Two PMs, a race row and Harry & Meghan: Charles’s first 100 days as king

Amid a steady stream of controversy, keeping calm and presenting a united front remains the monarchy’s mantra

The king could have been forgiven if he allowed himself a small, rueful smile as the Prince of Wales gave a reading on the spirit of togetherness at the royal family’s Westminster Abbey carol service hosted by the Princess of Wales this week.

Hours earlier, a recalcitrant Duke of Sussex had torpedoed any sense of that spirit within the family fold. Now Prince William – the embodiment of the institution according to brother Harry – found himself reciting their late grandmother’s 2012 Christmas message on that very theme.

As Charles listened he may have reflected on just how the early days of his reign, which reaches the milestone of 100 days on Saturday, has been hijacked by such public airing of the family laundry.

“But I think he would have been resigned to the fact it was going to happen. Knowing that the Netflix series was coming out, there was a certain inevitability about all this,” said Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine.

Charles has been busy, despite Harry and Meghan sucking up most of the oxygen of late. As the Sussexes gave vent from California, he and the queen consort were at The Kind Cafe, a community kitchen in Harrow, north-west London, quietly unveiling a plaque against the backdrop of a poster helpfully reading: “Keep Calm and eat cupcakes”.

Over on Netflix, Meghan’s own visit to a community kitchen, run by female survivors of Grenfell, and highlighted as one of her major achievements as a working royal, was being watched by millions on both sides of the Atlantic.

But keeping calm was the palace mantra of the day. Royals in their numbers turned out for Kate’s Together At Christmas carols. The princess was at her self-deprecating best, offering a deep curtsey to the king and Camilla, and joking with guests she was not sure her children “think I’ve got a particularly good singing voice”. No limelight stealers here; just the future monarchy in a reassuring tableau – William, Kate, with their children George and Charlotte dressed in mini-me outfits matching their parents. “Kate, we love you”; “Prince William, we love you,” shouted members of a supportive public outside the abbey.

Senior members of the royal family presented a united front at the Together at Christmas carol service amid the the criticisms levelled by Harry and Meghan.
Senior members of the royal family presented a united front at the Together at Christmas carol service amid the the criticisms levelled by Harry and Meghan. Photograph: Yui Mok/AFP/Getty Images

It seems a long time since Charles held his first weekly audience with then prime minister Liz Truss, greeting her with the words: “So you’ve come back again? Dear, oh dear. Anyway”; a reference not to Truss’s precarious position, as speculated by sketch writers, but the fact it was her second visit that day.

Since then the new king has appointed another prime minister, Rishi Sunak, led his first service of remembrance as monarch and daily tended his official red boxes, the same used by his mother and grandfather, George VI, though restored by a luxury leather goods company.

He has been regularly out and about in the community, large crowds have turned out for him and the Queen consort. He has dodged egg throwers in York and Luton, seen the new 50p coins minted bearing his portrait, attended the Houses of Parliament to unveil a plaque marking the spot of his mother’s lying-in-state, and appeared on the BBC’s Repair Shop (viewing figures albeit undoubtedly a fraction of Netflix’s).

He has hosted his first state banquet welcoming the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and held several palace receptions, including one ahead of Cop27.

Charles and Camilla with Harry and Meghan at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September. Charles has endured harsh criticism from his younger son over the past two years, most lately in the Netflix docuseries.
Charles and Camilla with Harry and Meghan at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September. Charles has endured harsh criticism from his younger son over the past two years, most lately in the Netflix docuseries. Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

Alas, it was at another reception, hosted by Camilla, that another controversy would emerge. The late queen’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey resigned and apologised after a black guest at the reception was left feeling traumatised when repeatedly quizzed by Hussey where she was from, despite saying she was British. The comments were swiftly described by Buckingham Palace as “unacceptable and deeply regrettable”.

Other bumps along the way include a Metropolitan police inquiry into allegations of “cash for honours” at Charles’s Prince’s Foundation, and calls from one Welsh council for the title of Prince of Wales, which Charles has passed on to William, to be banned because it is seen as a symbol of English oppression. Meanwhile, Quebec’s legislature is examining a bill that could end officials having to swear an oath to the British monarch.

