the day. Perhaps his pained expression reflected all those things.

The television cameras always found him in the crowd, but they never caught the eye. He was easy to lose among the men in their bright red uniforms and their gold braid; those Royal Navy soldiers and their precise choreography. Charles was dwarfed by his towering sons, the Prince of Wales in uniform and Prince Harry in morning suit. And even Princess Anne, walking sober with her siblings — back straight and eyes out, her slender body dressed in her own polished uniform — seemed taller.

Gray-haired Charles, his eyes hollow and his mouth set in a flat, narrow line, did not add to the majesty of the day so much as he seemed deflated by it. His millennial children are the stars of the current royal soap opera, one that has obsessives that the brothers dissect every interaction to find out if they’re really talking to each other or just stage a pantomime of brotherly cordiality, one that makes them worry about Prince Harry’s death. second row of seats at Westminster Abbey. All royal lovers can finally sigh with relief that Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, have made peace with their audience. They seem like a nice older couple. She supports victims of domestic violence. He is an environmentalist. But without the cliche lights of gossip, the king falls into soft focus.

But perhaps this near-invisibility is for the best, at least for now. In the present day, Charles represents those who are now being asked to listen more than speak, stepping out of the spotlight so that others can get a little bit of attention. The injured party does not want to be told that mistakes have been made or that the past is regrettable. They want to be accountable, but if they don’t, a first person apology would at least be a start. They want to be seen for who they are and for what their ancestors could have been if only they were fully seen.

After a lifetime of vibrant symbolism, Queen Elizabeth II faded to grey

The new king is the embodiment of so many traditions and injustices with which Western culture struggles to cope – stolen land, stolen wealth, stolen labor, stolen hope – and among them is the idea of ​​inevitability. Charles stands as the bridge to generations and generations of inevitability – all the way to 9-year-old Prince George, the once-king with a tangle of blond hair and restless energy. If the Queen was praised for consistently comforting her subjects, Charles comes to the throne at a time when the greatest gift for some people could be inconsistency, uncertainty, and ultimately the possibility.

The questions facing the culture are huge and impossible for a single man to answer. He may be a king, but he is not a god. Yet they land at Charles’ feet. They are his to consider. The Queen has been quoted as saying, “We have to be seen to be believed.” That may well be true.

But it is a truth that is not limited to the monarchy.

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