The photo that reveals the big problem facing the Royal Family
An official portrait has been released by Buckingham Palace of the senior, working members of the Royal Family to mark King Charles's coronation.
It shows the Duke of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Anne and her husband Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – physically supporting 86-year-old Princess Alexandra – standing alongside the newly crowned King and Queen.
In short, it displays the long-touted 'slimmed-down monarchy' that both Charles is understood to be keen on, and many European royal families have also worked towards.
However, something about the issue caught the attention of many social media users: the average age of those pictured.
One royal correspondent, Charlie Proctor, wrote that it was "worrying" that "seven of the 11 working royals in this photo are aged 70+".
Of the four who are not, the Prince and Princess of Wales are in their forties and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are in their late fifties.
All the other working royals are significantly older and despite their best efforts are unlikely to have the energy to undertake engagements that someone in their middle age would.
Since Harry, Meghan and Prince Andrew stepped back, the pool of royal adults of general working age has been cut down by a third and, of the first 10 in the line of succession, only four are over 18.
Images: Getty Images and Misan Harriman instagram
To complicate matters further for King Charles and his slimmed down monarchy, the Waleses do not appear to want to increase their workload. As The Telegraph has reported, William and Kate "are fiercely protective of their family time, driving their children to school every day and minimising the amount of time they spend apart from them".
It is perhaps unsurprising, given Kate's long-term work in early years development and her – relatively – normal upbringing that she and her husband are said to be hands-on parents.
The appearance of the Wales children over the weekend – and Prince Louis, in particular, taking part in his first official royal engagement on 8 May – displayed the issue at the other end of the age spectrum: they are too young to often make public appearances or to be expected to shoulder the burden of representing the Royal Family as national symbols with any regularity.
Their "fiercely protective" parents are unlikely to want their young children to carry that weight either.
Even before Prince Harry's memoir Spare was released and explored in detail the personal cost to his childhood and adolescence growing up in a public role, both he and his brother had remarked upon the difficulty of having to put on a "game face" and work in the aftermath of their mothers death in 1997, comforting mourners and taking part in their mother's funeral procession.
In 2017, Harry said of walking behind his mother's coffin when he was 12 that no "child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances".
William said the same year that he initially found it confusing why the public were grieving, saying in a documentary: "You didn't even know her, why and how are you so upset?"
While Diana's death may be an extreme example, that both of the brothers know the pressure of the public eye personally from their own childhoods makes it more likely their protective instincts will be well set when it comes to their own children.
Charles then faces a conundrum, with the majority of working royals both too old to practically be expected to do an extensive schedule of engagements and to engage and bring back into the fold the younger generation of the public, many of whom are either ambivalent or actively hostile towards the monarchy.
Omid Scobie – Yahoo UK’s royal executive editor – suggested in November that Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie would be well poised to take on some engagements on behalf of their uncle the King – although he reported that there had been pushback from the palace on this suggestion.
Equally, Lady Louise Windsor, 19, could – as Proctor suggested – pick up some of the slack. This wouldn't be for some time, however, as she is currently studying at the University of St. Andrews.
Charles cannot magic younger major royals out of thin air, nor can he make the Prince and Princess of Wales less dedicated to their family.
This may mean that he has no choice but to widen the net of working royals to include some part-timers like Beatrice and Eugenie or even the well-liked Zara and Mike Tindall – who, although they don't have titles, do have a well-established public brand.
If the King doesn't, in the course of time the monarchy won't just be slim, it will become increasingly emaciated.
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