King Charles's candid moments reveal more royal emotion

·4 min read
King Charles has spent the past week under increased scrutiny as he assumes a new role and grieves his mother's death.  (Isabel Infantes/Pool/The Associated Press - image credit)
King Charles has spent the past week under increased scrutiny as he assumes a new role and grieves his mother's death. (Isabel Infantes/Pool/The Associated Press - image credit)

King Charles spent Thursday in private, away from the public for the first time since his mother's death.

After a day of high ceremony and high emotions on Wednesday as the Queen's coffin was carried in sombre procession from Buckingham Palace, the King was said to be working and in "private reflection" at his Highgrove residence in western England.

In addition to being in the public eye and dealing with his own personal grief for the past seven days, he's also faced a somewhat sharper scrutiny with his new role. This has included a few candid moments being caught on camera this week that people didn't see from his predecessor.

Two videos showing him visibly irritated by a leaky pen and a pen holder went viral on social media in the past few days.

In one, Charles was seen losing his temper at a leaking pen while he was signing a visitors' book in front of cameras in Northern Ireland, where he was visiting Tuesday on the latest leg of his royal tour of the U.K.'s four nations.

He was heard exclaiming "Oh god, I hate this!" and muttering "I can't bear this bloody thing. Every stinking time."

WATCH | Charles caught in a candid moment:

That came after another pen-related incident on Saturday, when the new monarch was seen gesturing in irritation at his staff when a pen holder got in his way as he signed a document during his accession ceremony.

WATCH | Another 'real' reaction from Charles:

"He's suddenly getting used to something that his mother got very used to for 70 years," said Robert Hardman, author of Queen of our Times: The Life of Elizabeth the Second.

Hardman says the public will be seeing more of Charles than perhaps they saw of his mother.

"This is a King who clearly has grown up in the television age, and he just knows that people expect to see more," he said, noting that many of his meetings with ministers and other public figures are happening in front of cameras.

"We're getting shown video of that and photo images, which we certainly didn't at the start of the Queen's reign."

But with more cameras have already come some moments of candour one probably never would have seen from Elizabeth.

"Charles is a more passionate, less cryptic monarch," said Hardman. "So when you get these little moments, like his pen doesn't work and we capture him muttering under his breath because he's forgotten there's a long-range microphone."

Dominic Lipinski/PA/The Associated Press
Dominic Lipinski/PA/The Associated Press

Hardman says Charles will have to learn to watch out for those kinds of moments, though he added it's also  "endearing."

In the queue to view the Queen's coffin today in London, the mood was forgiving.

"To still perform, still do all your duty, but grieve your mother and deal with your family all at the same time, I mean, hats off," said Atul Pathak. "What a brilliant, brilliant job. And I can only imagine he's going to keep doing that as time goes on."

Alisson Shepherd expressed sympathy for how Charles has had to jump into a new role while still mourning his mother's death. "I really feel for him. It's tough, isn't it?" she said.

"For any of us who lose a family member, you don't want to get out from under the duvet, do you? So for what he's got to do I think he's been amazing."

Criticism over taxes, staff

Charles has also drawn criticism around the handling of his longtime staff who have served him at Clarence House.

The Guardian reported that, with Charles and Camilla moving to Buckingham Palace, as many as 100 of his employees had been told they could lose their jobs, including some who had worked at Clarence House for decades. They include personal servants such as footmen, valets, dressers, cooks and clerical staff.

A Clarence House spokesperson said operations there had ceased and a consultation process with staff over redundancies had begun.

"Our staff have given long and loyal service and while some redundancies will be unavoidable, we are working urgently to identify alternative roles for the greatest possible number of staff," the spokesperson said.

Jean-François Bisson/CBC News
Jean-François Bisson/CBC News

Hardman says the situation could have been handled better.

"It smacks of pretty poor man management somewhere in the system. I don't think for one minute [Charles] had anything to do with this."

And while Charles has said he will pay income tax, something his mother started to do in the early 1990s after a controversy around repairs to Windsor Castle after a fire, there have been renewed questions about whether the new King should be paying inheritance tax.

WATCH | King Charles will 'do it his way,' says biographer: 

While ordinary Britons must pay a 40 per cent tax if they inherit assets worth more than £325,000 (about $490,000 Cdn), under a 1993 agreement, monarchs do not.

"He doesn't own anything," Jan Jnovski said from his place the queue. "We own the Royal Family. They are ours. You know, and whatever they've got, the castles, the wealth and so on. It's not theirs, not in reality."

"And look at the amount of money that they bring into our country as well," Kathy Bodell added. "I mean, I'm sure that it's just not British people here today."