King Charles's worst week of his reign - so far

King Charles III receives European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during an audience at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Picture date: Monday February 27, 2023.
King Charles controversially hosted president of the European Comission, Ursula von der Leyen at Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

It’s been a turbulent week for King Charles from start to finish.

The new monarch has faced a fair few challenges since taking the throne last September, but none have been as concentrated as the past seven days.

In the months following Queen Elizabeth's death, Charles first had to manage the fallout to the latest series of The Crown, which portrayed his role in the breakdown of his marriage in a very unflattering light. This was quickly followed by Harry and Meghan's explosive Netflix docuseries and, shortly afterwards, the release of Harry's memoir — which featured a series of inflammatory claims about Camilla, whilst exposing the internal dysfunction of the House of Windsor in all its glory.

None of that can have been easy for a monarch trying to make his mark, and to follow in the footsteps of his widely popular and esteemed mother.

However, the last week has blown all of that out of the water: Charles has been embroiled in a row over getting involved in Brexit, before it was revealed he has evicted his son and daughter-in-law from their UK home to make room for disgraced younger brother, Prince Andrew.

What's made this week so turbulent for King Charles?

Reports broke last weekend that King Charles was planning to meet the president of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, amid ongoing crucial - and highly politicised - Brexit negotiations.

Britain's King Charles III shakes hands with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (R) during an audience at Windsor Castle, west of London, on February 27, 2023. - Britain and the European Union proclaimed a
Charles's meeting with von der Leyen attracted criticism from across the political spectrum. (Getty Images)

Whilst it wasn't suggested Charles would take part in the talks themselves, the prospect of the monarch being such a visible presence - and therefore giving his tacit approval - immediately sparked controversy.

On the Monday — the same day Rishi Sunak announced a deal had been struck over the Northern Ireland protocol — Buckingham Palace confirmed Charles would meet von der Leyen at Windsor Castle.

The meeting, unsurprisingly, attracted widespread criticism because the monarch is constitutionally obliged to remain neutral on all political matters.

The negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol are highly controversial, as is the symbol of the monarch itself in the region.

Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort (R) watches as Britain's King Charles III signs the visitors' book, alongside an image of his late mother Queen Elizabeth II, at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on September 13, 2022, during his visit to Northern Ireland. - King Charles III on Tuesday travelled to Belfast where he is set to receive tributes from pro-UK parties and the respectful sympathies of nationalists who nevertheless can see reunification with Ireland drawing closer. (Photo by Niall Carson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by NIALL CARSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
King Charles visited Northern Ireland shortly after taking the throne. (Getty Images)

One argument for having a constitutional monarchy is that the apolitical nature of the figurehead can allow them to be a unifying symbol for the whole of the UK to get behind. If Charles inserts himself (or is inserted) into the political sphere his capacity for doing so will be damaged, as will the institution itself.

The palace said the meeting took place at the request of the government, but a spokesperson for the Prime Minister — and the home secretary James Cleverly — said the final call to meet von der Leyen was the King's.

Shortly after this, news broke that Charles has evicted Harry and Meghan from their UK home, Frogmore Cottage — which their spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo UK.

That the King has offered the keys to Prince Andrew instead makes this news even more controversial. While some have praised the King for being assertive, others have criticised the decision calling it "revenge" or "cruel".

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10: A general view of the exterior of Frogmore Cottage as people lay floral tributes to Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh who died at age 99, nearby on April 10, 2021 in Windsor, United Kingdom. The Queen announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. HRH passed away peacefully April 9th at Windsor Castle. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Frogmore Cottage was given by the Queen to Harry and Meghan in 2019. (Getty Images)

The main reason of this comes down to security: without Frogmore Cottage to stay in, Harry and Meghan will worry that they lack a secure property to stay in during visits to the UK. Harry is currently undertaking legal action against the Home Office to pay for police security himself, because he says only they would have the jurisdiction and intelligence necessary to keep the Sussexes safe in this country.

That Prince Andrew will still have a secure home on a royal estate stands in stark contrast to Charles's treatment of his son's family.

As Harry put it in his memoir, Andrew "was embroiled in a shameful scandal, accused of the sexual assault of a young woman, and no one had so much as suggested that he lose his security. Whatever grievances people had against us, sex crimes weren’t on the list."

What challenges are still to come?

The main — but not only — challenge Charles will face in the next couple of months will be managing to broker some kind of peace with Harry and Meghan before the coronation.

While Yahoo UK understands invites will be sent out soon, if the couple do not appear at the event, their absence will threaten to overshadow the celebratory atmosphere the palace is trying to create during the bank holiday weekend.

The problem for Charles is that, if the couple does come back, their appearance will also be heavily scrutinised and likely be an unwelcome distraction.

The late Queen was expert in so-called 'soft diplomacy' - her son is being forced to learn on the job very quickly.

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