Prince Charles as Co-Monarch

His 95-year-old mom is still Queen but has handed off many of her duties.

The Scottish Daily Express is one of many sources claiming that Queen Elizabeth II has all but officially handed much of her ceremonial duties to her heir.

Britain is now effectively a ‘co-monarchy’ with Prince Charles acting as the Queen’s regent, it has been claimed.

Her Majesty has had to cut back on public engagements over recent months due to health concerns.

She has been more frequently absent from the public eye since going into hospital last year, a stay that eventually led to her being unable to attend Cop26.

She spoke of her struggles to overcome Covid this week, saying the virus had left her “exhausted” and has been seen using a walking stick more often.

And it was confirmed Prince Charles will take her place at the Royal Maundy service on Thursday.

According to the Ephraim Hardcastle column in the Daily Mail, the Queen has made Charles her regent “in all but name” with the move also removing princes Andrew and Harry from having to take on certain official duties.

The column quotes a royal source, who said: “We have effectively a co-monarchy for the first time since William and Mary arrived in 1689.

“Charles’s unofficial elevation also removes any danger of Andrew or Harry having to step in as counsellors of state.”

The heir to the throne has already taken over from his mother at the Remembrance events at the cenotaph. The monarch also pulled out of the annual Commonwealth Day service on March 14.

Royal commentators have said the Queen’s public appearances will become ‘sparse’ in what is her Platinum Jubilee year.

However, she made sure to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s service of thanksgiving at the end of March.

The previous Regency era came about when King George III was deemed unfit to rule due to a mental illness with his son, the future George VI, ruling as proxy as prince regent.

Despite the actual regency only lasting from 1811 until 1820, the period from 1795 until 1837 is known as the Regency era in terms of distinctive trends in architecture, culture and politics.

A coregency was seen in Britain after the Glorious Revolution of the 1600s. Mary II, daughter of Stuart king James, ruled jointly with her dutch husband, William III from 1688 until her death from smallpox in 1694.

The job is almost entirely ceremonial at this point, so whether Charles is “co-monarch,” “regent,” or merely a regular substitute for his mother is largely irrelevant. There’s a strangeness, though, for a 73-year-old to still be waiting for the job that he’s been destined for since he was in the womb and for a 95-year-old being the nominal monarch of a great power.

The European monarchies have little tradition of simply stepping aside when they’re too old for the job. Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI, sent shockwaves through the Roman Catholic church when he did just that back in 2013. He’s still alive today—and two years younger than QEII.

As an aside: that’s a magnificent jacket and waistcoat combination Charles is wearing in the photo.

FILED UNDER: United Kingdom, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Well, better than the “danger” of either Andrew or Harry having to step in, as the SDE author notes. But I thought the two of them had already been sidelined, or sidelined themselves because of their conduct.

    Charles has always dressed superbly. One assumes he has the wherewithal to afford only the best tailors.

    4
  2. Kathy says:

    Who knew ceremonial figurehead could be such a strenuous job.

    4
  3. gVOR08 says:

    The job is almost entirely ceremonial at this point

    I’m afraid my reaction to your subtitle was, “She has duties?”

    1
  4. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Well, she has to read and sign off on the contents of the “red boxes” every morning. The rest of her duties consists of carrying out official engagements.

    I always smile when any of the royals are praised for attending garden parties and exhibition openings. It’s not ten hours a day in a coal mine, is it?

    1
  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    As an aside: that’s a magnificent jacket and waistcoat combination Charles is wearing in the photo.

    Yeah, it’s solid. Grey with a hint of green, subtle crosshatching, narrow lapels. Reminiscent of The Suit from NXNW, only with a waistcoat and a better shirt choice.

    2
  6. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Interestingly, abdication has become the norm in the Dutch monarchy. The preceding three Dutch monarchs – Wilhelmina, Juliana, and Beatrix – all abdicated the throne in favor of their successor. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that is a very prudent way of handling the matter.

    1
  7. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Are the Dutch monarchs actually anointed? Because Elizabeth is anointed, and by abdicating she would break the pact she made with God in the process of being anointed.

    2
  8. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Well, considering the history of English monarchs and their tendency to get killed/assassinated one does wonder which is the chicken or the egg here…

    It’s especially amusing when there’s all this pomposity about being “God’s Anointed” when the entire damn church you’re the nominal head of came about because one of your ancestors needed to legitimise his mistress’s would-be bastard before the kid popped out.

