Hello, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you for coming.
Good day. Thank you for the invitation.
If people in any part of the Commonwealth decide they want to go their own way, then the monarch should not complicate the situation but stand aside, thinks Nick Archer. Listen to the interview
Britain has a new monarch after 70 years. How big a change is that?
I don’t think the change will be noticeable at first glance. TO many changesit was happening already under Queen Elizabeth, but they were always, I would say, calibrated – they were very gradual, so that the monarchy always kept its profile, but at the same time kept up with the times. And I think we will see something similar under King Karl III.
Will those seven decades one day be remembered as Elizabethan Britain, much like Victorian Britain entered history?
I think it does really can stand When we think back to Victorian Britain, it was similar in a way. There was one character, one constant. She sat over a company that was changing in significant ways.
Most of the industrial revolution is in Victorian England, and I think we saw something similar under Queen Elizabeth – huge technological and political changes after the Second World War. She was important to us alsodecolonization. And there was always that one person.
While all these changes were taking place, nand Queen Elizabeth sat on the throne. She made people feel that it was manageable, that there were no threats, and that everything would work out.
When it comes to change, the British are at their coreconsidered very conservative. In addition to the monarch, the person of the prime minister also changed within a few days and a new government took office. How do they see it in light of the current serious problems with rising energy prices and high inflation?
You’re right, that’s a good question. It is a fact that the death of Queen Elizabeth, and thus the accession of King Charles III. they certainly meant that people began to focus on something other than politics.
The economic problems you mentioned, which are currently plaguing both the UK and the Czech Republic, are here and people are still living in them. I think their attention will therefore very quickly return to domestic political issues. We have a new Prime Minister and people are focused on the royal family now, but that will change.
The Queen liked people
You knew the Queen personally, you met her many times. What memory of her comes to your mind first?
We saw each other many times, but the meetings were very short and I was certainly not the most important part of them. She was an extremely interesting and exceptional person. She had a really rare personality.
What I will always remember about her is that despite having to meet hundreds of thousands of people in her lifetime, she always managed to focus on you. She was able to make you feel interesting. She gave the impression that she was interested in you. I think that was her great strength.
She really liked meeting people very much, she liked them. I think it was one of the most important things that ate the monarchy it keptso long.
At the British embassy, you opened a place of worship where Czechs can also say goodbye to the Queen and write a message in the condolence book. How do they remember her, based on what you’ve seen so far? What are they writing to her?
I have to say that it kind of surprises me. I find it fascinating that of the many people who came to our place of worship at the embassy to write something in the condolence book and remember her personality, how wise and kind she was, most had never met her.
They formed their view of Queen Elizabeth through the media and perceived her as a certain background to their entire lives. And this is how it is perceived all over the world. Everyone says her passing is a great loss.
But this is not the last opportunity to remember her…
Yes, the vigil is already underway, there is a long line. Some of my acquaintances from the Czech Republic are also in it. People want to bow down to the queen. I went through something similar when the Queen Mother died. But, of course, everything is leading to the state funeral, which will be held in London on Monday.
I would like to say that we actually celebrate or want to thank the Queen for her service. And I would also like to thank the cardinal, who will lead mass today at 6 pm in the cathedral here in Prague. The British community in Prague will have another mass on Friday in St. Clement’s Church. I think it’s happening all over the world.
Change, but continuity
You know the new king Charles III even better than the former queen. You were his assistant private secretary for three years when he was still the Prince of Wales. What is Britain’s new king like? What can we expect from him?
I would say two things. The first is that in terms of Charles’ relationship to the monarchy and the position of king, I think we can expect continuity with Queen Elizabeth. Because Queen Elizabeth and King Charles think very similarly about the role of the monarchy in British society.
Monarchy hasaccording to them, to unify above all. And we live in a diversified, complicated society after all. Times are not easy.
And the king, that’s the other thing, I think he understands very well that his role is completely different than it was in the past 70 years. Of course, he tried his best to improve the world around him. He has helped disadvantaged people and participated in various activities such as climate change. But it’s clear, and he acknowledges, that he’s going to have to stop doing this because being king is a full-time job.
