While Tory Party political hacks continue to come and go, Britain’s monarchy, long thought to be the strict bastion of British conservatism, remains a surprising progressive leader for climate change. While she lived the Queen promoted and endorsed corrective action against global warming. Her message to the COP26 summit in Glasgow to “rise above the politics of the moment” and agree a plan to combat climate change was a case in point.
The baton (or sceptre?) has now been passed to her son, the newly formed King Charles III. Charles was an environmentalist stretching back to hIs years before it was fashionable, from back in the days when such people were regarded as extremists, hippies and “tree huggers.”
Speaking from the US, the former Secretary of State John Kerry, now President Biden’s climate envoy, told BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg he had been invited to see the then Prince of Wales in Scotland to discuss the climate crisis but the meeting was cancelled following the death of the Queen. Kerry said he hoped the King will continue his commitment to the environment.
“There’s no question in my mind that it is not a standard multilateral issue or bilateral issue,” Kerry said, “there is a threat to the entire planet, a threat to all of our nations and he [Charles] understands it as well as anybody on the planet. He’s been consistent on this issue, beginning in his teenage years and carrying on in many different iterations and he’s for real, believe me.”
It remains unclear how much power against climate change a new King can bring to the British isles. While she lived, Elizabeth was regarded by many as the last of the British monarchs — in a sense. She was largely tolerated by anti-royalists because she was simply so good at being steadfastly and unflinchingly herself. We will now have to see how much power the former Prince of Wales can bring to the planet’s most vital issue. He has some mighty shoes to fill.
If the monarchy remains as relevant as it did with Elizabeth then Charles could become superbly useful. His passion for the environment, already baked in, could prove a great asset in our quest to save the planet. The fact remains, the British royals are still enormously popular throughout the world, particularly in the United States, and we need all the help we can get.
Today (as I write this) the President is in Britain to attend the Queen’s funeral. He is here as the only invited American President. It was a razor-thin political high wire the royals had to walk, because inviting all living former presidents would have included Trump, and they clearly didn’t want that.
Apart from his many crimes, Trump is also a climate science denier, and I don’t doubt that Charles secretly loathes him for that reason alone. It was the only way they could snub him, and I hope the point wasn’t lost on Trump that the real reason is because he and his larcenies and his climate denialism aren’t wanted on this island. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.