A few days ago, during the proclamation signing, King Charles went viral when he appeared to dismissively order staffers to clear the desk for him and then grimaced at someone because the pen tray was in his way.
"The servant must clear my desk for me. I can't be expected to move things." pic.twitter.com/0pZqY2Xopq— Laura Kuenssberg Translator (@BBCFLauraKT) September 10, 2022
I guess pens are a kink for him because he’s gone viral again over another pen situation.
He is his father’s son, I guess. Prince Philip was known for his outbursts too, although he was more profane. At least Charles didn’t drop a “f-ck” in there. All the same, it’s probably not a good look in his first week as the monarch, to be getting pissy over such inconsequential matters. It’s just a f-cking pen, but here’s Charles being a dick about it…and ON CAMERA too. Personally I think it’s funny, these videos and the memes and the jokes people are making on Twitter. Professionally, however, well it’s not a comedy. So it’s not a great example of the king showing his work.
In the days since Queen Elizabeth II’s death, I’ve been talking about the British crown’s transfer of power in the time of 24-hour live news coverage and social media and the impact this will have on how London Bridge is executed. London Bridge is a plan of events to mourn the Queen’s passing and to mark the rise of her heir. And all of these plans are in service of the British royal family’s primary forever goal: to exist, to remain, to continue. These are significant days for their brand, and they must PERFORM.
London Bridge has to be the British royal family’s greatest performance because they’ve never had an audience this big and this critical at a time when more and more people are questioning their value. This, then, is the ultimate reality show – live cameras pointed at the King and his family for hours at a time, days on end. King Charles is the main character of this show. He must convince the viewers that he’s a suitable leader, a dutiful patriarch, a compassionate sovereign. Live cameras can be an asset in this respect, because video is SO powerful, and when leveraged in the right way, you can do so much in a short time to set an image. The architects of London Bridge should have been well aware of this as an opportunity, perhaps the best opportunity, to bolster the Firm. But only if the King can deliver.
Only if the King doesn’t get caught on camera having a hissy over some pens. Because the downside to live cameras is that, well, they set an image. An image in 2022 can be replicated and then amplified in seconds to millions of people around the world. These images of Charles getting precious over some pens is not leaving a great impression for some people.
Because he’s battling his own reputation on a few fronts. There are a lot of people out there who are still mad at him about Princess Diana because he did her dirty with Camilla, now the Queen Consort. “Diana” was trending for days following the announcement of the Queen’s passing – that should tell you that the grudge is still there. On top of that, Charles has never, ever, ever been nearly as popular as his mother and his sons. Some people just aren’t feeling him.
And then there’s the issue of the monarchy itself. Our world is increasingly less comfortable with that kind of hierarchy, especially over the last few years as we push for more equality, across all social landscapes. It’s hard to square up the idea of “equality” with this family’s inherited privilege. Which is why “service” is such a big part of the royal brand. Whenever we talk about the Queen, they talk about her years of “service”, how hard she worked in “service” of the nation and its people and her lifelong commitment to “serve”…even though, um, when you met her you were required to pretty much lower yourself to her.
While people were willing to lower themselves to the Queen, the question for years has been whether or not they’d be willing to do the same for her son. And in these moments with the pen, he’s not really convincing them that they should. Because in these moments he’s not in a position of service. Rather the opposite – he’s always being served. He’s the one giving orders and other people are the ones following those orders and serving him…only to be hissed at or barked at in response.
With millions of people watching, and some of those people questioning why this family and this King has been elevated to this status, and spending taxpayer dollars while we’re at it – it’s the opposite of the intent of London Bridge. And it’s such an unforced error.
Because it’s not like the King was ambushed by cameras. They know when he’s being filmed at all times and he still lost himself. This family is known for their supposed decorum, their protocols and procedures, their precision and attention to detail, and the King couldn’t hold it together over a couple of pens?
This is the sh-t they’ll have to clean up going forward. We’ll see how well the King receives feedback.