But now everyone will move their positions. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will move to the position of Prince and Princess of Wales. I think Prince William will be after his father for suretake on some roles. Change, but continuity.
It means that Charles III. won’t he devote his life to topics such as climate and environmental protection? Won’t he make the British monarchy greener?
I think it will be as green as can be. He knows very well that he will have to stop being part of some campaigns. He will no longer be able to actively participate in them, because the relationship between our queen or king and politics is of course complicated. The point is that there shouldn’t be any tension – as long as everyone can handle it and as long as everyone knows their roles.
I think King Charles III. he is smart enough, like the Duke of Cambridge, the new Prince of Wales, to understand that, for example, Buckingham Palace can continue to be the greenest palace in the world, but it means stepping back from some political activities.
What is the relationship of Charles III. to the Czech Republic? He was here many times, even founded here with Václav Havelsome projects…
I know 100% that he has this country really glad. He especially liked President Václav Havel. And this is how it often happens that, on the basis of certain personal relationships, relationships between nations and countries also develop. And I think that Queen Elizabeth felt the same way about Václav Havel.
Charles III with Of coursecontinues to be interested in the Czech Republic. But if he will be able to travel to Prague in the near future, I doubt it a bit. He becomes the king, the head of state, not only in the United Kingdom, but in 15 countries. AND they are notthat small country
He is king in Australia, in Canada… So I think in the near future he will quite understandably want to meet people in those countries in particular. After all, he’s a little different with them relationshipand I think it is logical and understandable. And I hope that people in the Czech Republic will understand that.
The will of the people is decisive
That’s what I wanted to ask. In some countries of the Commonwealth, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. again begins to talk about getting rid of the British monarch as head of state and becoming republics. Antigua and Barbuda wants to call a referendum. It is being debated in Jamaica and Republican voices are even being heard in Canada.
Is there a real threat that the British Commonwealth will continue to shrink? Can in this process the new king Charles III. play any role, either positive or negative, from London’s perspective?
First of all I must say that the Commonwealth was never a British Commonwealth. Of course, Britain played a big and important part in it for many years, that’s true.
It developed out of the British Empire, but was always based on the idea that the individual countries within it were equal. And the Queen’s attitude reflected this, she never discriminated. She perceived all countries exactly the same, as equal.
As for the question of whether our King will continue to be head of state in these other countries, I think the Prince of Wales, when he spoke publicly about this, made it quite clear that he wanted to serve all the countries concerned as long as their populations were willing. But if this or that country decides that it wants to elect its own head of state, then of course King Charles III. he has no problem.
Something similar has already happened in some countries in many respects. Take Barbados for example: This country has decided to have its own president, and our relations are, I think, the best they have ever been in the past. King Charles III was actually present at the ceremony when took officepresident.
And when you mentioned referenda – I think that when people have the opportunity to express their opinion, it does not automatically mean that they will reject the monarchy.
What about the cohesion of the UK itself? The Scottish government is calling for a new independence referendum in Northern Ireland. Republican support is growing. Will the new king be able to moderate these centrifugal tendencies and be the link of Britain, as his mother Queen Elizabeth II was?
This is a fascinating question, but I have to be quite careful in my answer because the monarchy is connected and associated with the United Kingdom. It’s the United Kingdom, not a United Republic. And the King has built very strong relationships with all four parts that make up the United Kingdom during his lifetime. So I think it can play a role in bringing them together.
It is very well known that the monarchy has with Scotlandgood relationships. After all, part of it comes from Scotland. We can mention James I, the king who came from here in 1603. The King was the Prince of Wales and lived in England all his life.
I am sure that he will fulfill his role as head of state in the same way that Queen Elizabeth fulfilled it. He will want to keep the UK together.
But why we have to be careful in answering this question is that if the people in any part decide they want to go their own way, at that point the monarch should not complicate the situation in the first place. He should step back and stand aside. And it may well turn out that he remains the monarch of that particular country in the same way that he remains the head of state in, for example, Jamaica.
So we’ll see what people want. That’s the most important thing.
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