A week ago today, Queen Elizabeth II died – peacefully at home in Balmoral – and we lost a monarch of 70 years’ standing. But in that moment, we also gained a King, a man who was heir to the throne for the same amount of time as she occupied it.
Now, as the UK officially observes a period of national mourning, King Charles III is grieving his mother – while also having the busiest seven days of his life.
Though it’s only been a week, the new King has had a hefty schedule. After the family’s private vigil at the Queen’s bedside on Thursday, Friday saw his first address to the nation and a pledge to follow his mother in “lifelong service”.
Saturday was taken up by the practicalities and politics of the Accession Council and formal proclamation, since when the King has been touring the nations: Scotland on Sunday and Monday, back to London to address both Houses of Parliament, then over to Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he accompanied his late mother’s coffin to the Palace of Westminster alongside his sons and siblings, and this Friday will finally see him travel to Wales, where he was Prince from 1958 until his accession.
First impressions of the new monarch? On the one hand, Charles has kept things surprisingly personal amid the pomp, talking of love and loss and his “Darling Mama’ – and greeting the public in person outside Buckingham Palace.
On the other hand, here is a man 48 years older than his mother was when she became Queen at 25, a grandfather bold enough to quote Hamlet to the masses, but easily irritated by pens not working as they should.
Mostly, it’s just weird to see a King, not a Queen on our screens – a man in a suit, not his mum with her handbag; to hear people sing, “God Save The King” and to know the face on our money and stamps will soon be changing.
Because regardless of people’s feelings about the monarchy, there’s a broad consensus that the Queen was the glue that held the royal family together.
Think of the royals and you think of her. Now she’s gone, it’s hard to picture what exactly their future is going to look like. But one thing’s for sure, many young people didn’t picture King Charles III.
A general apathy is circulating among Gen Z that counters the enforced mourning, with some more interested in the extra bank holiday than a new King.
“In regards to King Charles, I’m very indifferent,” 17-year old Adedayo Akinfaderin, a student from Kent, tells HuffPost UK. “I’ve always viewed the Queen – and now the King – as just kind of… there.”
“People feel this misguided allegiance towards people that don’t know they exist.”
Akinfaderin says she doesn’t get the cult of celebrity that surrounds the royals. “People feel this misguided allegiance towards people that don’t know they exist,” she says. “It’s similar to celebrity stan culture, but 10 times more dangerous [with the monarchy], because it affects politics also.”
For many younger people, what impressions they do have of Prince – and now King – Charles have probably been passed down from their parents.
Though they weren’t alive to witness his fairytale wedding to Lady Diana Spencer and the subsequent breakdown of the couple’s marriage, Gen Z has absorbed the global adoration of the “People’s Princess” – and perhaps also some of the historic distain for her husband.
Short clips of Princess Diana in her heyday have been resurfacing on TikTok, showing her speak about Charles, his affair, and their messy divorce.
What came next, of course, was tragedy, and a story told again and again in popular culture. So, their first thoughts of him probably aren’t the best.
Then, there’s the glaring issue of the the monarchy’s relationship with people of colour. It’s difficult for some of us to ignore their handprints on the British Empire, its aftermath, and the ongoing politics of racism and inequality.
Paris Williams, a 24-year old policy officer from London, has strong opinions about this. “As a Black woman with Nigerian heritage on my mum’s side and Caribbean/African-American roots on my dad’s side, both sides have been affected by colonisation and slavery,” she tells HuffPost UK.
Williams believes the new King lives in a time where access to resources is so vast that if he truly wanted to self-educate and make a change, he would.
“He could admit that the royal family had played a significant part and say, ’I don’t want to play a part in this anymore. Let me step down.’ But now he’s continuing the history and the legacy of the monarchy,” she says.
“Also are we just going to forget what he did to Diana? It’s well documented that he does not want to be King, but there he is, sat in luxury.”