Charles has endured harsh criticism from his younger son over the past two years in the Sussexes’s many interviews, most lately in the Netflix docuseries. “Criticism of Harry’s brother and father is rather unsavoury,” said Little. “You would imagine the late queen would be appalled that people would be aware the Sandringham summit was anything other than calm and organised.”

The king will now be putting the finishing touches to his first Christmas broadcast to the nation and Commonwealth. It will be an important one, and there are bound to be comparisons to those of the late Queen Elizabeth II. He will be aware of this, and will have laboured over it.

He will, undoubtedly, hope it will bring the focus back to monarchy and its place, as supporters of the royal family see it, in UK life.

Charles and Camilla at a community cafe in Harrow, north-west London.
Charles and Camilla at a community cafe in Harrow, north-west London. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Charles’ first 100 days as king


The Cop27 UN climate summit was one invitation Charles did not accept, though he probably would had he not been king. Abiding by advice from No 10, he declined the invitation. Referring to Charles’ previous assurances he would not pursue his causes in the same way as when Prince of Wales, Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said: “That would certainly indicate that what he said many moons ago he would do, he is now doing, which is an encouraging start to the reign.”

Presenting a united front at the Together at Christmas carol service. Attended by all the senior royals, it will be televised on ITV on Christmas Eve. Though organised many months before Netflix announced its airing of the Harry & Meghan docuseries, it was inevitably interpreted as a show of calm and united strength by the royal family in response to the criticism levelled at the institution, and family members, by Harry and Meghan.


The fifth season of The Crown. Unfortunate timing sees the fictional drama revive the War of the Waleses, between Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and including the personal horror of the leaking of a highly intimate conversation between Charles and the then married Camilla Parker Bowles dubbed Tampongate by tabloids, and described by the actor Dominic West, who plays Charles, as “two middle-aged lovers being sweet to each other.”

Charles’s first royal runner was beaten. Educator finished second as the first runner for the king in the famous royal silks at Salisbury. While the king has previously had runners in the colours he shared with the queen consort when they were the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, it is the first time the famous purple, red and gold silks took to the track in his name.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
William, Kate, Harry and Meghan put Firm above their differences
Waleses and Sussexes ensure focus remains on mourning Queen and celebrating new King

Caroline Davies

11, Sep, 2022 @1:06 PM

Article image
Horse comb and corn doll among gifts given to royal family last year
Published list reveals an eclectic mix of items received by the Queen and others

Caroline Davies

23, Apr, 2020 @4:48 PM

Article image
Prince Harry defends tell-all memoir in furious ITV interview
King, queen consort and Prince William all criticised as Harry says silence ‘allows the abuser to abuse’

Caroline Davies, and Ed Pilkington in New York

09, Jan, 2023 @1:55 AM

Article image
No eye contact, no warmth: William and Harry keep apart at Queen’s funeral
A rapprochement seemed far away as the two princes and their spouses avoided interaction

Daniel Boffey Chief reporter

19, Sep, 2022 @5:00 PM

Article image
Coronation fashion: a royal catwalk show to launch King Charles’s Britain
Tone is set by king and queen in royal regalia, but sword-wielding Penny Mordaunt steals limelight

Jess Cartner-Morley

06, May, 2023 @2:23 PM

Article image
Stars and royals gear up for Platinum Party at the Palace
More than 30 royals will gather to see acts including Diana Ross, Ella Eyre and George Ezra for Queen’s jubilee

Harry Taylor

04, Jun, 2022 @4:44 PM

Article image
‘Bloody people’: coronation caps King Charles’s complicated affair with press
From king’s ski-slope outburst to Harry’s recent court bombshell, royals have long had love-hate relationship with UK media

Caroline Davies

03, May, 2023 @3:00 PM

Article image
Charles III’s first speech: what the King said and why it was important
The King’s first speech to the nation was telling of his hopes for his reign and how the royal family will operate

Robert Booth

09, Sep, 2022 @7:18 PM

Article image
Royals wish Harry and Meghan’s daughter Lilibet a happy first birthday
Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge all send best wishes via Twitter

Anna MacSwan

04, Jun, 2022 @11:11 AM

Article image
What reception awaits Harry and Meghan at the platinum jubilee?
An eager but ambivalent public and media will be studying the Sussexes closely for signs of rift or rapport with the royal family

Miranda Bryant

31, May, 2022 @5:20 PM