RICHARD KAY: The King’s Christmas speech was brave and eloquent, if tinged with political naivety

[ad_1]

So many of the speeches he makes are pleasant, polite and, let’s admit it, a teeny bit predictable. They have to be.

But in his Christmas broadcast, King Charles stepped out of the straitjacket of his role to offer a glimpse of the kind of monarch he wishes to be.

Inevitably those on the Left will seize on his praise for ambulance crews and health workers as evidence of some kind of royal backing for NHS strikers. They would be wrong to.

What Charles was articulating was support for the selfless nature of both the emergency services and the public sector. He was expressing gratitude in the same way that those who stood on doorsteps to ‘clap for carers’ during the Covid pandemic were also saying thanks.

RICHARD KAY: The King’s Christmas speech was brave and eloquent, if tinged with political naivety

In his Christmas broadcast, King Charles stepped out of the straitjacket of his role to offer a glimpse of the kind of monarch he wishes to be. Pictured: King Charles III delivers his first Christmas message at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, filmed December 13

Masterstroke

Clearly, the message struck a chord. BBC1 viewing figures were up 700,000 on last year and, at 10.6 million, the combined numbers across both the BBC and ITV were the highest ever recorded for the monarch’s Christmas broadcast.

Many tuning in, of course, will have been curious to contrast the King’s speech with those to which we grew so familiar during the Queen’s reign.

They will have been struck that in turbulent times of strikes and rising prices, he offered the same, calm reassuring figure as his late mother did down the decades.

However, Charles’s polished performance was only part of the story. I believe it needs to be placed alongside the physical appearance of the Windsors on show at Sandringham. A two-pronged approach, if you like.

Here, in the face of all the provocations delivered by the wayward Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was an extraordinary demonstration of family unity and resolve.

In many ways, the gathering was as timeless as it has always been, just with three generations rather than the four (when it included the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh) to which we had grown accustomed.

See also  War between Russia and the West is no longer hybrid but is 'almost a real one', Sergei Lavrov warns 

But if it didn’t look different, this first royal Christmas at the Sovereign’s Norfolk estate in three years certainly felt different.

Left to right: Princess Charlotte, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Camilla, Queen Consort, Prince Louis, Prince George, King Charles III, Prince William, the Prince of Wales, attend the Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church, Norfolk, December 25

Left to right: Princess Charlotte, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Camilla, Queen Consort, Prince Louis, Prince George, King Charles III, Prince William, the Prince of Wales, attend the Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church, Norfolk, December 25

Here, in the face of all the provocations delivered by the wayward Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was an extraordinary demonstration of family unity and resolve. Pictured: King Charles III walks with members of the royal family to the Christmas Day church service at Sandringham in Norfolk, December 25

Here, in the face of all the provocations delivered by the wayward Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was an extraordinary demonstration of family unity and resolve. Pictured: King Charles III walks with members of the royal family to the Christmas Day church service at Sandringham in Norfolk, December 25

The scandal of Prince Andrew and the saga of Harry and Meghan had not just palpably reduced the Royal Family in size but diminished it, too, in terms of its reputation and status. Sunday’s striking turnout suggests at the very least a change of tone.

For months, the Palace has been firefighting, either the endless unwholesome salvos from California or self-inflicted horrors such as the Lady Susan Hussey ‘racism’ farrago.

Might we now be seeing an attempt to get on the front foot?

Deliberate or not, placing Prince William and Kate’s photogenic children George, Charlotte and Louis front and centre was a masterstroke. They are relatable to the public in a way we haven’t seen since William and Harry were small boys and distracted from the then-endless national obsession with the state of Charles and Diana’s marriage.

In the three years since Covid first prevented this royal parade, the Waleses’ children have also grown up a lot. Louis, who was so memorably full of impish fun with his great-grandmother during last summer’s Jubilee celebrations on the Buckingham Palace balcony, was dutiful at his mother’s side collecting gifts from the crowd and shaking hands.

But Louis and his siblings were not the only ones playing their part. The presence of Princess Beatrice’s stepson Wolfie, for example, was a discreet nod to those families who are divided by divorce. The Queen Consort’s children, Tom and Laura (from Camilla’s previous marriage to Army officer Andrew Parker Bowles), as well her grandchildren, were not part of the churchgoing parade. But the fact that they were included for the first time in the Christmas house party afterwards was a sign of further subtle change.

Perhaps the most significant addition to this panoply of royals was the disgraced Duke of York. He may be banned from official duties, but Andrew’s appearance accompanying his daughters and their husbands may tell us something of his brother’s capacity for forgiveness.

Even Fergie, Andrew’s ex-wife, was on the guest list, though not on the walkabout. Strikingly, it was her first time at a Sandringham Christmas lunch since 1991.

The test for the King is how he can use this sense of common purpose from both his speech and the warmth generated by the photo-call to arm the royals going forward. The spectre of Harry’s memoir, due to hit the bookshelves two weeks today, will offer the toughest examination.

Unifying

The strategy of silence while carrying on with good works, even when accused directly of lying — employed during the streaming of the Netflix docuseries earlier this month — may not be sufficient in what is widely expected to be a brutal attack on family members.

In the three months since the Queen’s death, Charles has proved he can be a unifying figure for the nation.

It was his mother who recognised the need for someone who was above party politics absolutely. In his first Christmas speech as monarch, the King was brave and eloquent. Does it really matter if it was tinged with a bit of political naivety?

He is a different generation from his mother, addressing a nation that has grown used to his utterances on all manner of subjects because of his involvement with real-world problems, from climate change to the environment and, yes, the cost of living.

In the 1980s, the Queen herself caused controversy by writing to striking miners, saying she was appalled by the fighting on the picket lines. She was. We all were. She was not taking sides, merely expressing concern for her subjects.

Many tuning in will have been curious to contrast the King¿s speech with those to which we grew so familiar during the Queen¿s reign. Pictured: The pair are pictured at Balmoral Cricket Pavilion in October 2021

Many tuning in will have been curious to contrast the King’s speech with those to which we grew so familiar during the Queen’s reign. Pictured: The pair are pictured at Balmoral Cricket Pavilion in October 2021

Optimism

Compassion was at the heart of her message — just as it was in Charles’s address. He must have been aware his words would be taken by some of those striking as a morale boost in their battle for public support. Indeed one over-excited commentator foolishly suggested that: ‘The only thing “Red Charles” didn’t say was “Vote Labour”.’

The King’s admirers, however, will argue that stating that emergency workers are dedicated to keeping the public safe, and that health staff show skill and commitment, is not controversial. Most Britons know it, too.

And Charles knows that in the war of words that is likely to be unleashed next month in the fall-out from Harry’s book, those admirers will be crucial in the battle to win public opinion.

Ever since the Sussex histrionics began, Charles has been tormented. He has refused to slam the door in his younger son’s face and has continued to offer expressions of loving affection for Harry, as well as for Meghan and their two children, Archie and Lilibet.

A memoir that criticises him — and more importantly Camilla — is likely to stretch those filial bonds to breaking point.

Despite this dreaded Sussex salvo, the royals have every reason to look to 2023 with optimism. The King’s Coronation in May offers an opportunity for renewal, and the goodwill it provokes could be every bit as successful as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year.

Come the summer, King Charles may look back on this week’s double strategy of speech and walkabout with not just relief — but well-deserved satisfaction.

[ad_2]

Source link