Quoting Shakespeare’s remark about Queen Elizabeth I, he said his mother had been a “pattern to all princes living”. And he made clear what he meant by this.
“As I stand before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history which surrounds us and which reminds us of the vital parliamentary traditions to which members of both Houses dedicate yourselves, with such personal commitment for the betterment of us all,” he said.
“Parliament is the living and breathing instrument of our democracy.”
His mother, Charles said, had pledged to “maintain the precious principles of constitutional government which lie at the heart of our nation”, a promise she had kept “with unsurpassed devotion”. “She set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.”
It is remarkable that Queen Elizabeth was able to perform the role of head of state in a meaningful way – to give public speeches and provide symbolic leadership that moved so many people so deeply – over a reign of more than 70 years without becoming embroiled in party politics.
While, on occasion, some made claims of undue political interference, these were few and far between and, ultimately, did not amount to anything serious in the court of public opinion.
Overall, as a constitutional monarch, a position she was obviously born into, she was almost perfect. It should not be under-estimated how hard this is to achieve when every word is scrutinised and analysed so closely. We have come to expect effortless diplomacy, a steadying presence, and calm, caring, reasoned leadership from our head of state, but only because Queen Elizabeth was so good that she made it look easy.
As Charles begins his reign, and as William steps up into the higher profile role of heir to the throne, we should be mindful of that. Starting a new job is seldom straightforward, so we should be sympathetic towards any missteps they might make.
From his first words to Parliament about the importance of democracy, our new monarch’s heart is clearly in the right place.