Advice Fit for a King: Five Steps to Transition to the Throne
You never get over the death of a parent, even if it is the Queen of England and you've inherited the role, thanks to the rules of primogeniture.
The longer a mother (or father) lives, the harder it is to say goodbye-not only to the parent-but to the last vestiges of your former, somewhat, independent life.
In the case of Charles, the world saw him go from prince to king when his mother took her last breath.
We've lost parents. As a result, we have good advice to offer a member of the Royal family, once again. More than a year ago, we advised Queen Elizabeth in a fictional column how to cope with life after her Annus Horribilis, as she dubbed a year when so much went wrong (May 14, 2021, www.Lifelessonsafter50plus.com<http://www.lifelessonsafter50plus.com/>).
She had her hands full. Three of her four children's marriages cratered and a fire damaged Windsor Castle. Repairs prompted an uproar about the public kicking in tax money. The Queen wisely volunteered to pay. She also subsequently faced the embarrassments of Royal Son #2's escapades with the late Jeffrey Epstein, and Harry and Meghan literally sharing their dirty laundry with the world, when the Queen's style was to remain tight lipped and stoically carry on.
We hope the late Queen found some of our wisdom helpful, particularly after her beloved husband Prince Philip died and she was on her own, similar to the fate we faced and survived after a divorce and a death. We promptly offered to hop over the pond to consult. Due to royal confidentiality agreements, we can't divulge more.
Now, we offer our condolences to King Charles III who has a new set of challenges, many of which we can relate to but on a smaller scale. At least he's been preparing for his role since his birth and is surrounded by coterie of family and advisors and a hefty royal stash of cash. But you can never really prepare for a death of a parent regardless of how many times, your highness, you mentally pierce yourself with the details.
We'll cut straight to the chase, as we Americans do. Don't panic! We hope you will heed our conventional wisdom that it's wise not to make big decisions within the first year after a death, divorce or other major life upheaval. And ignore the comments of those who may be insensitive to your pain: "Oh, I hope your mother had life insurance." "You'll work something out in your new role." And the topper: "How are you doing? Are you okay?"
Here's our five-step plan.
Save, donate, sell, dump. We want to remind you of the four cardinal rules about moving to avoid feeling overwhelmed. We know you love your beloved country house Highgrove and your city digs, Clarence House, where your grandmother once lived. But duty calls and it's up and out to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral. What will you keep in terms of your own furnishings and belongings to schlep to Buckingham Palace and the other residences? Where will you spend the most time and put down as your primary address (for voting, but do you vote)? What will become eerily empty and a giant dust collector?
We've both dealt with downsizing. In your case, you're upsizing. However, some of the same principles apply. Use the basic, now almost cliched Marie Kondo rule of what gives you joy. You needn't keep all those childhood teddy bears that resemble Paddington. You're a grown man, your highness. Pass some on to your wee ones. Or, remember they have pedigree to belong to a museum or be auctioned off at a charity event. If they have fallen apart and smell, sew them up and try to get them dry cleaned. You don't want them to end up in a landfill considering your interest in sustainability.
Have all your possessions photographed or videotaped. It's good for your tax records (you do pay taxes, don't you?). Why not ask Princess Kate to do so since she's become a fabulous camerawoman. Ask your new Queen Consort Camilla to make a scrapbook or two in her spare time.
Be green. Again, you're the king of going green and once were even viewed as a bit of a whack for talking to your plants. (We never put you in that category since we do the same). Through your sustainability steadfastness, you've become highly respected and spoken at such conferences as COP26-the United Nations Climate Change Conference--in Scotland a year ago about the need to find solutions to global warming and leverage the bioeconomy.
How many places can you live in? This might be the right time to put some of your properties on the market. It doesn't look good that you have so much, especially during a time you're your country is hurting economically. Maybe you can share the wealth after a sale or two.
