Charles has had a long relationship with Canada, but he will have to be adopted

MONTREAL — As he stood between windswept Canadian flags on a podium in Iqaluit in 2017, Prince Charles recalled his first official visit to Canada’s North, nearly half a century earlier.

“I have never forgotten the warm welcome of the Inuit people, which made me feel immediately at home, as I did with all Canadians on my subsequent visits,” said Charles, who drew applause from the crowds in Nunavut’s capital with a tentative attempt to greet their hosts in Inuktitut.

On this trip and those before it, Charles underscored a relationship with Canada that stretches back decades, during 19 official visits, family trips and brief stops during his military service.

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II announced on Thursday, Charles is set to take over as Canada’s new head of state. But a British Crown expert believes the new King Charles III will still face a daunting challenge to establish himself in a country that has grown skeptical of the monarchy — and in a role that for many Canadians , has been so inextricably linked to his mother, for 70 years.

Charles’ relationship with Canada dates back to his very first official visit in 1970, which included a tour of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories with other members of the Royal Family. During his most recent visits, he was accompanied by his wife Camilla, whose distant Canadian ancestry he mentioned.

These official visits have often included photo ops and official ceremonies that the Canadian public has come to expect from the Royal Family. But beyond the pomp and pageantry, there were events that hinted at a deeper connection with Canadians.

Climate change

Over the years, Charles’s visits to Canada have often been marked by events and conversations centering on climate change, an area in which he increasingly let go of his princely reserve.

In November 2021, Charles urged world leaders gathered at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to put themselves on “war footing” to cut emissions. This speech by Charles made headlines, but he had been delivering the same message for decades, including in Canada in 2009, when he described climate change as a “threat to all humanity”.

He underlined this issue once again during the 2017 stopover in Nunavut: he then pointed out that global warming was “bringing rapid and damaging changes to the Arctic way of life” which had long supported the Inuit people.

More recently, he has taken a particular interest in efforts to preserve Inuit language and culture, including inviting a group of Inuit to visit Wales in 2016 to discuss efforts to standardize the writing system. from Inuktitut.

Proclaimed heir at age three

Charles, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, was born in 1948 at Buckingham Palace; he was proclaimed heir at the age of three, when his mother ascended the throne in 1952.

After graduating from university in 1970, he underwent military pilot training, which included a stint at a Canadian Forces base in Gagetown, New Brunswick, where he trained “in an exercise area at middle of nowhere”, he will say later.

Carolyn Harris, a historian and royal expert based in Toronto, believes that despite a long and seemingly genuine connection to Canada, King Charles will have his work cut out for him to be accepted as sovereign. Her approval ratings have always been lower than those of the Queen, who was widely respected even by those who disapprove of the monarchy.

Charles, on the other hand, had to recover from the blows his image took in the 1990s following the very public and chaotic breakdown of his marriage to his first wife, Diana, and his death a few years later. , as well as rumors of a more recent discord with her youngest son, Harry.

And although his reputation has somewhat recovered since the days of Diana, the fact remains that he spent most of his life as the “future king”.

“One of the challenges Charles faced throughout his life was that he was often overshadowed by other members of his family: first by his parents, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, then by his first wife Diana, the Princess of Wales,” said Ms. Harris. More recently, his two sons, William and Harry, and their wives have attracted more attention.

“Ahead of its time”

Ms Harris recalls that unlike his famous mother, who became queen at a very young age, Charles had more opportunities to pursue his own interests, including some who were originally seen as eccentric but have since become rather consensual.

His early interest in issues such as organic farming and sustainability improbably earned the royal heir a reputation as a man ahead of his time. But he has also been criticized for his huge carbon footprint, with his frequent private plane flights.

While Charles has been more outspoken than his mother on some issues, Ms Harris believes the ongoing royal transition will likely be more about continuity than disruption.

In recent years, Charles and other members of the Royal Family have gradually taken over more of the Queen’s duties – a decision, according to the historian, which was taken to ensure a smooth transition between generations .

Some recent polls suggest that support for the royal family is down in Canada. Opposition is strongest in Quebec, where Charles and the Queen have faced protests, and it will be a daunting task to convince Quebeckers to change their minds, even if Charles is fluent in French.

Ms Harris thinks Charles III will likely try to cement his reign soon enough, likely with a royal tour, but that the move in recent years to reduce the number of working royals means Canadians will see him less often, at least in person.

In short, even if he will no longer feed as many polar bears, Charles will maintain the trend initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic and will remain in contact with Canadians by videoconference, believes historian Harris.

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