On Wednesday, while Truss was canceling a scheduled visit to a defense-technology manufacturing company due to “government business,” the king was on hand at Buckingham Palace to greet Félix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was in London to speak at a summit organized by the Financial Times. It was a good example of why the monarchy has come to stand for stability—as the head of state, his schedule isn’t at the whims of a functioning government. But of course, there must be limits to how long the diplomatic work can continue while everything else is in shambles.
For more than seven decades, Queen Elizabeth II’s meetings with the 15 prime ministers who served during her reign were supposed to be private, and for the most part they remained that way, so it’s difficult to know exactly how she might have handled this situation. In an interview for Gerald Strober and Deborah Hart Strober’s book Queen Elizabeth II: An Oral History, Lord McNally compared the weekly audience to a therapy session. “It’s almost like a visit to the confessional, when they must feel shriven and refreshed,” he explained. “So it’s probably quite a clever way of just giving them a different, and very special, focus that takes them away from the pressures of the day.”
That said, a few bits of information about Truss and the king’s early interactions did leak. On October 1, The Sunday Times reported that Truss had asked Charles not to attend the COP27 summit on climate change next month in Egypt. Though a Downing Street source told the newspaper that it was a cordial meeting and there had “not been a row” over the request, sources close to Charles said that he had been invited and had been “all lined up to go.”
From the death of Queen Elizabeth II to the fiscal crisis caused by the introduction of a budget calling for ample tax cuts, Truss’s six weeks at the helm of the British government were uniquely complicated, and Charles made it through without compromising his neutrality or weighing in publicly. But the challenges facing the British political system are just beginning, and an energy crisis is just around the corner. If the Conservative Party can’t come to a solution that pleases the general public, it will raise questions about the ability of the constitutional monarchy to function in its current form.
But Truss’s resignation has pushed aside any immediate threat of a constitutional crisis, and by Thursday afternoon, the king was continuing his diplomatic duties, welcoming the ambassador of Ukraine, the president of the Togolese Republic, and the high commissioner of Pakistan to Buckingham Palace.
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