REBECCA ENGLISH:King Charles's first 100 days and what 2023 will bring

How Camilla danced unnoticed at Abba gig, who is favoured to be Duke of Edinburgh and why Archie and Lilibet’s titles are OFF the table ‘until Meghan and Harry stop firing salvos’: REBECCA ENGLISH on King Charles’s first 100 days – and what 2023 will bring

  • After barely 100 days in the job, King Charles III is making his mark as monarch
  • Camilla could drop ‘Consort’ from her royal title after the Coronation next year
  • The King could also still welcome Prince Harry back into the royal fold

Just three days before Christmas, a rather unlikely figure could been seen bopping in the aisles at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the hottest gig in town.

Amazingly, none of the thousands of fans crammed in to watch Abba Voyage — which features the Swedish band’s holographic avatars performing live — realised that our very own ‘Dancing Queen’ Consort was having the time of her life, taking her five grandchildren to the must-see concert as a festive treat.

The outing in East London is a perfect example of how our King and his wife have taken the demands of their new roles in their stride, respecting old traditions while embracing the new — and keeping family (well, most of them) close.

It’s already clear that the new ‘Carolean era’ will represent a more modern monarchy than ever before. And while it has not been without the odd bump — more of which later — courtiers are quietly pleased at how well Charles’s first 100 or so days as King have gone.

Camilla, Queen Consort and King Charles III are pictured during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in November

The King and Queen Consort walked to Sandringham Church on Christmas Day as other members of the royal family followed

King Charles III delivers his message during the recording of his first Christmas broadcast in the Quire of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle

‘Everything His Majesty has done has hit the right tone,’ his former communications chief, Kristina Kyriacou, tells me.

‘Both the King and Queen Consort have just got on with things and are taking care of business. The King has really come across as the elder statesman and seems to have grown in stature. He has always been a fantastic listener and convener.

‘But what we have seen during his first 100 days is him convening everybody in a more statesmanlike way. All the King cares about is serving the British public. He just wants to do the job he sees as his destiny.’

Another well-placed insider says: ‘It’s definitely been a very strong start. The King has not been afraid to address head-on the concerns that people had about him [as regards his alleged political ‘meddling’].

‘He has proved his respect for the constitutional guidelines that come with being monarch, emphasised the importance of us living in a multicultural world and promoted religious tolerance.

He’s referenced the family when important — such as mentioning Harry and Meghan in his first speech as King — but has simply got on with the job in hand when they have risked becoming a distraction.’

And, of course, Charles has done all of this while privately grieving the loss of his mother.

The late Queen Elizabeth is pictured with the then Prince of Wales as they attended the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland Reddendo Parade in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, June 30, 2022

The then Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Louis, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour ceremony on June 2, 2022

‘It has been a very emotional time for the King,’ says one who knows the 74-year-old sovereign well.

‘He and his wife have also launched themselves into a physically demanding programme at a time when many of their age are slowing down. The stakes are higher and the scrutiny greater than ever before. But they know how to pace themselves and the Queen Consort, in particular, is very good at getting her husband to take a step back at times.’

Indeed, there’s no doubt that Camilla, 75, is proving, much like the Duke of Edinburgh before her, to be the monarch’s ‘strength and stay’. She has become a ‘wise sounding board’, says one senior aide, and is also ‘just a great companion’.

Another family friend remarks: ‘They genuinely have a wonderful relationship and are a great team, but they don’t live in each other’s pockets. She is also one of the few people who is prepared to stand up to him when the circumstances are right. Plus she has this fantastically close family with teenage grandchildren of her own, which is rather grounding. It’s taken quite a while to get there, but I think many people who once thought that Camilla was the problem have come to see that she is actually part of the solution.’

The couple, I am told, will continue to use their own homes (Highgrove for him, Ray Mill for her) as well as royal residences including Windsor and Sandringham. But it is Birkhall in Scotland — all ‘muddy wellies, wet dogs and afternoon teas’ — that they see as their ‘marital home’, according to one source.

The question of whether the King’s wife will drop the ‘Consort’ from her title and become known simply as Queen Camilla has yet to be decided. But many in palace circles think this will just happen ‘organically’, probably after the Coronation.