Begin the process by consulting with a local, luxury real estate salesperson. Ask about the state of inventory on the market. Yes, there may not be many takes for a castle with 52 bedrooms and lots of big reception rooms (Balmoral Castle). How do you fill all that with furniture? So, think out of the box when time for the sales and marketing. It could become a new hip inn through historic adaptation, an Airbnb or VRBO for those with equally enormous families, the site for many accessory dwelling units (ADUs), if your country has begun to approve them as ours has, or a much needed refuge for refugees from Ukraine or Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Some of these places may need work but that could provide a source of income to those out of work. And it might be a big tax deduction. Pick your favorite in the country, keep Buckingham since it's the royal residence and administrative and social headquarters of the monarchy.
Heal old wounds. You've started, and we're proud of you, by reaching out and including Harry and Meghan in your first kingly remarks. You said out loud that you love them and wish them well. This is something they may not have known before or believed in due to all the messiness that occurred before and after their nuptials. All parents need to tell and show LOVE!
What's impressive too is that you didn't even need Oprah to coach you (unless she secretively advised you.). You seem to have done it on your own. Now do more. Be sure you invite and include them at major holidays, remember their birthdays and anniversaries, and ask about the kids. Show interest in their sports, schools and charitable activities. Get on a plane and visit Los Angeles. Head out on a boys' holiday for some male bonding with Prince William and Harry doing what ordinary fathers and sons do together, whatever that is.
Embrace your sovereigns and your status. You may have disliked the fact that your late divorced former wife Princess Diana became a favorite of millions. So many loved her because they could identify with her warmth, smile, tight bond with her children and outreach to those less fortunate. Pick up on this. Banish the stuffy, distant king (sorry) in a Seville row suit, fancy tie and handkerchief persona. You're not only older, but you can also "be better" (to borrow a phrase from Melania Trump whom we know you met at the Palace). Here are some ways you could become more accessible:
--Don a pair of jeans. We're sure Ralph Lauren, who sometimes seems British with his frequent use of plaid patterns, could loan or sell you a pair. Actually, buy some and also for Camilla, who could look quite chic. We hear skinny jeans are dead and the current style is boot cut, asymmetric and barrel leg. This attire would look great when you go riding or hunting, though those activities are bit too upper-crusty.
--Temper the upper-class accent. We know people like how fictional Eliza Doolittle from George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," the musical, "My Fair Lady," mastered losing her Cockney lower-class London accent and speaking like an upper-class English lady, thanks to Henry Higgins. Perhaps, there's another "Henry" who could teach you how to do street talk or even Rap so you could relate better to your subjects.
--Invite over the neighbors. You don't have to invite all as your mom had started to do or host lawn parties. Pickleball is big in this country and probably yours, too, so get rid of one of the high maintenance grass or clay courts and switch to a hardcourt Pickleball courts. Learn to play. It would be a perfect exercise for Camilla and you. Set up some badminton nets and croquet courses. Bring out the "barbie" and learn to master grilling all that roast beef. Serve pub food rather than tiny sandwiches you have to consume stacks of to satisfy a normal appetite.
--Sell the gorgeous Rolls and Bentleys. We love them, but we can't image the envy they cause and carbon footprint they leave. Go for a Prius or other electric car. In fact, do you have electric vehicle charging stations at any of your palaces yet? They're quite easy to install and within our budget, so we know they're within yours.
--Bag the shooting, hunting and maybe even royal Ascot. It's only a sport if the animals can fight back. Ascot again is another fancy schmancy event, and those hats, parasols, designer shoes. Don't we all have better things to do with our time and money?
--Master sitting on your opinions. As head of the monarchy, you're no longer supposed to voice opinions and even volunteer, we've read. You need to learn to be silent like one of the "Bobbies" at Buckingham Palace. Practice. Engage in more active listening. Talk less about yourself or anything. Nod more. All your actions will speak louder than any words.
Again, your world as you've known it, is over. Take stock after a year of what you've accomplished. And if the job becomes too taxing, you can always tap son Will to step up to the throne.
Lastly, feel free to come visit us for a refresher conversation in person, but be sure to fly commercial and only use carry-on luggage. Best of luck.