What's going to change under King Charles III?

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 27 September 2022

The pomp and ceremony is over for now, but what's next for the royal family and New Zealand's relationship with the monarchy?

Prince Harry, King Charles III and Princess Anne follow Queen Elizabeth II's coffin as it arrives at the Committal Service at St George's Chapel, inside Windsor Castle.

Prince Harry, King Charles III and Princess Anne follow Queen Elizabeth II's coffin as it arrives at the Committal Service at St George's Chapel, inside Windsor Castle. Photo: AFP / Jon Super

When the British royal family next steps out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace to wave to the public, it'll be a slimmed down version of past appearances, royal experts say.

Expect to see the King and Queen Consort; the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate; Princess Anne; Prince Edward and his wife Sophie - and that's pretty much it.

It's a signal to the people that things are changing under King Charles. But sceptics reckon that behind the scenes it'll be more of the same. 

"I think he'll make some superficial changes," says Norman Baker, former Liberal Democrat MP and government minister, who has written a scathing account of the royals' riches in his book And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don't Want You to Know

But there'll still be hangers on, he says, and the wider family will continue to be paid out of the royal coffers and live in free houses

Baker tells The Detail that the royals, who he dubs "The Firm" are fantastically rich. The Queen's personal wealth has been estimated at up to NZ$8 billion, and included stocks and shares, property, horses and jewellery. There are hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in assets she couldn't sell, such as Buckingham Palace and the Crown jewels.

Baker says the Queen's death marks the end of an era and it's time for the monarchy to move into the 21st century.

"People see Britain as fossilised, in the past. The royal family is a strength but it's also a drag. It hangs us into the past, we've got to move forward in this country and as long as all this carries on in the same way we'll still be talking about World War Two and tied to the past. Let's move on."

King Charles III meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, during a meeting of Prime Ministers of the Realms, in the 1844 Room in Buckingham Palace in London on September 17, 2022. - Queen Elizabeth's state funeral will take place on September 19, in London's Westminster Abbey, with more than 2,000 guests invited, including heads of state and government from around the world. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau / POOL / AFP)

King Charles III meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Buckingham Palace in London on September 17, 2022. Photo: STEFAN ROUSSEAU

The British monarchy is the last imperial monarchy in Europe. 

"We in Britain are technically subjects of the King," he says. 

He wants that done away with, but his main bugbear is that the Windsors cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The majority of that is spent on security, he says, but the family also receives about NZ$170 million a year in a sovereign grant from the government.

Add to that the tax exemptions for assets the King and the rest of the family will inherit. For example, the Duchy of Cornwall, inherited by Prince William from his father, owns 55,000 hectares of land and is reported to be worth more than NZ$2b but pays no corporation tax, says Baker.

"These things are outrageous and need to be changed," he says.

Baker describes King Charles as the most progressive and caring member of the royal family but says he is also a "faulty character", talking passionately about climate change but continuing to fly places in a private jet. At the same time, he is unwilling to take advice.

As for New Zealand, the Woman's Weekly royal correspondent Donna Fleming picks that we'll hold a referendum on becoming a republic within the next five years, but it could be several more years before we cut our ties with the monarchy.

King Charles is well aware of the republican debate, she says, and is likely to address that and the colonial legacy when he and Camilla make their first visit as King and Queen Consort, expected within a year.

She tells The Detail what she expects from the visit and why they may not return often - if at all. 

Fleming says it's the "down to earth" Camilla who could make a real difference to Charles, with a royal photographer friend telling her Camilla is going to make Charles a better king.

"She has got a good sense of humour. She calms him down. He is known for his temper, which we did see a few examples of when he got a bit cross with the pen that he used [at a formal ceremony about two weeks ago] and that the inkpots weren't moved."

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