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King Charles III, just abdicate

DW Zulfikar Abbany
Zulfikar Abbany
September 11, 2022

The House of Windsor has seen many reluctant royals, and King Charles III certainly fits that mold. It's a good time to lance the lot and bring a better democracy to the UK, says DW's Zulfikar Abbany.

King Charles III, representing Queen Elizabeth II at the state opening of Parliament in May 2022 when he was still a prince
The then-Prince Charles, sitting in for his mum, looking bewildered, at the state opening of Parliament in May 2022Image: Alastair Grant/WPA Pool/Getty Images

So it goes. Two days after her kissing hands with Prime Minister Liz Truss, in a final act as head of state and mother to nations, the Queen was gone. It is a sad moment for many people, no doubt, but it could also be an opportunity for the UK right now.

I can't help but think back to the time that that other, significant royal — no, not the Queen's husband Philip — but Diana died. As with the Queen's death, Diana died soon after a change of power in government. 

The only difference was that Diana was a forward-looking individual and so was then-Prime Minister Tony Blair (not that I was a fan of either). 

Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, was more like an oxidized ornament. The same goes for the rest of the royal leftovers and their ruling, Conservative class. 

They are wardens of a past politic and society, a constant reminder, whether it's on coins, stamps or packets of biscuits and tea, that we are their subjects, we rank low in a totally undemocratic hierarchy. 

But times have changed, and so must they. 

They're a house of reluctant royals, anyway 

Deutsche Welle DW Zulfikar Abbany
DW's Zulfikar AbbanyImage: DW/P. Henriksen

Prince — now King — Charles has waited his entire adult life, well into what should be his retirement, to take his seat on the throne. If Charles is ever crowned, he must feel he won't have long to serve.

Indeed, if any of his behavior over the past 35 years can be taken as evidence, I'd suggest that the last thing he wants to be is king. His wife Camilla has hardly expressed much appetite for the job of Queen Consort, either.

But then expressing opinions is not the royal thing to do, and hasn't Charles had to learn that lesson of late? In June, he was criticized for having reportedly described government plans to send migrants to Rwanda as "appalling."

It seems that Charles is less his mother's son than the line of succession dictates. And that may not be a bad thing. Charles may yet hand the reins to his eldest son William. After all, he's King. He should be able to do what he likes.

Royal chances of survival 

William is more difficult to assess. Despite all previous antipathy to royal regalia and evils in the media, Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge, have become the epitome of modern royalty. At least, outwardly. 

Unlike his brother Harry and wife Meghan in Stateside paradise and their disgraced uncle Prince Andrew, William has taken decisive steps to hone in on the throne. Just days before her death, William and Kate said they would move their family home closer to the Queen's own.  

So, Charles could abdicate and leave the spoils to William and Kate. A better outcome, however, would be their shuttering the entire shop.

UK Queen Consort, Camilla, left, and King Charles III, right, wave to crowds
Camilla, Queen Consort and King Charles III will have to get used to performing Image: Daniel Lea/AFP

We subjects serve the servant

The Queen was the patron of my secondary school, one founded in 1856 with a Latin motto to boot — non sibi sed omnibus (not for one but for all). And a terrible lie it was, too, for a royal institution. 

I believe she visited the school just once, the year I was born (1974), and was never to be seen again. But we still sent her birthday cards — tiny acts of unthinking duty. 

Even today, we hear people on the streets eulogize about a selfless servant of the people, a person and family that form the "fabric" of the nation. But I don't feel it.

That summer when Diana died, I went to Kensington Palace on a whim to ogle the crowds. The palace was across the road from my parents' menswear shop, so it was a short skip. There, I bumped into two old school friends, who had made the trip especially. One of them, Michael, was south Asian, and I asked him, "Why would you come here with flowers? Why would you honor people who have kept yours down?" They both peered back at me agog as though I were a pariah. The conversation stopped dead and we never spoke of it again.

We still don't have those conversations, because we are subjects of the monarchy, it's ours to be silent and suck it up. I'm fortunate to be in Germany now, where it's possible to speak out, but even here, one must be "careful, dear boy." The Germans love "die Qween" as though she had been their own. But they never lived under it like I did, and many others still do, or my dad did in colonial Kenya... But even he won't talk about it. 

All of which is a tragedy for a democratic union of nations, such as the UK. But now is the mother of all opportunities to change.

Edited by: Rob Mudge

DW Zulfikar Abbany
Zulfikar Abbany Senior editor fascinated by space, AI and the mind, and how science touches people