It was Princess Diana who professed a desire to be a queen of people’s hearts. It seemed the manner of her death granted her wish for a decade or so. If public displays of affection are the measure, Queen Elizabeth may have regained the crown. Beyond the pomp and circumstance, the people paid their own spontaneous tributes.
But the pages of history turn swiftly when it comes to a new monarch and from today onwards King Charles will carry responsibility for forging a legacy fit for a king.
Those presented at court know there is an understanding that one doesn’t start a conversation with a king or queen.
One waits to be addressed.
Even before King Charles was anointed, tongues were wagging about might he be able to play either a ceremonial or state role in addressing the future relationships between our islands.
The queen gave a master class in how soft power could be irresistible in building bridges with her momentous state visit to Ireland in 2011.
Attending her funeral at Westminster Abbey, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood reminded us: “The queen stretched herself for our peace process.
“It’s important we do the same to show respect to her and all for whom she held a special place in their hearts.”
Whether King Charles shares such impulses and inclinations will be revealed in the coming months.
Jonathan Swift put it nicely when he wrote:
A prince, the moment he is crown’d,
Inherits every virtue sound,
As emblems of the sovereign power,
Like other baubles in the Tower:
Is generous, valiant, just, and wise,
And so continues till he dies....
These are indeed tall orders.
It is difficult to know what exactly the role of a monarch is in the 21st century.
With the full glare of 24/7 virtual scrutiny to contend with, very little is hidden, and nothing is forgiven.
As writer George Will put it: “If your job is to leaven ordinary lives with elevating spectacle, be elevating or be gone.”
But life as a purveyor of “elevating spectacle” is nothing if not exacting, as the new king has
Even an encounter with a misfiring fountain pen has the potential to ricochet round the world in a matter of seconds.
Charles has the task of keeping his own family together along with reaching out to increasingly distant and disenchanted populations in Scotland and Wales, not to mention the vexed issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol and failure to restore devolved government to the North.
Politicians may not welcome an incursion on their path, nonetheless complete failure to make progress on any front suggests if one is in a position of potential influence and does not work towards being part of a solution, one risks quickly being branded as being part of the problem.