'Gentle succession' underway as Prince Charles prepares to assume some of his mother's royal duties - and maybe more of an activist role

Constitutional experts believe Charles could be preparing to become a more "controversial" monarch

Prince Charles may be preparing the ground to become a more outspoken and controversial monarch than his mother as the House of Windsor gets its “gentle succession” under way, constitutional experts said yesterday.

The heir to the throne is expected to take on more of the 87-year-old Queen’s duties, including overseas visits, as part of a slow convergence of their roles which this weekend saw the announcement of the merger of their press offices into a single “seamless” operation.

The move was accompanied by briefings that Charles would be expected to do “less of his campaigning” as he increasingly stands in for the head of state at official events and prepares to assume the mantle of monarch.

But royal sources yesterday held out the prospect of a different approach by underlining that the Queen and her eldest son were from “very different eras” and leading constitutional experts pointed out that the prince is under no obligation to follow his mother’s example in studiously avoiding expressing controversial opinions throughout her near 62 years on the throne.

Modern British monarchs have habitually adopted a position of political neutrality because of their constitutional power to call for the formation of a government. The present queen has gone further and stayed out of public debate on nearly every topic.

Colin Talbot, professor of government at Manchester University said: “This is a constitutional convention which can be changed by the simple fact of a monarch doing things differently. There is nothing written down which says the monarch cannot express opinions. Charles could quite simply be a more outspoken monarch.

“We have got very used to Elizabeth II saying nothing controversial but having a monarch who stays quiet on such matters is a very post-1945 phenomenon. Her predecessors certainly were more prepared to express opinions. It may also be difficult for Charles to stop behaving as he is used to.”

Indeed, on subjects from the superiority of neoclassical architecture over anything newfangled fashioned from glass and steel to the efficacy of homeopathy, the 65-year-old prince is famously not backwards about coming forward with his views on the issues he holds dear.

His attempts to influence the Qatari royal family over the £1bn redevelopment of a former barracks in London’s Chelsea ended with a High Court judge describing his intervention as “unexpected and unwelcome”.

A collection of his letters to ministers, dubbed the “black spider memos” in Whitehall owing to the princes’ expansive handwriting, are the subject of an eight-year High Court battle to force their disclosure after the Government invoked a rarely-used veto on the grounds that their publication could damage the perception of his political neutrality.

The Queen has stayed out of public debate on most topics The Queen has stayed out of public debate on most topics

Ministers have conceded that the 27 letters contain the “most deeply held personal views and beliefs” of the prince, who enjoys the right to consult with the government of the day in preparation for his eventual accession to the throne but cannot seek to exert influence on political decisions.

Clarence House declined to comment on whether the emerging “job share” between the Queen and the Prince of Wales would be accompanied by a decline in use of the royal soap box. A source pointed out Charles’s work with numerous charities and interest in issues from rural life to urban blight, adding: “He and the Queen are obviously different people and they have had different experiences.”

The prospect of an activist monarch turning Buckingham Palace into a royal think tank with an eclectic agenda and a direct line to Downing Street nonetheless remains remote. But there is a growing expectation that the reticence of the New Elizabethan era may come to an abrupt end with the advent of King Charles III.

James Hallwood, associate director of the Constitution Society, which campaigns for better-informed debate about constitutional reform, said: “What I suspect might be the case, is that Prince Charles will be encouraged to make any statements broader. The Queen speaks openly on her Christian faith and on the Commonwealth without any controversy. Perhaps Charles will look at the environment as a broad issue rather than dealing with specifics.”

Even as he prepares to adopt a more regal profile, there is little sign of Charles abandoning his favourite topics. The prince has reportedly raised concerns in recent weeks with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over delays in the establishment of an official register of alternative medicine practitioners.

It is understood that the prince’s new role will not extend into the routine Government consultation or the weekly private meetings between the monarch and the prime ministers, which will remain the domain of the Queen.

But campaigners said the blurring of the distinction between monarch and heir raises important concerns about the relationship between royalty and the Executive.

Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, said: “There should not be a succession by stealth. If that is happening, then very obvious questions arise about the level of access to ministers that Charles enjoys and the influence he is having on policy.

“There is a reason that the Queen has stayed out of politics and that is because if she was to become involved it would put the whole institution of the royal family at risk. The public would have little or no truck with a political monarch.”

In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether Charles will see his incremental progress to the throne as a fair deal for courting less controversy.

Dr Andrew Blick, a lecturer at the Centre for Constitutional Studies at Kings College London, said: “That might be the expectation. How it will work out in practice, which rests on self-restraint, remains to be seen.”

 

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month