LONDON — It’s a question that some people have been asking for years: Can the crown skip a generation to Prince William?
King Charles III has been monarch for less than a week. He has delivered well-received speeches, connected with crowds on his “walkabouts” and seen his approval ratings shoot up dramatically.
There has also been more than one problem with a pen and small anti-monarchist protests, while #NotMyKing has been trending on social media.
But overall, Charles has had a good start.
There’s no escaping, though, that he is not beloved like his mother, Queen Elizabeth II — admired even by those ambivalent about the monarchy. And so the question persists about whether it would be best to leapfrog over Charles and give the crown to his eldest son, William.
“A lot of people wouldn’t mind skipping Charles,” said Lucy Eden, 26, who was with her family at a pub in south London.
They were discussing a viral video of Charles, during his proclamation, pushing a pen tray toward an aide. Eden said Charles came across as “holier than thou” and “not appreciating the position he is. William and Harry, they feel like they understand their position of power, they talk about mental health, they seem respectful.”
For the past two years, when pollsters asked, “Who Should Succeed as King” after the queen died, the preferred royal has been William.
The queen always signaled her support for Charles’s accession, most recently when she issued a public statement saying that it was her wish that Camilla, his wife, be known as “queen consort.”
There are also laws around these things — the most important being the 1701 Act of Settlement, which states that the monarch’s heir must be the monarch’s direct successor.
The laws have been tinkered with before, most recently in 2013, ending the rule where boys come ahead of girls in the line of succession. That makes William’s daughter, Charlotte, third in line for the throne.
“Abdication” is a dirty word in the context of the British monarchy, but there are those who wish Charles would voluntarily “retire” at some point before his death.
Robert Lacey, a royal historian, said the idea gained traction after a royal trip to Canada in 2011. At the time, much was made of anti-monarchy sentiment in Quebec, where the queen had been booed in 1964 and Charles and Camilla faced protests in 2009. But when William and Catherine visited shortly after their blockbuster wedding, the crowds cheered.
“Ever since then, the idea of Charles being a caretaker king, or of it jumping a generation has been circulating,” Lacey said.
Robert Hazell, a professor of government and constitution at University College London, said that when Charles made his personal declaration as part of his accession ceremony on Saturday, his wording “indicated very clearly that he expects to be king for the rest of his life.”
“He didn’t say, ‘I am not planning to abdicate any more than my mother was,’ but that’s what I understood him to be saying,” Hazell said.
At the same time, William can be expected to take on more royal responsibilities.
Charles has signaled that he wants a slimmed-down monarchy — fewer people meeting dignitaries, handing out honors, representing the monarch on foreign trips. That could mean more leaning on William. (Even though his most recent trip to the Caribbean was a PR disaster.)
“Just as Charles, in the last 10 years, began to share the queen’s duties as she became very old, so William can be expected to assume a growing share of Charles’s duties as king,” Hazell said. “I would expect William increasingly to deputize for Charles in undertaking those overseas trips, as he’s already started to do.”
William and Catherine have new titles. Previously the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, they are now Prince and Princess of Wales, as well as Duke and Duchess of Cornwall — which comes with the Duchy of Cornwall, a huge collection of land holdings across the south of England worth around $1.2 billion, according to the most recent accounts.
In addition, William takes over his father’s Prince’s Trust charity. That means he can add an unofficial title to his growing list: chief fundraiser. (In the past, that role has gotten Charles into trouble).
There are rumors that an upcoming property reshuffle could see Charles and Camilla moving into Buckingham Palace, while William’s family moves to Windsor Castle, west of London. William and Catherine recently moved from London’s Kensington Palace to Adelaide Cottage, on the royal Windsor estate. Their three children — George, Charlotte and Louis — are enrolled at a local private school.
If Charles lives to the same age as his mother, William would be first in line to the throne for 23 years — a good chunk of time.
Theo Williams, 27, a salesman at a pub in south London, said people found William “more relatable because he goes to the rugby, he goes to the football, these things that people do.”
But he said there was no chance of the crown skipping. “I don’t think Charles would have let him, respectfully, I don’t think he would have even considered it. It’s passing up an opportunity to be CEO,” he said. “William’s time will come and, when it does, he will knock it out of the park.”