On Saturday, May 6, The United Kingdom officially crowned its new King, Charles III, along with his wife Camilla as Queen.
While the coronation was watched by millions in the UK and abroad, over 2,000 heads of state, officials, public figures, refugees, and others were invited to attend the very exclusive event at Westminster Abbey.
Attendees included officials from most Arab states, such as the King and Queen of Jordan, with whom the now-King is believed to have a relationship unlike that of any of his predecessors.
The rule of Queen Elizabeth II
Throughout the 70-year rule of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, British colonies from around the globe gained their independence, ending the territorial domination of the British Empire. That included every Arab colony, mandate, or protectorate the UK still had, such as Sudan, Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, among others.
Egypt, which had gained its nominal independence prior to Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, also rid itself from remaining British influence.
In the years since then, the post-colonial relations between the UK and the Arab World have gotten warmer, most notably with fellow monarchies in the Persian Gulf and the Near East.
Charles’ Relations with the Arab World
These improving relations were well illustrated with Charles, then Prince of Wales, who dedicated much of his time towards trips to the Middle East, in addition to spending extensive hours researching and learning about the Arab World and its culture.
Charles’ position at the time meant that he oversaw the promotion of relations between Britain and its allies, many of which are in the region.
According to Arab News, among other countries in the region, Charles has made “12 official visits to Saudi Arabia, seven to both the UAE and Kuwait, six to Qatar, and five to Jordan.”
In fact, Charles and his wife Camilla went to Jordan and Egypt in November of 2021, in the first royal overseas trip after the coronavirus lockdown.
On a more personal level, it seems as if the King was very drawn to the Arab world in various forms. He cites many of his inspirations for his watercolor paintings as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and considered the late Saudi King Abdullah a personal friend.
Not only so, but many of the King’s charitable foundations also operated in the Gulf.
Does any of it actually matter?
As the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, the King enjoys little to no political powers, and does not get involved in any political matters. The King meets privately with the Prime Minister every week, but any direct contribution to the country’s politics stops there.
But during his time as Prince of Wales, Charles was known to often break this custom. He was known for relatively outspoken political opinions, involvement and causes while serving as Prince of Wales.
In the UK, Charles would regularly invite senior politiciansto dine with him in his personal home, alongside writing them letters and offering political interventions.
The former prince often promoted his causes to ministers and made his opinions on certain issues well known. He has voiced his support for fox hunting and called for more action on climate change, and even expressed his strong disapproval of the UK Government’s current plan to send asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to Rwanda.
These positions mark a stark contrast with his mother, who mostly avoided showing even the slightest hint of a political opinion. Her most notable incident, in 2014, was when she advised Scottish voters to “think very carefully” about their independence referendum, which caused a controversy at the time.
But aside from that, the late Queen remained relatively objective. During his time as prince, Charles’ many political involvements were subject to criticism, as he was seen as a meddling royal by many.
That role will have to change now that he is King, and he has acknowledged that himself, but one still wonders whether he will find other ways to send his messages across.
How Does His Involvement Affect the Arab World?
It is no secret that while the King may enjoy good relations with Arab regimes, the United Kingdom may not have the best reputation among Arab populations.
For starters, as mentioned above, several states in the Middle East and North Africa had to fight for independence from the British Empire.
Additionally, even after independence, Egypt had to deal with a British-France-Israeli attack in 1956, as retaliation for Egyptian President Gamal Abel Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal, back then administered by a British-French enterprise.
The UK’s most infamous move in the Arab World, though, remains the role it played in the creation of the State of Israel. The 1917 Balfour Declaration ensured the UK would work on giving the land of Palestine to the Zionists, at the expense of the native Palestinian population.
But where does Charles stand in all this? In a recent visit to Palestine, the royal gave lip-service to Palestinians, saying he had the opportunity to have conversations with them and listen to their challenges.
Some have interpreted this as implicit empathy for Palestinians, but his words are largely in line with those of many government officials who continue to promote the UK’s strong alliance with Israel.
Beyond Palestine, there were some rumors that claimed the now King was against the UK getting involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, some of his handwritten notes that were revealed by the press in 2015 show that he called for “improved equipment for troops in Iraq,” according to Politico. Besides, his views on the invasion hold little weight, as the kingdom still played a major role in the early days of the invasion.
In addition, Charles’ friendly relations with Arab rulers draw more questions if he is to get involved in political life at all as monarch. Many of the states he enjoys close ties with have been strongly criticized and condemned by human rights organizations for abuses of human rights, and typically rank low on democracy and freedom scales.
What his preferred policy towards them will be, and what this will mean for the UK’s image, remains to be seen.
Overall, in accordance with the functions of the United Kingdom’s constitutional monarchy, it should be unlikely that King Charles III will play any direct role in local or foreign politics.
Whether he will find more implicit methods to do so, and what this will mean for his country’s relationship with the Arab world given his relationship to it, could be an interesting issue to look at.