PTI, September 11, 2022, 12:04 PM IST

The sad news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II marks the beginning of the reign of King Charles III. The transition period has already seen questions raised as to whether the new king can be expected to be “interventionist”.

These concerns are based on several incidents that have occurred over the years. As Prince of Wales, Charles was outspoken on political matters and was found to lobby ministers on matters of interest to him. More recently, concerns have been raised over a cash donation the former prime minister of Qatar made to the prince’s charities.

However, the reality of the new king’s reign should be very different and far less controversial. Here’s why: The role of a constitutional monarchy While King Charles III is now head of state, that state remains a constitutional monarchy. This means that the ability to make and pass laws belongs to the elected parliament alone. Since the reign of King John and the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the UK has had a system of monarchy limited by law. The monarch must give “Royal Assent” to a bill before it becomes law, but nowadays this is seen as a formality and custom, rather than a process involving actual input from the monarch. For the system to survive, the king must be an uncontroversial figure and remain politically neutral. History tells us what happens when a monarch tries to wield too much arbitrary power. For example, the tension between the Crown and its subjects showed itself when King Charles I entered Parliament in 1642 to arrest parliamentarians for treason. The revolution followed, and for a short time the UK became a republic.

The crown was restored in 1660 by King Charles II. But the bill of rights passed in 1689, coupled with the proclamation case of 1611 which stated that a king could not legislate without the consent of Parliament, required the Crown to accept the will of the democratically elected parliament of the day. In concrete terms, the new king is perfectly aware of the change he must now make. Constitutional conventions that did not apply to him when he was a prince must now guide his every action as king. When it comes to political interference, the king has made it clear that he knows his approach must now be different. During his interview for his 70th birthday in 2018, he said: I’m not that stupid. I realize this is a separate exercise of being sovereign. So, of course, I completely understand how it should work. The idea somehow that I will continue on the same path if I am to succeed, is complete nonsense. Because the two situations are completely different. For the monarchy to survive, it must continue to respect constitutional rules. It’s the start of a new era, but one that will largely follow the “regulations” that governed the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

What could change? It is understood that the King wants a lean official royal family and it is expected that role changes are imminent to accommodate 21st century expectations of how much the public would have to pay to maintain the royal family.

When it comes to the Commonwealth realms, one would expect Charles to be more aware of societal changes. As Prince of Wales, he commented at the CommoAbouts of Government meeting in Kigali on how the legacy of slavery had to be confronted, saying: I cannot describe the depth of my pain at the suffering of so many people, as I continue to deepen my understanding of the lasting impact of slavery.

Similarly, Prince William admitted during a visit to Jamaica that “the appalling atrocity of slavery taints our history”. During the visit, he also recognized the right of Commonwealth states to independently choose their path, regardless of associations with the Royal Family if they so decided. This will be remembered now as the Queen’s passing is likely to reignite debate over whether some jurisdictions wish to continue their association with the Royal Family. While further departures from Commonwealth states are inevitable, these maneuvers signal that we could see more attempts to try to modernise, reflect a generational shift and make the monarchy appear more progressive and in touch – ultimately for its longer-term relevance and survival. .

The challenges ahead The most formidable challenge facing the new king will be maintaining continuity. Many British and Commonwealth citizens have never known a world without Queen Elizabeth II.

For many, she was the common thread that held the British trade union together. Her popularity was such that even the Scottish National Party agreed that the Queen should continue to be the head of state for a hypothetical independent Scotland. The King now faces the task of continuing to be that unifying force.

Throughout her 70-year reign, the United Kingdom has grown accustomed to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II being the one to speak for the country during times of celebration, and in times of loss and grief. The King will have the added challenge of connecting with the national psyche, replacing the Queen’s constant and reassuring presence at the center of national life.