The UK is adjusting to life under new rulers following the arrival of both a new prime minister and a new monarch within the space of 48 hours.
“Not since Britain became a democracy in the 19th century has the country had this double churn,” said historian Anthony Seldon in The Times. Less than two weeks ago, Boris Johnson was in No. 10 and Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne; now, Liz Truss is head of our government and King Charles III is our monarch.
The first PM to serve under the late Queen was Winston Churchill, and they developed a “deep and enduring friendship”, according to British Heritage Travel magazine. Whether Truss and Charles will do likewise is a matter of speculation, following the first of their weekly private audiences last Friday.
Why does their relationship matter?
Britain’s recent PMs have often “boasted” about how this nation “thrives in a world where other countries are either massively richer or significantly more ruthless”, wrote ITV News’ political editor Robert Peston. This success has been attributed to Britain’s “soft power” through “our democracy, our culture, our history, our language – and our late Queen Elizabeth”, Peston continued.
For 70 years, the Queen was the “personification of that soft power” and the “apolitical underpinning of our parliamentary democracy”. She was the ultimate “matriarch”. But while King Charles automatically inherited her throne, “he cannot assume he will automatically be seen as the unquestioned patriarch of the country”, Peston added.
Whether “the monarchical foundation of our parliamentary democracy will be weakened or strengthened” may hinge on “the strength and nature of the relationship” between Charles and Truss. Their reputations, and “the UK’s culturally, diplomatically and economically important soft power”, will be “inextricably, symbiotically linked”.
What issues will Truss and Charles have to tackle?
Arguably the greatest challenge that they will face together is keeping the union whole, suggested Sebastian Payne in the Financial Times. During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, a rare intervention by the Queen – who urged the Scottish public to “think very carefully about the future” before voting – no doubt “helped save the union”, said Payne.
But “the threat of a break-up has not gone away”, he continued, and both Truss and the new King “must grapple with the long trend towards independence”.
The death of the Queen at Balmoral last week has brought Scotland and England closer together than “no other event in modern times”. Our new rulers must foster this “glimmer of hope that new bonds of unionism could emerge and that Scots may prove receptive to the offer of something new”, Payne concluded.
As a constitutional monarch, King Charles’ role as head of state is largely ceremonial, and he is bound by his role to act on the wishes of the government of the day.
His strong views on the environment and climate change are already well known, however, after his decades of campaigning as Prince of Wales.
“If King Charles III is a ‘climate king’, as some environmental news outlets have optimistically labelled him, Truss is definitely not a ‘climate prime minister’,” said Time, which noted that she has shown “strikingly little interest” in green issues “despite serving as environment secretary from 2014 to 2016”.
Within days of taking over at No. 10, Truss announced a plan to “overturn the UK’s ban on fracking”, which critics say jeopardises “both local landscapes and the national effort to decarbonise”, the magazine reported.
Truss and Charles may also clash over issues of nationalism and immigration.
Charles has previously made it known that after his coronation in Westminster Abbey – a Christian ceremony – he wished to have “a separate interdenominational ceremony” in Westminster Hall, said Tim Walker in his Mandrake diary column in The New European. According to Walker, Charles was “determined to make it clear that he was going to represent people of all religions”.
Brexit convert Truss, meanwhile, has “made it clear that her government intends to take an even harder line” on immigration than the previous government, Walker continued. And “there are few if any concepts more alien to Brexit and its adherents than multiculturalism”.
As the two rulers now face the challenge of reconciling their differences, Truss will be under pressure to forge a strong relationship with the new monarch.
And Charles will need support from “across the nation”, including that of his PM, “if he is to succeed in his task of becoming the monarch that the country needs”, said Seldon in The Times.