King Charles III and Queen Camilla depart the Houses of Parliament after attending the State Opening of Parliament on November 7, 2023
King Charles gave his first ever King’s Speech for the State Opening of Parliament today – but there were two elements which people have found particularly uncomfortable, especially coming from this sovereign...
As a constitutional monarch, Charles must remain apolitical, primarily operating as an arm of parliament rather than the other way around. Since inheriting the throne in September 2022, he has pretty much toed this line.
And like every monarch since the late 17th Century, Charles’ King’s Speech today involved just reading the political agenda for the next year or so, as outlined by the prime minister and the government of the moment.
The whole ceremony has always been bizarre – Tony Blair’s Labour Party described it as “peculiar” back in the 1990s – but, this year, for Charles’ first ever speech, there were a couple of sentences which really stuck out to people watching.
Charles was notably vocal about some issues when he was the heir apparent, such as the environment. He is among the most high-profile figures to champion action on the climate crisis, having been speaking about the issue since the 70s.
Only in January 2021, he launched the Terra Carta (Earth Charter), a sustainable finance charter that asks signatories yo follow a set of rules to becoming more sustainable.
So it seems particularly bizarre that, now as King, he just had to read Rishi Sunak’s controversial decision to roll back on green pledges and open oil and gas fields in the UK.
The speech read: “This bill will support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, helping the country to transition to net zero by 2050 without adding undue burdens on households.”
These policies from Sunak have been slammed by a range of voices, including Cop26 President and Tory MP Alok Sharma, who said: “The UK has been a leader on climate action but we cannot rest on our laurels.
“For any party to resile from this [green] agenda will not help economically or electorally.”
People were quick to spot it on social media, too...
Poor Charles. As Prince of Wales he devoted enormous attention to raising awareness of the climate crisis. Now as king he has to announce new oil and gas licenses in the King's Speech. Thus Tories humiliate the monarch and worsen the climate emergency. 👏
— Mark Lynas (@mark_lynas) November 7, 2023
2. Cost of living crisis
The optics of the ceremony were heavily criticised, especially amid the ongoing cost of living crisis – similar to the backlash Charles’ ornate and costly coronation drew earlier this year.
Dressing in all of his royal splendour – including the Imperial State Crown with 2868 diamonds, and the ancient Robe of State – Charles sat on a gold throne in the House of Lords to read Sunak’s speech.
The address read: “My Government will continue to take action to bring down inflation, to ease the cost of living for families and help businesses fund new jobs and investment.
“My ministers will support the Bank of England to return inflation to target by taking responsible decisions on spending and borrowing.
“These decisions will help household finances, reduce public sector debt, and safeguard the financial security of the country.”
This irony of Charles wearing his pageantry while discussing the financial strain on families across the country was not lost on people on X (formerly Twitter).
“ease the cost of living” 😃 pic.twitter.com/V8zR1nBM2r
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) November 7, 2023
Hello and welcome to the fair and meritocratic UK where we have narrowly avoided an actual King arriving at parliament in a golden carriage, picking up a jewelled crown from a second golden carriage, before announcing that it will be illegal to provide homeless people with tents
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) November 7, 2023