King Charles Pays Moving Tribute to the Queen, As We Look Back at the First Year of His Reign

King Charles III on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following his coronation, May 6, 2023. Photo: Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Anniversaries within monarchies are sad. That’s because monarchies are unique in that the date a new sovereign accedes the throne also marks the date of the last sovereign’s death. In a system of primogeniture, that means the new monarch’s own parent is whose death date is being marked. Thus, it is by definition sad.

In recognition of that, as well as of the massive outpouring for the Sept. 8, 2022 death of Britain’s longest-ever ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, her heir King Charles III will mark the first anniversary of his reign in what the palace has stated will be a “private day of reflection” from Balmoral, Scotland.

He did, however, attend a private memorial service at a nearby chapel, as well as pay tribute to his beloved mother, saying, “In marking the first anniversary of Her late Majesty’s death and my Accession, we recall with great affection her long life, devoted service and all she meant to so many of us.”

In a statement, he went on to say, “I am deeply grateful, too, for the love and support that has been shown to my wife and myself during this year as we do our utmost to be of service to you all.”

The tribute was accompanied by a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, chosen by the King, that has never before been released to the general public. It was taken at Buckingham Palace on Oct. 16, 1968, and first shown at the National Portrait Gallery soon after until March 1969. Her Majesty was 42 years old at the time.

Queen Elizabeth II
His Majesty King Charles III has released this photo (dated Oct. 16, 1968) of the late Queen Elizabeth II to mark the anniversary of her passing, Sept. 8, 2023. Photo: Cecil Beaton, Royal Collection Trust/His Majesty King Charles III 2023 via AP/Canadian Press


The Scottish estate is the private property of the monarch, and it was there that Queen Elizabeth died. King Charles has chosen to keep up her tradition of spending family time on the estate for summer holidays. It is one of many traditions the King has elected to maintain. But in a year of change for the British Royal Family, there have been many things Charles has changed since he’s been in charge.


A Look Back at the King’s Reign


Charles turned 74 during his first year on the throne. His reign will therefore, by pure mathematics even in a family with great longevity, be shorter. Thus, he has an imperative to make his mark swiftly.

King Charles III speaks with a member of the Scottish military during the British Royal Family’s Royal Week in Scotland, July 3, 2023, Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images


The House of Windsor has come under criticism for many things in the past decade — from calls to apologize for colonial harms and pay reparations and republican threats to family dramas (Harry and Meghan leaving royal service and publishing a brace of wrenching accusations) to family scandals (Andrew stripped of his HRH and working portfolio due to his association with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his own civil underage rape settlement) and on to King Charles’ own Prince’s Trust fundraising improprieties. 

Charles has been laying out his vision for modernization for years: a slimmed-down rota of working royals whose activities are paid for by Civil List; a similar revamp of how the family’s castles and holdings are used; a pared-back coronation that took into account the dire economic straits many Britons and Commonwealth subjects are facing. His lifelong passion — for preserving the environment and investing in regenerative agriculture and organic crops, for architectural preservation and the construction of liveable cities and towns — which once seemed rather loony, are now extraordinarily relevant in the climate crisis.


King Charles and Prince William plant a tree to mark the end of The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative in the gardens of Sandringham House, April 2, 2023. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images For Buckingham Palace


Charles’ popularity in Britain varies according to age groups. Unsurprisingly, older respondents to theYouGov poll taken just ahead of his first year in office show that 80 per cent of over-65s approve of the monarchy; in contrast just 37 per cent of Britons aged 18 to 24 feel the same. Charles’ personal popularity rating peaked just after his mother’s death, at 63 per cent, and has steadied out to 59 per cent overall, where it has otherwise held steady since about 2019.

What we mostly saw this year was a united front from the tight working royal team at the top: Charles and Camilla, William and Kate (with George (10), Charlotte (8) and little Louis (5) making some high-impact cameo appearances), Princess Anne and Edward and Sophie. Aside from the brief awkwardness of Harry’s truncated and solo trip to the U.K. for his father’s coronation in May, the new team put on a remarkable show of support for the new King.

Sir Timothy Laurence, Princess Anne, Prince George, Prince Louis, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Prince William, King Charles III, Queen Camilla, Prince Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, at Trooping the Colour, June 17, 2023. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images


Here’s the thing: the palace is very, very good at keeping the lenses focused on the sovereign. We realize now how little we really saw of Charles in the years leading up to his mother’s death, even as he took on more and more responsibility for day-to-day affairs. The light shone brightest on the monarch. 

Today, it is the same for Charles, who has taken to his schedule of quotidian events — ribbon-cuttings, hospital openings, cake slicings, garden parties, Highland Games, horse races, all the things on His Majesty’s royal calendar that have him interacting so much of the time with his subjects. He hasn’t yet begun the more ambitious royal tours, giving some space, correctly, to rethink through the visual pageantry in the wake of some dramas facing the Queen’s representatives in the Commonwealth (think William and Kate in Jamaica).

But Charles, with Camilla by his side, is out there shaking hands and doing retail politics like a champ. We saw it the day he arrived back at Buckingham Palace after his mother’s death, when people reached out for him, even, unbelievably, hugging him. Aside from a few tussles with a pen around the first days of his rule, he has managed to pull off a remarkably warm and fuzzy persona for a man that was previously seen as aloof and, well, a bit snooty.

The King greets members of the public waiting in the crowd after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died, Buckingham Palace, Sept. 9, 2022. Photo: Yui Mok/POOL/AFP/Getty Images


Charles’ transformation into a man trying to be of the people has faced headwinds. But his persistence of day-in, day-out service, in the same manner as his stalwart mother, is winning the longer battle of hearts and minds.


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