The Royal Family’s new patriarch


Prince Philip's laying to rest will not change the official royal status of his son Prince Charles.

But it will alter the dynamic of the royal household, with expectations the heir to the throne and now family patriarch will fill "the void" the Queen noted had been created in her life by the death of her husband.

The Queen had always planned to step further back from duties when she turned 95 later this week, but the duke's death will sharpen the handover rate.

And while Charles may have been prepping for a more leading role in the management of the throne, on a personal level, dealing with his feuding sons will come as a new challenge.

Since 2009, Buckingham Palace has been planning for an extended handover of duties to Prince Charles, lightening the load for both the Queen and Prince Philip, who had huge public duty schedules.


Prince Charles, seated next to his mother, Queen Elizabeth, before the state opening of Parliament in October 2019. Picture: AFP
Prince Charles, seated next to his mother, Queen Elizabeth, before the state opening of Parliament in October 2019. Picture: AFP


This was to be in the lead up to Her Majesty's 95th birthday when her duties were to again be reduced giving whatever public appearances she did do extra special significance.

It is now an ironic situation that both the funeral of her husband and her birthday should come close to coinciding, either way allowing for Prince Charles to take a more leading role in both family and royal duties.

It is a duty he now assumes naturally, having prepared for it for more than a decade.

"One of the benefits of having a royal family, and for the leading figures within the royal family, is that they have the luxury of thinking for the long term," a royal aide authorised to speak told News Corp Australia.

"They are not seeking re-election chopping and changing for the opinion polls and the needs of the moment, they are not having to produce fourth quarter results better than third quarter results. He (Prince Charles) is particularly good at putting his finger on problems very early on because he understands the long term legacy of these problems if they are not tackled. He has far sighted views, unlike a politician or a businessman, he can sit there and go storing up decades of problems here, let's think in terms of decades not just six months or 12 months."

Just when Prince Charles will become monarch continues to depend on if or when the Queen becomes incapacitated and unable to fulfil her duties; it is a pledge to remain on the throne she has made clear since she ascended that throne in 1952.

But that is not to say Prince Charles will not take a more leading role in the family and the palace's royal duties.

Hello magazine's royal editor Emily Nash said there was no doubt Prince Charles was now the patriarch, a moment she believed the family had been preparing for, for some time.

"I think we will see him taking on more and more of the family responsibilities that his father took charge of in the past," she told the press in the UK. "So it is big moment for him."

Sarah Richardson, professor of modern British history at the University of Warwick, said that Philip's passing could be a "turning point" in the future of the monarchy that was likely to see the Queen "step back".

"To some extent this is the end of a period, the Queen will carry on and she will carry on doing her duty, she's already gone back to work to some extent," she said.

"I think she will step back more and more, she's in her mid-90s, and seeing her there solely on her own, when she's been accompanied by Philip for 70-odd years, I think it represents a turning point."

Royal author Nigel Cawthorne whose book on Philip, "I Know I'm Rude", is due for release next month, said Charles would take on more duties as the Queen eased back, but he remained an unpopular public figure so his rule would perhaps be more discreet.

The importance of his position now however was never made more clear as when he was the one chosen to be at his father's bedside when the duke was hospitalised at King Edward VII's hospital in London in February.

What was discussed in that half-hour visit is not known, but given the gravity of his health at that time, it most likely would have included his assuming greater responsibility for the broader health of the Crown as incoming family patriarch.

On the latter, by then new challenges had emerged in the form of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's explosive interview including a very public take-down of the Royal Family and palace and the continued feud specifically between the two brothers Harry and Prince William.

Many royal watchers have noted the path to healing would now stem from the funeral and Charles' recognition as patriarch.

In 2015, royal courtiers hyper accelerated Prince Charles' profile as future leader in private briefings to the press. Perhaps it was no coincidence the briefings came just days before a new book was to brand him the Prince of Wails for his tantrums and temperament.

According to author Catherine Mayer, Prince Charles has long grappled with his own insecurities and failings in the management of his household that had become so treacherous, his own staff have branded it Wolf Hall after King Henry VIII's Tudor hall fraught with backstabbing power plays.

Personal criticism of him, she claimed, sent him "spiralling into despair".

The smash hit TV drama series The Crown no doubt reinforced such a view.

Regardless of whether that view was ever true, Prince Charles will now sit by the Queen's side more often and come under even more scrutiny.

Originally published as The Royal Family's new patriarch


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