SUBMITTED: King Charles III, King of Great Britain: Healing the ties that bind

Ronda Talley

As the coronation of King Charles approaches on May 6, many people are focused on the events being planned in Great Britain in preparation for this historic event. The sheer volume of the logistics boggle the mind as one considers all the details that must fall into line to make such a momentous event successful. Underneath the coronation celebration, however, resides a weightier conundrum: how to heal the emotional state of a nation that is perplexed and conflicted over the apparent dysfunction of the royal family.

The news reports from England are filled with language detailing the strife now present between father, the long king-in-waiting and former Prince of Wales, Charles; and his two sons, William, now Prince of Wales and future king of England; and his brother, Harry, Duke of Sussex; and their respective families. One cannot log onto YouTube or any other media outlet without hearing a story or rumor regarding what is or thought to be, what might be, what should be and what will happen with these relationships. Within this contextual vortex, the question of the monarchy and its survival has received unprecedented coverage.  

While reporters appear to enjoy talking endlessly about real or imagined exploits of the royals, some “information’” has been force-fed in unnecessary detail to the public by its own members. 

Therein lies the crux of the problem: a family in crisis, one that is now publicly crying for help. 

Underlying all the headlines is a personal family story of despair, separation, depression and reflection. As one attempts to sift through reality and innuendo that has flooded the airwaves, it has become apparent that the death of Charles’ first wife, Princess Diana, beloved mother to William and Harry, continues to have a profound impact on the nation and those who were major players in both her personal and professional lives. No two have been more affected than her sons, who still carry the weight of her death, albeit in very different ways.  

The rise of Charles, now head of the Windsor family and occupant of the nation’s ultimate position of power as monarch, parallels the increasing importance of his role as father to these two young men. Charles has waited a lifetime to be king and now that moment has arrived. For the first time he is free from the constraints that he felt his entire life. There is no mother or father looking over his shoulder to give advice or criticism. There is a wife by his side who loves him and whom he loves. Now Charles can make his own decisions with near impunity. He is his own man.  

While the new King is basking in the expansive personal attention he is receiving, has he given thought to what kind of leader he wants to be? Has he weighed the important role he plays as family leader and father to his sons and balanced it with his role as monarch? Has he reflected on his personal contribution to the current family dilemma and considered how he might lead his family out of intrigue to a place of peace?  

There appears to be no ready rapprochement to the turmoil that currently exists within the royal family. Yet they must find a way to heal in order to not only bind their own wounds, but also to provide the nation with an example of how to deal with such family dysfunction.  

All this must be accomplished within a context of healing the hurts from Diana’s death and honoring the enduring legacy of love and kindness that still echoes in the hearts of those whose lives she touched. As the mother of William and Harry, as Britain’s undisputed Queen of Hearts, her influence remains as a strong force in their lives as well as within those who remember how her tenderness and mercy brought attention to the needs of neglected people around the world.

Can Charles act to heal the family? Yes, he could, but I doubt he will. But there is a way he can turn all the gossip-mongers on their heads and change the entire nature of the dialogue regarding his relationship with his sons. 

It would take a brave act, one conveying considerable integrity, but a very simple one. In a public forum, perhaps at the coronation concert if Harry attends, but definitely at a public venue for all to hear and see, Charles could rise and invite his sons to stand by his side, flanking him. Then he could publicly state these few words, with strength, directly facing the cameras: “These are my sons, whom I love unconditionally.” 

These simple words would say so much about the depth of a father’s love for his sons, regardless of the circumstances or faults. It would say what needs to be said without elaboration. It would convey forgiveness and grace. It would deter the speculation about who is valued and who is not. And it would communicate what is true. To those of us who read the Bible, it would echo the story of the prodigal son. 

Charles’ words could serve as an example to every family that experiences hardships in dealing with one another, and convey that no matter how great or intractable those problems may seem, they can be overcome. 

These words, spoken with conviction and tenderness, might provide a step stone to heal the rift between father and sons, brother and brother. Diana would approve.

While Charles may never be the King of Hearts to his people, he could at least demonstrate that he has one.

I hope he takes this idea and runs with it. After all that has been given to you, Charles, and for all who have loved you no matter what, show your compassion: Pass your love on. With the eyes of the world on you, this is the time.

Ronda Talley, PhD, MPH, is a former professor of psychology at Western Kentucky University. She served as the American Psychological Association Associate Director for Education from 1989-1996, executive director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers from 2000-2005, and Associate Executive Director for Policy and Advocacy and Health Scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005-2010.

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