The Coronation will take place at Westminster Abbey next year. The now King and Queen Consort greet people as they leave the Houses of Parliament after the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster back in 2016

The late Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla attend the Ceremonial Welcome in the Buckingham Palace Garden for President Trump in 2019

 The King and Queen Consort are pictured back in February 2022 at the British Museum, London

Prince Charles and Prince Louis attend the Platinum Jubilee Pageant outside Buckingham Palace in London, June 2022

One source says: ‘Some have dropped the ‘Consort’ already — it’s worth noting that she now has ‘Queen’s Companions’ instead of ladies-in-waiting — but there’s no fixed plan. I think people will just find themselves saying it naturally.’ The distribution of other family titles is also on the back burner, I understand.

I am told that the King has no immediate plans to hand out the Dukedom of Edinburgh that reverted after the death of his father to Queen Elizabeth, and now to him. The late Queen intended for it to be given to the Earl of Wessex, her youngest son, who does a great deal, along with his wife Sophie, for the late Prince Philip’s eponymous awards scheme.

It could yet go to Prince Edward, but the current thinking is that such a senior title — particularly one associated with Scotland —should not go to the 13th in line to the throne (and descending).

While some have suggested it will go to seven-year-old Princess Charlotte — one of a number of options on the table — others feel little Prince Louis, four, is a more likely future inheritor.

More troubling is the issue of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s children, Archie, three, and Lilibet, one, who can be ennobled now that their grandpa is King.

However, I am told that this thorny issue is one that Charles has firmly put to one side for the time being. ‘Anything to do with his grandchildren will be decided once they [Harry and Meghan] stop lobbing salvos into the palace,’ says one royal insider. ‘No decision or pronouncement can be made on that issue until the King is confident that the decision he makes can withstand any activity on either side in the long term — and they are not in that place right now.

‘Monarchs move with great caution and reflection and there is no obligation to rush. The King will, of course, need to make a decision at some point — but the Sussexes’ activity is still so changeable that it’s just hard to take any firm decisions at this stage.’

Recently, I revealed that the Sussexes have told friends that once Harry’s memoir Spare is published next month, their focus will be on healing the family rift. Those on this side of the Atlantic are, perhaps understandably, a little more sceptical.

Harry and Meghan released their controversial Netflix documentary series this month

King Charles III could still welcome Prince Harry back into the royal fold. He is pictured with Meghan and the late Queen in 2018

‘They said their Oprah Winfrey interview was the one time they were going to air these private family issues — and since then we have had a couple of TV projects, podcasts, interviews, the docu-series, the book,’ a well-placed source says.

‘The big question about the Sussexes is whether they can exist outside of a position of conflict with the institution. Everyone hopes they can but I’m not sure they commercially feel able to. Plus, they clearly believe everything they say. The interpretation they have of events is as true for them as it is untrue to everyone else who was involved. But the family want closure, not further acrimony. There will never be a day where, despite their most awful behaviour, the King would not welcome his son into his arms.’ Another source adds: ‘Yes, His Majesty continues to be very bewildered by the whole thing. He hasn’t watched [Netflix’s Harry & Meghan] series and will not read [Harry’s] book — but he knows what he needs to know, and he’s very upset.

‘He loves his son. But one of the King’s great skills is to compartmentalise. While he may be feeling Harry’s absence acutely and be concerned about the potential impact on the institution, he will also be focused very strongly on the job he has to do. There’s nothing he can do about it now, so there’s no point in losing any sleep at this stage.’

Although Charles came off ‘lightly’ in terms of criticism during Harry’s recent score-settling on Netflix, royal insiders are decidedly ‘apprehensive’ about his memoir, which will be published on January 10. ‘In Netflix, the villain of the piece had clearly moved on to being [William], the Prince of Wales. Harry and Meghan actually had some nice words to say around the King’s role in helping them plan their wedding,’ one source points out.

‘Are they saving their ire for the book instead? Who knows. You can’t not feel sorry for Harry. He is fundamentally the product of a very damaged childhood. But you can also feel sorry for the individual and frustrated at the world he has created for himself, where he sees enemies at every turn. Despite it all, I know the institution would [still] have him back in a heartbeat.’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pictured with daughter Lilibet and son Archie shortly before Christmas last year

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Prince and Princess of Wales at Westminster Hall in London in September

Another courtier describes the Netflix series as ‘wearying and saddening’ but adds: ‘The attitude internally was ‘keep calm and carry on’. The hope is that the waters will settle. The family haven’t reacted so far and it’s unlikely that approach will change.’

There is, as I reported recently, an open invitation for Harry and Meghan to attend all family events, including next May’s Coronation, although the guest list is yet to be confirmed. Whether they will come is another matter. Whatever the Sussexes decide, there is no doubt that our first Coronation for 70 years will still be a magnificent spectacle.

Both royal aides and government officials believe the enthusiastic public reaction to the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and her funeral suggest that people expect a proper royal event.

