King Charles III isn’t one for lavish birthday celebrations, and sure enough his 74th birthday passed with little fanfare other than the release of an official photograph and an announcement from the palace that he is to succeed his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, as ranger of Windsor Great Park.
Another significant moment came during yesterday’s low-key birthday: the king’s decision to appoint Princess Anne and Prince Edward as his two new counsellors of state. The monarch’s intention was announced by his Lord Chamberlain, former M15 chief Lord Parker, in a signed message read to the House of Lords. It said the king would be “most content, should Parliament see fit, for the number of people who may be called upon to act as counsellors of state under the terms of the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 to be increased to include my sister and brother—the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex and Forfar—both of whom have previously undertaken this role.”
The king’s decision to reinstate the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex as counsellors of state, a title they have previously held but gave up as the line of succession has evolved, is being deemed a sensible solution and a diplomatic way of side stepping a potentially awkward situation.
Until now Prince Harry and Prince Andrew, both non-working royals, were counsellors of state alongside the Prince of Wales and the Queen Consort Camilla. Given that it is the job of the counsellors to stand in for the monarch when they are unavailable, there was a very real prospect that Andrew and Harry could be called upon to carry out the king’s duties in his absence.
“The king’s decision to appoint additional counsellors of state was an important and necessary one, and one that will work,” former Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter tells Vanity Fair. “Addressing the matter would have been high up the King’s to do list because it would not do to have Prince Andrew or Prince Harry standing in for the monarch. Andrew is now out of the picture and Harry walked out on the family and lives in America, so it doesn’t make sense for him to be a Counsellor of State. Rather than strip them of the titles, this is a sensible way of doing things.”
To remove Harry and Andrew’s counsellor of state titles would also require a change to legislation through Parliament. There would need to be a Privy Council meeting and a revision to the current Regency Acts.
The king, who is expected to carry out a busy program of overseas tours next year ahead of his coronation on May 6, will be out of the country for significant periods of time, and may well need to rely on those family members the late queen would call her substitutes.
“The king has hit the ground running and he has been all over the UK,” adds Arbiter, “but he will have to go abroad at some point, and he’s making sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”
The new appointments, are also being seen as an indicator that Charles, who has long campaigned for a scaled down monarchy, will rely on the support of his sister and Edward, and Edward’s wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as he navigates the start of his reign. All are expected to carry out overseas tours, on behalf of the British government in a busy program of overseas tours next year.
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