A week as king: How has Charles III fared?

At the start of the week, 73 per cent told pollsters YouGov that King Charles has provided good leadership. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON - King Charles III has in the last week faced the difficult task of handling his own grief at the death of his mother, giving voice to the nation's loss and taking on the job of royal figurehead.

With Britain swept up in a wave of pro-monarchy sentiment since Queen Elizabeth died on Sept 8, the 73-year-old King Charles has won almost universal praise in the media.

But his first week in power has not been entirely blemish-free.

King Charles endured the longest wait for the throne in British history and has the toughest act to follow, so all eyes were on him when he made his first address to the nation the day after the Queen's demise.

Seated at a wooden table in a black suit and tie on Friday last week, he mixed personal tributes to his mother - "darling mama" - with pledges about how he would reign as a ceremonial constitutional monarch.

"As the Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation," he said.

He also promised to step back from his charitable activities and trusts that have led to him being accused of meddling in national politics in the past - a major problem for a sovereign who is meant to be neutral.

Addressing another, more personal issue that risked causing tensions during the national mourning period, he declared his "love" for his estranged youngest son, Prince Harry, and daughter-in-law Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

The right-wing Daily Mail newspaper called it "an exquisite and deeply personal tribute", while former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said it was "pitch perfect" in one of several positive reviews on social media.

Master of ceremonies

King Charles' next role was overseeing the transfer of the Queen's body to Edinburgh from her Balmoral estate, being sworn in, then presiding over a ceremony that saw his mother's casket brought to St Giles' cathedral in the Scottish capital on Monday.

Wracking up the air miles - despite his life-long commitment to environmental causes - he flew between London and Scotland, then over to Northern Ireland's capital Belfast on Tuesday for a meeting with the province's feuding political leaders.

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That trip, and another to Wales on Friday, are designed to demonstrate his commitment to the increasingly strained ties of the United Kingdom amid fears that two of its four nations - Scotland and Northern Ireland - might one day break away.

"I take up my new duties, resolved to seek the welfare of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland," he said in a speech at Hillsborough Castle.

Throughout the week, the prominent role of his second wife, Camilla, now known as the Queen Consort, barely drew attention - a far cry from the 1990s and early 2000s when King Charles' relationship with her during and after his marriage to Princess Diana was a damaging scandal.

King Charles with Queen Consort Camilla at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Ratings boost

A new survey measuring British attitudes to King Charles suggested an outpouring of sympathy - and generally positive reviews.

At the start of the week, three quarters of Britons (73 per cent) told pollsters YouGov that King Charles has provided good leadership, with just 5 per cent saying he has done a bad job.

Looking ahead to his reign, 63 per cent said they thought King Charles would do a good job, with only 15 per cent thinking the opposite.

That marked a sharp rise since a survey in May when only a third of respondents said he would make a good king, while almost exactly the same proportion said he would not.

"He has made a very strong start, and I think in particular he showed the monarchy will be more open," said Mr Vernon Bogdanor, a British political scientist and historian.

"So long as King Charles does not put a foot wrong, I would expect the monarchy to enjoy the same level of support as it did under Queen Elizabeth, possibly more so," Mr Robert Hazell, a constitutional expert from University College London, told AFP.

Missteps

Recent scandals surrounding the Windsors - from Prince Andrew's links to billionaire US paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to accusations of racism from Prince Harry's mixed-race wife Meghan - have been temporarily put out of mind.

But King Charles has been caught on camera twice displaying the sort of imperious, entitled behaviour that might in other circumstances have undermined his push for a more modern monarchy.

On Saturday, as his accession was formally rubber-stamped, he gestured haughtily for aides to clear a table where he was signing documents.

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla sign the visitors book at Hillsborough Castle on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

Then on Tuesday, he was overheard complaining about his pen leaking ink onto his fingers.

"Oh God, I hate this!" he complained, before standing up abruptly and handing the misfunctioning quill to his wife.

"I can't bear this bloody thing… every stinking time," he continued, unaware of the camera in the room.

Another own-goal was immediately announcing plans to lay off up to 100 staff at his former official residence, Clarence House, which was denounced as "callous" by a trade union. AFP

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