In a statement released shortly after the official announcement of her passing, Charles described the death of his “beloved” mother as “a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family.” The days since the Queen’s death have been a time during which Charles has both assumed his new duties and mourned a great personal loss.
After a lifetime in the public eye, he is a familiar figure to many in Britain and around the globe. But no one yet knows what kind of monarch King Charles III – the title he has taken, ending years of speculation – will become.
As CNN’s royal correspondent, I’ve reported on Britain’s new King for many years and traveled around the world with him.
One of the best insights I had was when I was invited with a group of other journalists to Dumfries House, his stately home near Glasgow in Scotland, in 2018 ahead of his 70th birthday. I spent two days there and was given unusual access to Charles and many of those closest to him. I was treated to tours of the estate, high tea, dinners and a spectacular bagpiping performance beside a roaring open fire.
This is the place that brings it all together for the new King, all his greatest passions and causes – from music to rare breeds protection, apprenticeships for disadvantaged youth and organic farming. The whole estate is buzzing with activity, and I could see what a thrill it gave him to walk around and ask questions of his staff.
Every Friday night, wherever he is in the world, Charles is sent a hefty report updating him on the estate’s work and he has it back to them first thing Saturday morning with notes. His wife Camilla will tell you he’s up late every night reading, writing and responding to requests for support and advice.
Where many of his predecessors saw his former role of Prince of Wales as a ticket to a playboy lifestyle and a guaranteed income, Charles professionalized it and made it his own. He wanted a legacy, but he didn’t want to wait until he was King. In my experience, he’s impatient and driven, and gets incredibly frustrated if one of his projects isn’t working or bearing fruit.
“The signs were there from young adulthood,” Kenneth Dunsmuir told me during the visit to Dumfries House. Dunsmuir runs The Prince’s Foundation, an educational charity set up by Charles to help teach traditional arts and skills. “His concerns about social issues in the community and ecological issues were all there and all that’s happened is that he has got more and more involved and has had the time to do that.”
Dunsmuir’s comment points to the other reason Charles achieved so much during his tenure: he was the longest-serving Prince of Wales ever due to the longevity of his mother’s reign. Dunsmuir thinks of Dumfries House, he said, as a “fantastic physical legacy to that work that will always be here and always remain.”
Charles has often struggled to contain his passion for his work, expressing his hopes and fears during speeches over the years and often sounding more like a campaigner than a constitutional monarch-in-waiting. That prompted accusations that he was threatening the independence and impartiality of the monarchy. Take climate change, on which he has been speaking out since 1968. It’s since become a mainstream issue and, for some, a political one. Charles was a prominent backer of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and discussed the subject with Donald Trump over tea in December 2019, as the then-president prepared to pull the United States out of the pact.