LONDON — King Charles III, who made his first televised address as monarch on Friday evening, may have waited a lifetime to inherit the throne, but he hasn’t wasted any time letting the world know what his priorities are, and the stamp he wants to leave on Britain.
He’s made clear that he wants to see a slimmed-down, efficient royal family that’s not too much of a burden on the U.K.’s finances. He has championed the environment, and green causes, long before it became fashionable to do so.
Britain’s new king made his first public speech about safeguarding the environment in 1970, and in the mid-1980s he admitted to spending quality time with his plants, talking to them in order to help them grow.
At the time, he was viciously ridiculed by the press and the public, yet his passion for conservation intensified. Today he’s involved in projects that span agriculture, fashion, textiles and skills training for underprivileged at-risk youths.
“I think we’re going to see a great king. He’s got a very strong, well-calibrated moral compass, as the queen did. He’s always tried to help people, and he started a life of service very early. And he has done so much for young people,” said the journalist and author Anne de Courcy, who has interviewed Charles in the past.
She talked about the Prince’s Trust, the charity founded by Charles in 1976 to help vulnerable young people with job training and education. British Vogue editor in chief Edward Enninful serves as a global ambassador for the charity, and said that it helped his siblings get started in their careers.
De Courcy said Charles was always a forward thinker, and recalled an interview from the mid-1980s where he was discussing themes with her such as climate change; complementary medicine; public health issues such as loneliness, isolation and depression, and the importance of extended, multigenerational family networks.
His first public address on Friday evening was all about family: Charles passed on his title of Prince of Wales to his son and heir Prince William, and expressed his love for Harry and Meghan, wishing them well “as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
He referred to his “darling wife Camilla,” Queen Consort, saying “she’ll bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast duty on which I have come to rely so much.”
Britain’s new king ended the address by thanking his “darling Mama” for her love and devotion, and he even quoted Shakespeare, saying “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” It’s the line that Horatio recites just after Hamlet’s death.
In the speech, Charles also remembered his late father, Prince Philip, from whom he inherited his passion for environmental causes. Philip was the first president of the World Wildlife Fund U.K. from its foundation in 1961 to 1982, and president of WWF-International from 1981 to 1996. At the time of his death last year, he was president emeritus of WWF.
In 1990, Charles founded Duchy Organics to sell organic food products from his estate in Cornwall. Since then it has become a leading organic and natural food brand, which is now operated in partnership with the British supermarket Waitrose. Its aim is to help small and medium sized producers, and all profits go to charitable causes.
As fashion’s use of oil-based, synthetic fabrics gained momentum, Charles also founded the global Campaign for Wool in 2010. He wanted to raise awareness among consumers about the renewable and biodegradable benefits of the fiber.
In 2020, he launched the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) at the World Economic Forum at Davos. The aim of the SMI is to encourage economies to operate “in favor of people and planet.”
As reported, the SMI Fashion Task Force is chaired by Yoox founder and former YNAP chief executive officer Federico Marchetti. It has drawn up a Regenerative Fashion Manifesto, which was developed in partnership with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, another group founded by Charles and led by the scientist Marc Palahí.
The Regenerative Fashion Manifesto is a commitment to placing the fashion industry on a more “regenerative path,” and has recently set a 1 million euro investment program in the Himalayas to restore wildlife and sustainable farming to what has become an overworked and degraded landscape.
The SMI Fashion Task Force said it is committed to being “leaders and exemplars” to the global fashion, textile and apparel sectors, working to accelerate the transition toward a more sustainable future.
At the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, in 2021 he gathered some of the most powerful CEOs and brand founders, including Stella McCartney, to meet with world leaders to discuss ways to tackle climate change.
In what was to be her final Christmas Day address in 2021, Queen Elizabeth said she was proud that Charles and Prince William had inherited her late husband’s passion for conservation.
Prince William founded the Earthshot Prize, which is awarded by the Royal Foundation to five winners each year for their contributions to environmentalism. Each winner receives a grant of 1 million pounds to continue their environmental work.
In December, William will be traveling to Boston for the second annual awards ceremony.
The new king’s concern for the environment also shines through in his clothing choices. He regularly wears roomy, softly tailored Anderson & Sheppard suits, and pairs them with colorful silk fabrics.
In an interview earlier this year, Catherine Hayward, the former fashion director of Esquire U.K. and a freelance stylist, said Charles takes a sustainable approach to dressing.
“He has been a pioneer of re-wearing — and has an archive of clothes that he’s been wearing for years. He wears them to death,” said Hayward, pointing out that the morning coat Charles wore to Philip’s funeral in April was the same one he donned for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018.
The prince’s penchant for recycling hasn’t stood in the way of his natty style. The prince has been a regular on the magazine’s best dressed list for years, Hayward said.
In September 2017, Esquire did five separate covers of Charles for the Style issue, using images from his younger days with the headline: “The Charles files: A celebration of the ever changing, never changing style of the Prince of Wales.”
“He’s known for being dapper, he’s very detail-oriented and he revs things up with his shirts and ties — he can be quite experimental,” Hayward said.
Last November, during a trip to Jordan and Egypt, Charles mixed up stripes and geometric patterns on his ties and pocket handkerchiefs, and wore lots of pastels. Even for engagements on home turf, Charles has been looking sleek in pinstripes and patterned silks.
At COP26, the United Nations Climate Conference, which took place last November in Glasgow, Charles tucked a handkerchief with a bold, graphic circle pattern into the pocket of his light gray suit.
That may or may not have been a bid to impress Stella McCartney, who took the future king to see her sustainable fashion installation at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum during the international summit.
Campbell Carey, head cutter and creative director of the Savile Row tailor Huntsman, said many of his clients already see King Charles as a “benchmark” and “tastemaker,” especially when it comes to his morning coat. He said they’re also asking for the quarter-inch braiding on the edges of the lapel and collar, and the narrow, starched “slip” of white fabric that breaks the line between the waistcoat and the shirt.
Some, however, would argue there is room for improvement in Charles’ wardrobe.
“Charles was once by far the best dressed — and was voted that by WWD,” said Ingrid Seward, editor in chief of Majesty Magazine. “He is very stylish but has gone a bit over the top with his ‘old clothes look’ and just looks ridiculous with patched shoes and baggy, striped double-breasted suits. Also, his hair is far too long to my mind. He has lost the edge he always once had.”
Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster and the director of the Westminster Menswear Archive, which he established in 2016, said earlier this year that Britain’s new monarch “doesn’t have to dress any way to ‘impress.’ He is already impressive, powerful and puts everyone else at ease with his style.”
Groves added that the prince dresses in a very British manner, “like he saw the tailor yesterday. It’s quiet, not shout-y and only you, as the wearer, know how well your clothes are made.”