Charles III: New King, New Court: The Inside Story, by Robert Hardman

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Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long

There is a plethora of journalists who are labelled Royal Experts and I sometimes wonder how you reach these giddy heights, if that is how you view them. The quality of reporting and writing can veer wildly from the salacious to the wildly improbable. There are good reporters, Ingrid Seward, Hugo Vickers (though he can get a tad reverent) to name two but, in my opinion, one of the best is Robert Hardman.

In April 2022 I reviewed his book Queen of Our Times and in my post, I said “Robert Hardman has written an admirable book.  It is refreshingly lacking in hyperbole and he has a journalistic style which makes for easy reading”. He has earned the respect of the Royal Family by telling the truth and, as I have already mentioned, avoiding sensationalism. Because of this I am more inclined to believe what he says than others writing in the same genre.

Mr Hardman has now produced a book on Charles III and, once again, I have to use the same description, an admirable book. His lack of gush and royal obsequiousness is the main characteristic of the writing. He does not exaggerate or over-egg the narrative and what emerges is a very interesting portrait, of the King as he is now at the end of his first year, (written and published before recent health scares) and I found it of immense interest.

I am a Royalist and supporter of the Monarchy and always have been. I find the long line of Kings and Queens all through history fascinating and the family likenesses and traits emerge over time, all of which can be intriguing or irritating depending on one’s point of view.

This book covers the Queen’s death in detail though it is not intrusive in any way. One of the tabloids secured the serialisation rights thus arousing pre-publication interest and, naturally, as one must sell papers, it tended to highlight the antics of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. However, thank goodness, they only feature in a small way in this biography and the author focuses on the events prior to her Majesty’s death and the way the machine clicked into action when the news broke.

Of course, her funeral arrangements had been made years before and regularly updated under the codename ‘London Bridge’, and telephone lines were busy after she passed away with those in charge receiving a call and the given code word. Everyone then swung into action and my goodness me, they did not hang about.

The details of the arrangements, not only of the funeral, but the Proclamation at St James (never filmed before) and then the Coronation are laid out in a meticulous manner, and I am totally overwhelmed with admiration at the details and efficiency of all concerned. 

One example – the St Edward’s Crown used in the Coronation had to be taken to pieces and expanded to fit the King’s Head.”this entailed making four strips of yellow gold, each seven millimetres wide, before sawing up the crown, inserting each strip and then welding it – imperceptibly – to fill the gaps”  I would not care to be the jeweller in charge of that.

After the pomp and the pageantry, a large section of the book covers the day to day working life of the King and royalty in general and, once again, I found this of great interest.

Regarding the Commonwealth Hardman posits, “that while most ex-colonies opted for a republican constitution some actively chose to retain the British monarch as head of state. In part this was because the Crown was seen to confer greater stability and respectability.”

Seems Fidel Castro agreed with this as in 1994, when the Antiguan Prime Minister told him that he wanted to remove the Queen as Head of state the dictator advised him not to. “Does she interfere?” he asked. She did not. “So why are you doing that, you want to be a big tourist island and she is good for showing off your stability”

Can’t argue with that….

An absorbing book, well researched, impeccably written and well worth reading.

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Elaine blogs at Random Jottings.

Robert Hardman, Charles III (MacMillan, 2024. 978-1035027415, 453pp.+ 16 plates, hardback.

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