Watch CBS News

King Charles III's charm offensive

Britain's new King: The whole world is watching
Britain's new King: The whole world is watching 03:46

Something seems to have happened to the new King Charles. He's been unable to get out of a car without heading directly to the waiting crowd, as if he were a politician seeking votes.  And in a way – even though kings aren't elected – he is.

Charles III has been on a bit of a charm offensive, said correspondent Mark Phillips.

"We're definitely seeing a lightening of the monarchy, a search for more approachability," said royal historian Robert Lacey. "I think the big change is in the attitude of the public and the willingness to forgive Charles' faults that in the past were criticized."

King Charles III greets his public. CBS News

The new King's image has had a bumpy ride over the years, never rougher than in the period around his doomed marriage to Princess Diana, when his reputation for being uncomfortable with the emotional side of life was evident from the start. When asked, in 1981, if they were in love, Diana giggled, "Of course," while Charles responded, "Whatever 'in love' means."

His rehabilitation after Diana's death – and particularly the normalizing of his relationship with long-time partner Camilla – took planning, effort and time.

PR guru Paddy Harverson was brought in. "I'm pretty proud of what everyone achieved there," he said.

Phillips asked, "Do you think he was unfairly treated at times?"

"Yes. I mean, in fact, you know, they all are," Harverson replied. "They live under a level of scrutiny that is sometimes almost impossible to bear."

Charles' marriage to Camilla, and the Queen's declaration that she be made Queen Consort, gave official endorsement to the new royal order.  But there have been other issues for the new king to address.

Who hasn't gotten annoyed at a leaky pen? When it happens to the new King, it goes viral. 

'I can't bear this bloody thing': King Charles gets frustrated with leaky pen by Guardian News on YouTube

And it reinforces an enduring image of a prince of privilege.

Phillips said, "The fountain pen incident, some people say, 'Ha ha, scratch Charles, he still bleeds petulance, he's still the same guy no matter how much glad-handing he's doing."

Lacey said, "In a sense, Prince Charles' evident faults can count to his advantage if he makes a clear effort, that people acknowledge, to overcome his imperfections. Because that's one of the things that monarchs are supposed to do. We're not so naïve to believe they're better human beings than us. History clearly demonstrates the contrary."

King Charles' major tests are yet to come, whether to continue the outreach to Prince Harry and Meghan; whether to continue Prince Andrew's royal isolation; and, perhaps the biggest test, whether he can sooth the nation the way his mother did (for example, when Princess Diana died).

However Charles defines his reign, one thing won't change: The whole world will still be watching.

Phillips asked Lacey, Do the British sit in wonder at the interest that America has in this whole royal story?"

"We Brits are not surprised that the whole world should be fascinated by the history and pageantry, not to say the sheer scandal and personal soap opera characters, of the British monarchy," he replied. "But we do sometimes wonder why the Yanks, the Americans who went to so much trouble to get rid of George III should be so fascinated in the antics of his descendants."

Watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II live on CBS Monday, September 19 beginning at 5:30 a.m. ET, or online at, and on the CBS News mobile app. You may also stream live via Paramount+. 

For more info:

Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Brian Robbins. 

See also: 

Britain prepares for Queen Elizabeth's funeral 03:46
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.