As we approach the coronation, the communications challenges facing Charles III are becoming more apparent.
Today’s reporting on YouGov’s most recent poll shows a slight but definite slide in monarchism and a rise in republicanism and apathy in the UK.
Tracked against a similar poll from September 2022, overall support for the monarchy has fallen by 9%, while support for an elected head of state has risen by 6%.
These figures aren’t terrifying – particularly with continued majority support for the monarchy- but the underlying issues will give the Royal comms team sleepless nights.
Firstly, there’s the immense shadow cast by Queen Elizabeth II – whose popularity continuously outshone that of her institution throughout her reign and thus offered protection to the dynasty from its less popular members. Charles has no such power. His popularity tracks public sentiment towards the Crown rather than bolstering support.
This lack of an unimpeachable protective figurehead means the Royal Family’s reputation is more susceptible to taking on flak from other scandals, from the profoundly sinister (Prince Andrew) to the petty and superficial (Harry and Meghan).
To arrest this troubling trend and increase his personal influence, Charles is being spun as a moderniser.
This has been a gentle, rather than a revolutionary campaign, from expressions of regret about the British slave trade to moderate environmentalism (the ‘planet-friendly’ vegetarian Coronation Quiche being the latest signal). Even in reactionary modern Britain, there’s majority support for these principles, and Charles’ endorsement of them does not undermine his mother’s legacy.
In much the same way as Pope Francis’ more progressive messaging stabilised the reputation of the Catholic Church, progressive messaging is a sensible play for Gen Z and Millennial support. Still, recent polling suggests that Charles isn’t yet going far enough to win over these fickle audiences.
Part of the issue is that the Royals are arguably being outflanked by two of their most infamous ex-members when it comes to easy, uncontroversial progressive messaging.
Prince Harry’s speech to the UN, though thoroughly moderate and establishment-friendly, was still far more radical than any missive his father could conceivably deliver, and the enmity between the sovereign and his estranged son (and daughter-in-law) has perhaps attracted a closer comparison of their (seemingly) competing progressive agendas.
This does Charles no favours. Hampered by tradition and the need to remain apolitical, he’s never going to be able to match the prodigal son in a progressive arms race, and therefore a tactical rethink may be necessary if the Royals are to arrest the current decline in enthusiasm