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Britain’s new king faces tricky task to unite royal ‘firm’

 

AFP

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — Britain’s royals put on a united front at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II but the new king now faces the delicate task of healing fractures to hold the family “firm” together.
 
With the eyes of the world on them, King Charles III and the rest of the royal family put their differences firmly aside to mourn the nation’s longest-serving monarch.
 
Millions of people worldwide watched Monday’s state funeral.
 
Getting back to work on Thursday, new heir to the throne Prince William and his wife Catherine met volunteers and staff who worked on the queen’s committal service at Windsor.
 
The national 10-day mourning saw the king’s brother Prince Andrew as well as his younger son Prince Harry and daughter-in-law Meghan all resume their place among senior royals.
 
Harry and Meghan, known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have been absent from royal life in the past couple of years, with the pair making a string of damaging claims that have put the prince and his brother William at loggerheads.
 
The queen’s disgraced second son Andrew, 62, meanwhile, had been sidelined and stripped of his cherished honorary military titles over his friendship with the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
 
“I think that they offered a united front. My feeling was that that was for the purposes of paying homage to one of the greatest Britons ever, during a mesmerising spectacle,” royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told AFP.
 
The 73-year-old king made a point of mentioning Harry and Meghan in his first speech to the nation and offered olive branches to both Andrew and Harry by waiving the bans on them wearing military uniform for a vigil by the queen’s coffin.
 
For their part, William and Catherine, the Prince and Princess of Wales, extended their own olive branch when they invited the Sussexes to view floral tributes to the late monarch with them.
 
For a few brief moments the two couples — once dubbed the “fab four” — were reunited.
 
Unpredictable future 
 
The display of unity raised hopes of a reconciliation but Fitzwilliams said it was yet to be established if the funeral had succeeded in healing old wounds.
 
“Everybody knows of course there is a rift within the royal family and also that there are problems involving Andrew and so forth,” he said.
 
So far “we do know that Andrew has no future as a senior working royal under King Charles” but there might be the possibility of a job for him “in the firm... something out of the public eye”, he suggested.
 
As for the fractured relationship between William and Harry, whose shared grief for their mother Princess Diana left them the closest of brothers, Fitzwilliams said there were many unknowns.
 
“The answer is we don’t know [if the funeral brought them closer],” he said.
 
“King Charles extended his love in that accession broadcast... [but] so far as the future is concerned... we’ll have to see what happens.”
 
Harry’s delayed autobiography is due out next year and the contents of the book are likely to dictate future relations with the royal family.
 
Fitzwilliams said Harry and Meghan had managed to maintain a relationship with the queen throughout recent events.
 
“They were, in a strange sort of way, close to the queen, because they were able to see her even when there was a rift with the others, whether with Charles or with William.”
 
How that will play out now that the queen is no longer at the head of what the royal family call “the firm” remains a big unknown.
 
‘Strong team’ 
 
Despite the family difficulties of the past few years, Charles was fortunate in having Camilla, the new Queen Consort, by his side, Fitzwilliams said.
 
“His luck is that he’s got Camilla, he has got someone who is supportive.”
 
With Andrew off the scene, Charles is expected to rely more on his youngest brother Edward and his wife Sophie, the Duke and Duchess of Wessex, and on his sister Anne, the Princess Royal.
 
And Charles can also count on the Waleses.
 
“He knows Catherine is an absolute jewel... the prince, the princess of Wales and their family are the monarchy’s future.”
 
“He’s got a strong team, even if it’s not a larger team,” he added.
 
The youngest generation too were already playing their part.
 
In a surprise move, William and Catherine’s elder two children — future king Prince George, nine, and his sister Charlotte, seven — both attended Monday’s funeral.
 
Their appearance had been a PR “master trick”, Fitzwilliams said, adding that the public could expect to see more of them in the coming years.
 

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