One Whitehall source explains: ‘The Government is keen for it to be a great moment of national celebration because this year’s events have been a fabulous advertisement for Britain. We do pomp and pageantry in a way that no other nation can. Despite what some American papers would have you believe, Britain does have a special place in the world.’

Another source adds: ‘The King and Queen Consort and their advisers are keenly following the debate to ensure they are striking the right balance between this moment of celebration and something that can be done against a very challenging economic backdrop.

‘Lest we forget, [the late Queen’s Coronation in] 1953 was also a time of great austerity and economic difficulties. So it’s not the first time that the family have had to marry the concerns of the nation with the opportunity the Coronation brings.’

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort arrives at the annual Reception for Members of the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace on December 6, 2022

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort visit Wrexham Association Football Club on December 9, 2022 in Wrexham, Wales

I am told that planning is continuing apace and that the Queen Consort has already sourced a suitable dress and mantle (the cloak she will wear), and she has also chosen her crown. Many now believe she will opt for the late Queen’s diamond diadem.

Buckingham Palace is planning a series of visits to all four corners of the United Kingdom over the next few months in the run-up to the big day.

Before then, we can also expect the King and Queen Consort’s first state visit — to an as-yet-undisclosed country. And while I understand Charles also plans to keep the ‘hardy annuals’ of the royal calendar — such as Royal Ascot, the garden parties and the Maundy Service — going, staff are looking at ‘tweaking’ some of these events to make them more relevant to the modern age.

Other changes are also under way in the Royal Household.

Some staff have lost their jobs as Charles’s old team at Clarence House have merged in recent weeks with the late Queen’s existing one at Buckingham Palace. This has resulted in some inevitable unhappiness and tension.

The late Queen’s most powerful and devoted female member of staff, Angela Kelly, who acted as her Majesty’s dresser and personal confidante, has been firmly frozen out.

The King and his team were inherently suspicious (and possibly a little jealous) about the degree of influence Kelly enjoyed thanks to the ageing monarch.

King Charles III and the Queen Consort attend a reception to thank the community of Aberdeenshire in October 2022

Britain’s King Charles and Queen Camilla pose for a picture at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Britain November, 2022

Within days of the Queen’s passing in September, the locks were changed to bar Ms Kelly from access to the royal apartments at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, where she retains a grace-and-favour home.

She has written two books and is believed to be working on a third about her life with the Queen. Many suspect she may try to use the tome to settle a few scores. But I can also reveal that, despite being thoughtfully offered jobs for life by the King, two other of the Queen’s most beloved servants, her Page of the Backstairs, ‘Tall Paul’ Whybrew, and the late Queen’s groom, Terry Pendry, have now decided to leave in the spring. Neither felt things would be the same without their old mistress.

I am told that their retirements were accepted with sadness but no ill will.

As for the family, Charles and William — who, let us not forget, have endured their own tensions over the years — are closer than ever before.

The only blip has been a recent moment of friction over the handling of William’s godmother, Lady Susan Hussey — the Queen’s former lady-in-waiting who stepped down after repeatedly asking a British charity campaigner what part of Africa she came from.

Some at Buckingham Palace felt the situation was ‘unhelpfully’ inflamed by Kensington Palace’s ‘over-hasty’ decision to enter into the fray with a public pronouncement on the row.

Lady Susan Hussey, the Queen’s former lady-in-waiting stepped down after repeatedly asking a British charity campaigner what part of Africa she came from. Pictured: Lady Susan Hussey met again with Ngozi Fulani at Buckingham Palace, London, on December 16

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort attend a welcoming ceremony at Micklegate Bar in November 2022

A spokesman for the Prince of Wales said at the time: ‘Racism has no place in our society, these comments were unacceptable and it is right that the individual concerned has stepped down.’

He is right, of course, and there was sympathy that the incident came as he was about to embark on a high-profile visit to the U.S. But it was deemed perhaps an ‘unnecessary’ intervention at a particularly delicate moment for the royal household, according to several with knowledge of the situation.

This was, it must be stressed, however, more a case of internal eye-rolling than any full-scale row, in what has proved to be a strong partnership between the King and the heir to the throne.

William will be by his father’s side at the Coronation on May 6 — while Harry, having stepped down from royal duties, will be unlikely to undertake any ceremonial duties at the event, if he attends at all.

The House of Windsor, then, has much to look forward to in the coming year — and, notwithstanding a few difficulties emanating from California, ‘steady as she goes’ seems the royal order of the day.

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