King Charles III has big shoes to fill

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, September 13

English literature is full of references to the Victorian era; a period that marked the reign of Queen Victoria, who ruled Britain during the 19th century. Indeed, the name of Queen Victoria is still associated with many schools of thought and various models – whether in architecture, furniture and even fashion. At the time of her reign, Queen Victoria was the longest serving monarch in British history. However, that title was assumed by Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week at the age of 96. Queen Elizabeth’s reign, which lasted over seven decades, also brought about remarkable changes in British society, including the dissolution of the British colonies and the emergence of the Commonwealth of Nations led by Britain. Over the years, Queen Elizabeth II has enjoyed a high degree of respect and admiration, especially given the challenges faced within the Royal Family during her reign. These challenges began when the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, had to give up marrying the man she loved, and continued with the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana; a crisis that nearly devastated the British monarchy. But things didn’t stop there. King Charles continued to face dwindling public support, particularly after Diana’s tragic death in Paris. Her brother, Prince Andrew, was accused of pedophilia and sexual misconduct, which almost caused the Queen to revoke his title and credentials before his death. Then came the scandal surrounding Prince Harry’s decision to give up his royal titles and leave the UK with his wife, Meghan Markle, who was never accepted by the royal household. All of these crises significantly challenged the monarchy; Yet the queen remained steadfast and resilient, and continued to lead her people with composure and serenity. As for King Charles, the newly appointed king has big shoes to fill and only time will tell if he will be able to win the affection of the public like his mother did. I first met King Charles in the early 2000s at a small dinner hosted by the British Ambassador to Egypt. Charles, who was still a prince, traveled to Egypt on a private exploratory expedition with his wife, Camilla. The prince wore traditional Scottish attire and appeared calm, polite and friendly to those around him. The second time I met him was in 2006 when he arrived for the opening of the British University in Egypt. I remember he was very attached to his wife and seemed eager to make her feel comfortable and welcome. We had the opportunity to discuss his interest in the Islamic religion and Muslim history in general. Our third meeting was in 2021, when I hosted him and his wife at the Library of Alexandria. We had a wonderful meeting and the prince invited me to give a talk at a charity he founded in London. All of these exchanges left me with the firm belief that King Charles is an incredibly brilliant and intellectual individual, with a deep understanding and appreciation of Islam and the Arab world. Queen Elizabeth died last week, marking the end of an era. King Charles seems determined to follow in his mother’s footsteps and lead the kingdom with wisdom, tranquility and sobriety, even as he faces new troubles along the way. –Mostafa Elfeki (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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