    1
  9. Jen says:

    @CSK: I was just going to make this point. As an American, I didn’t really “get” why my British MIL was so insistent that the Queen would never abdicate. I saw it more as a formal way of saying “eh, I’m retiring,” up until I read the book “Young Elizabeth.”

    Abdication is not something she would EVER consider. The whole “breaking a pact with God” is one big part of that. The other is that this family is still ashamed at Edward VIII’s abdication.

    1
  10. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Yes, and didn’t that work out well for him. He got…another girl child.
    @Jen:
    Indeed. That Edward could so flagrantly ignore his duty rocked them to the core.

    Good joke about Edward VIII: He went from being Admiral of the Fleet to being third mate on an American tramp.

    4
  11. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    @Neil Hudelson:
    But has anyone else noticed that it’s a Scots-style jacket and waistcoat?
    The brass buttons identify it; that and the fact he’s wearing a kilt. 🙂

    4
  12. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    I did notice the kilt. I’m sure there are more than adequate tailors in Scotland, if that’s where he had it made. 😀

  13. JohnSF says:

    @grumpy realist:
    The monarchs were anointed even before the Church of England separated.
    Practice started end of 14th century; probably because the monarch concerned, Henry IV, had deposed his predecessor and cousin, Richard III.

    Oh, wives of monarchs also get anointed; but husbands don’t qualify for some reason.

    The late Prince Philip was only Prince Consort; IIRC because King cannot be a honorary title but Queen can.
    Rules must have changed since Phil number 1, LOL.
    Philip of Spain wasn’t anointed, but was recognised as king during Mary I’s lifetime, but also IIRC is never included in the lists of reigning monarchs.
    Not sure why, TBH.

    The other Prince Consorts being Albert with Victoria; and George with Queen Anne; Elizabeth I being famously unmarried.
    William III was anointed in his own right, though wife Mary II was the rightful successor.

    So there you go.

    2
  14. Mu Yixiao says:

    @JohnSF:

    Where does Elvis fit in?

  15. CSK says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    He ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog.
    Not even a corgi, ffs.

    1
  16. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    @gVOR08:
    @CSK:
    There are also the Privy Council meetings and audiences.
    That is, business audiences, not just formal presentations of persons.
    Weekly with the Prime Minister, before budgets with the Chancellor, periodically with other Ministers and Privy Councillors, and the Chiefs of Staff, plus contacts via the Defence Services Secretary of the Royal Household.

    I suspect the meetings have dropped off considerably, and that Charles is standing in; but Privy Council operations are notoriously secretive.

    Also, at least in the past, the Queen was said to pay close attention to the Red Box contents, which aren’t just things requiring signatures. Had the reputation for knowing more about international and military affairs, especially Commonwealth related, than most ministers.

    The main drop-off in monarchical power has been the change of the main political parties to having elected leaders. The Conservatives only stated electing in 1965; before then the monarch had rather more influence.
    It’s been said that the Queen “advised” in the 1950’s that R. A. Butler would not be welcome as a leader due to his record as an “appeaser” in the 1930’s.

    But that was the tail end of genuine political power, as opposed to indeterminate private influence.

  17. JohnSF says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    Takes precedence ahead of Prince, IIRC. 🙂

    1
  18. de stijl says:

    I like the picture up top, besides the fact that a monarchy is too weird for words.

    They look like they are having a genuine laugh. Good for them.

    1
  19. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    Poor woman, having to meet Boris Johnson every week.

    2
  20. de stijl says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Costello or Pressley?

  21. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:

    “… having to meet Boris Johnson every week.”

    I think they swapped to doing it by phone.
    Apparently other audiences were done by video link.
    Can’t help wondering if the difference was to spare her the sight of the buffoon Johnson’s gormless gob and ludicrous ruffled hair.

  22. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “I think I’ve come to the conclusion that is a very prudent way of handling the matter.”

    If you wanted to come up with a phrase to describe Dutch culture, you couldn’t do much better than this…

  23. wr says:

    “Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI, sent shockwaves through the Roman Catholic church when he did just that back in 2013. He’s still alive today—and two years younger than QEII.”

    I always assumed that was the Papal version of skipping town one day ahead of the sheriff coming for you…