He didn’t wear the crown yet. So far, Prince Charles has not been entitled to this sign of power. But when the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the British Parliament in full dress uniform, the monarch’s heavy Imperial State Crown was enthroned on a velvet cushion nearby. The picture makes it clear: even without a coronation, Charles is increasingly becoming the face of the British monarchy.
“The heir to the throne is on the verge of becoming the de facto Prince Regent,” Peter Hunt, once the BBC’s Royals commentator, told the PA news agency. Officially, Charles only stepped in for his mother at the so-called State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday, who has been stepping down for a long time due to health problems. But the historic ceremony already offered a glimpse into the future, at a time when Elizabeth II’s reign will inevitably come to an end.
The Queen only temporarily transferred one of her constitutional rights to her son. Because in the event that the monarch is unwell for any reason, provisions are of course made. Several so-called State Counselors, usually the next in line to the throne, then take over. But central rights such as the appointment of the prime minister or – formal – approval of laws remain unaffected.
British media are now pointing out for the first time that it is theoretically conceivable that the Queen would transfer her duties to Charles, but remain in office. The last time there was such a reign was more than 200 years ago: At that time, Prince George, later King George IV, took over the official business from his father George III. until his death in 1820. However, Queen Elizabeth II continues to perform her duties, so the question does not arise.
But the mission made it clear that Prince Charles now plays the central role in the royal family. Especially since it doesn’t look like his mother will soon overcome her malaise. On the contrary. The 96-year-old looks increasingly frail. The Queen recently said she cannot move. It is not expected that she will ever open Parliament again. The exception Charles should now become the norm – and is a turning point.
The Queen has long refrained from traveling abroad and has been represented by members of the Royal Family. In the meantime, the Queen is also taking fewer and fewer appointments domestically, she even recently canceled events in Windsor near her residence. According to popular belief, the Queen is gathering her strength to attend as many events as possible at the celebrations for her 70th jubilee at the beginning of June.
The 73-year-old heir apparent has been preparing for his future role for decades and is the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. Royals experts described the appearance in Parliament as “further training”, which the Queen followed on TV, according to information from palace sources. “It’s one of the many jobs he’d rather not take on yet,” said Joe Little of Majesty magazine. “But given his mother’s advanced age, all of this is bound to happen. Of course, he will be honored to do it on her behalf.”
It was also noticed that Queen’s grandson Prince William stood by his father Charles in Parliament. The 39-year-old will also be head of state one day. Appearing together on the “Queen’s Speech,” which is now more of a “Prince’s Speech,” was “a significant moment for two future kings,” according to expert Hunt. “As the Queen increasingly withdraws from public life, the Palace wants to show that the monarchy is safe in the hands of father and son.”
Because even if Charles is now increasingly in the limelight, it is clear that the focus is not on the heir to the throne. “It’s about the monarchy as an institution,” Royals expert Tessa Dunlop told Sky News. Charles is part of the institution. The House of Windsor is sending a clear signal: Even with the eldest son of Elizabeth II, the monarchy remains stable.