By “well-documented”, Williams clarifies that she means The Crown. Riding high again in the charts since the Queen’s death, the Netflix drama is seen by many as a set text on the royals, never mind its historical inaccuracies.
And in the more recent fourth season, Charles and Diana and Camilla’s story – “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” – played to millions.
Grace Cooper, 19, a bartender and student from Kent, takes issue with the immense wealth and privilege of the royal family, as well as their politics.
“I’ve always thought it was wrong that people can be born into a position of wealth and power, especially one that’s funded by tax payers,” she says.
“As far as I know the royal family has never spoken out about colonialism or the slave trade or any of the things that continue to financially benefit them. It’s sad that so many people are quick to praise them and ignore the whole past.”
She has a strong dislike for King Charles, who she describes as “gross” and “one of the worst people in the family”. Pushed on why, she says: “He’s said lots of offensive and harmful things and I can’t get behind that.”
One such controversy was in 2009, when Charles received criticism for calling his British Asian friend, businessman Kolin Dhillon, a “sooty”, though Dhillon defended the now King, stating the nickname was a “term of affection”.
And when, in her infamous 2021 interview with Oprah, Meghan Markle shared that a royal family member asked what skin tone hers and Harry’s child would be, the whole of “The Firm” were tainted by association.
“Our parents’ age of loving the royals is finished.”
Lewis, 21, who works for the government and preferred not to give his surname, thinks the new King is simply “out of touch” with reality.
“Our parents’ age of loving the royals is finished,” says the Londoner. “We are facing an impending recession, climate crisis, housing crisis and energy crisis. People are struggling to pay their bills and are being forced into poverty.
“These are real issues we’re all facing, but not the royals. The royals are dining on fine china and flying in private jets. The young people of this country have been let down for decades and the royals have done nothing to help us. The monarchy is out of touch and needs to be abolished.”
Akinfaderin agrees on this last point, despite her indifference towards the King.
“It’s purely there for decoration at this point,” she says of the monarchy, “and I also feel like it fuels this sense of nationalism amongst British people. You can obviously see this with Meghan Markle.”
After Harry and Meghan unexpectedly joined William and Kate, the new Prince and Princess Of Wales, on Saturday to meet well-wishers outside Windsor Castle, the hashtag #MeghanGoHome began trending on Twitter.
Highlighting how Meghan continues to face hostility from the UK media, Piers Morgan’s latest column ran with the headline: “Harry, if you really want to honour your dad, nix your salacious tell-all and rein in your royals-trashing wife.”
Tito Mogaji, 24, a strategist from East London, believes the continued existence of the monarchy reinforces this cult of tabloid and celebrity.
“We don’t question or hold them to account enough when they do wrong, in the same way that a politician or regular person would be treated,” he says.
“Placing King Charles in the position just feels like another unelected, non tax paying, privileged old fossil in an archaic position build on colonial riches.”
Mogaji echoes others in saying the royal family are “out of touch” with young people (though he believes that Harry has the best chance of connecting).
“How can they relate to the common man or person or student or immigrant or bus driver or sex worker or anyone really? They’re privileged beyond the wildest dreams of anyone in this country,” he says.
“There’s no real benefit to young people from the monarchy, they’re not progressive, they’re hardly diverse. They’re not as green or politically left-leaning as we are. They’re a relic of a bygone era that doesn’t include us.”
Cooper would like the monarchy gone, too. “It’s an outdated institution in my opinion and we really don’t need them for anything,” she tells HuffPost.
Failing that, would like to see them meaningfully address their past. “If the monarchy is going to stick around any longer, I’d like to see them attempt to do some sort of reparations and try to reverse the harm they’ve caused to huge amounts of people all over the world,” she adds.
“But unfortunately I don’t see them doing that as I think they are all very detached from reality and too privileged to care.”
As for Mogaji, he also hopes the future of the monarchy is non-existent, “but at best passed down to a more diverse, progressive and honest generation – not as reliant on the public purse and willing to admit the errors of Britannia.”