When William and Kate arrived in Anglesey for their first official visit to the country as the newly-minted Prince and Princess of Wales, there was little fanfare as they chatted to locals on the small, rural island they once called home. The day of engagements, Kensington Palace told us, was a chance for the couple to focus on “deepening the trust and respect of the people of Wales” after taking on their new titles.
Alongside the visit also came word from officials that William has no plans to carry out the same extravagant investiture his father did when he became the Prince of Wales in 1969.
The news was enthusiastically welcomed by people in Wales, who remember all too well the over-the-top ceremony at Caernarfon Castle which saw the Queen place a gold coronet on Charles’ head and drape grand robes around his shoulders. During a time of economic struggles in the country, it was so poorly received that there were protests and even a bomb plot.
Given the mixed feelings some people in the country still have about William and Kate’s new titles (over 35,000 have signed a petition calling to end the Prince of Wales moniker, labelling it a symbol of historical oppression), the Royal Family’s ostentatious display of wealth and power is a moment no one is looking to repeat. And with the UK’s ongoing cost of living crisis—which this week saw the Bank of England warn of a “significant” interest rate rise and the British pound hitting a record low against the US dollar—cutting back on unnecessary frills and faff should be part of a concerted effort to ensure that the monarchy does not seem grossly out of touch.
Starting as they mean to go on, William and Kate’s breezy September 27 visit—which also took them to Swansea to visit a re-developed church and meet locals—was designed to focus on the people and not themselves. Having previously stated they want to help celebrate and highlight Wales’s “proud history and traditions”, the prince even revealed he’s learning the language (which, even if probably a slight exaggeration, is still a clever PR move).
During a conversation with staff from the Swansea Baby Basics baby bank, a volunteer-led project distributing essentials to mothers in need, Kate even addressed the struggles many in the country are currently facing. "With the cost of living crisis, there are a lot of desperate people out there," she reportedly said, adding the baby bank was a "lifeline to so many people".
Watch: Prince William has no plans for formal investiture
We are only days into a new regency and already that slimmed down “modern” monarchy King Charles III dreamed of creating is becoming a reality. A more nimble line-up with a hard focus on connecting rather than alienating people across the UK. Charles and the rest of the family have the opportunity to truly modernise The Firm if they listen to what the public tells them.
The intent does seem to be in place. Plans for a “mindful” and “pared down” coronation have long been in the works for the new king, I’m told, which is said to be scheduled for late spring next year.
Far from the majestic scenes of Queen Elizabeth II arriving at Westminster Abbey in a golden carriage for a three-hour spectacle (costing £1.57 million—the equivalent of £43 million today), those on various iterations of planning committees for King Charles’ coronation have always discussed the importance of keeping his ceremony simple. And not just for the sake of cost. As a less popular monarch than his mother, the public interest in such an occasion will be far from the nationwide excitement felt when the Imperial State Crown was placed on the head of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
With the country currently on the brink of recession, the optics of anything more than a symbolic swearing-in ceremony would only do harm to any legacy King Charles III hopes to create. “There are many elements that [Charles] himself has requested be removed to ensure that it’s kept simple,” a senior royal source told me earlier this year. “He is aware that it needs to be mindful and in touch.”
Now out of the family’s official mourning period, the King’s priority is doing the actual work before focusing on anything else. The first official photograph of the new monarch released last week was a far cry from stilted, regal portraits of the past, instead showing him sifting through his red boxes of official papers (even if they were suspiciously pristine and fanned for the camera).
Just like the Queen made royal family members feel more accessible through a regular routine of public engagements, Charles and other senior family members now have a chance to put their own stamp on what a monarchy can look like in 2022. It would be premature to say that the House of Windsor can truly usher in a dramatic difference during this reign, but so far, so good.