Britons back new King Charles, so long as he keeps his views to himself: Survey

A survey found an increase in backing for both King Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - King Charles has enjoyed a surge in support since he succeeded Queen Elizabeth as Britain's new monarch, a poll has shown, but some of those mourning his late mother warn he must follow her example and keep his views to himself.

A YouGov survey for the Times newspaper found backing for King Charles, 73, had dramatically risen since he became king when compared with polls earlier this year. There was a similar increase in backing for his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort.

Now 63 per cent think he will be a good king, a rise of 24 percentage points since March, while 15 per cent believe he will do a bad job, compared with 31 per cent six months ago, the poll published on Tuesday found.

The findings echoed the views of Britons Reuters spoke to who came out to mourn Queen Elizabeth.

"I have every expectation that he will do extremely well," said Mr Patrick Thompson, 61, who was among the thousands who queued to see the late queen's coffin at Edinburgh's St Giles Cathedral. "But he will have to adapt and stay quiet about his political views. He was ahead of his time on things like climate. But he will have to be much more careful now in what he says."

Outspoken prince

Having waited longer than any other heir to become king, King Charles carved out a role for himself speaking out on issues, from climate change to architecture and alternative medicine.

To critics, he was interfering in political issues that were not matters for the royals, a contrast to his mother who kept her personal opinions hidden throughout her 70-year reign and never gave an interview.

But supporters say some of his views have been visionary, calling for action on the environment and sustainability decades before they became frontline issues for governments.

Since becoming king, he has repeatedly said he would follow his mother's example. In his first televised address to the nation, he said his role would not be the same now that he was king.

"My life will, of course, change as I take up my new responsibilities," he said. "It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply."

Many who gathered at the sombre ceremonies that have followed Elizabeth's death have spoken warmly about the new monarch.

"Charles is overseeing the change seamlessly, and we need that. The monarchy is the centrifugal point of our political set up. If you don't have a monarch, then everything falls apart," said Ms Ellie Merton, 52, who was also in Edinburgh.

King Charles attends a vigil at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sept 12, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

But while outpourings of grief and words of praise for Queen Elizabeth were almost universally fulsome, there were occasional voices of doubt over King Charles.

"We are in a period of transition with the royal family. It is too early to say if Charles will be popular," said Mr Ewan Carmichael, 16, who met the new king on Monday at an event at the Scottish Parliament. "We will all be waiting to see what he is like as king before people make up their mind about him."

Support can be fleeting

Despite the increase in King Charles' own ratings, the survey tracking long-term sentiment towards the royals also showed the proportion of people who thought the monarchy was very important or quite important at a record low.

In recent years, such surveys have repeatedly shown an increasing divide between the generations, with young people far less supportive or just ambivalent about the monarchy.

Tuesday's YouGov poll found 62 per cent of respondents supported the institution, with 21 per cent opposed, a figure largely unchanged since King Charles became sovereign. That is a reflection of how backing has declined over the last few years amid a period of turmoil for the family.

There has been the departure from their royal roles of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and their subsequent criticism of Buckingham Palace and even allegations of racism.

Meanwhile, allegations of sex abuse levelled in the United States against Queen Elizabeth's second son, Prince Andrew, which led to him settling a court case, have also proved highly damaging, despite his denial of wrongdoing or any criminal charges. The furore meant he too was forced to quit his royal role.

"It does, therefore, seem that the successes and problems of the royal family affect how much people value the institution," British poll expert John Curtice wrote in an article for The Conversation website. "King Charles has inherited the crown at a time when support for the institution of the monarchy has fallen to a new low."

King Charles himself will know better than most how the public's attitude towards the monarchy, and individual members of the royal family, can waver. Following the death of his first wife Princess Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997, there was overt hostility in many parts towards him and Camilla, who many blamed for the break-up of what was regarded as their fairytale marriage.

King Charles greets well-wishers as he arrives at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

As recently as five years ago, at the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death, polls suggested the majority of people had a generally negative perception of him.

Royal biographer Robert Lacey, the historical consultant to Netflix's hugely popular TV drama The Crown, said so far King Charles has successfully combined leading the mourning for Queen Elizabeth, while providing authority, humanity and reassurance.

"There was a question mark people have always inevitably thought about him as the deputy," Mr Lacey told Reuters. "I think in the sad circumstances, it's a very good start, though of course the sad circumstances help - the reverence and the reflectiveness prompted by death have helped as well." REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.