… on how the King is tackling ‘the biggest of jobs’ in his 70s
A very happy 75th birthday to His Majesty King Charles III and an outpouring of my admiration for his frankly brilliant tackling of the biggest of jobs. How on earth have he and Queen Camilla, his senior by a year – she’s now 76 – managed to face the extraordinary demands placed upon them day after day, at a time when near contemporaries like me (I’m 73) are thinking of slowing down?
I’ve had a lifetime of worrying about my appearance. Every day I would get up at 5.30am, shower, walk the dogs, drink two large cups of coffee, do my hair, put on my make-up and go to work to meet the widest range of people. It was only for the radio – I didn’t have to be done up to the nines, but I made the effort out of respect for those I was to interview.
What a relief it was when I walked away aged 70 and a bit and could happily get up a little later, not bother with the hair or the make- up, slouch around in sloppy old jeans and a sweater with nothing to confront apart from my laptop and an empty page to fill.
No such luxury for a couple who could never dare appear in public looking as though they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. They are constantly on show, meeting and greeting: a president, expecting glamour and diplomatic skills of the highest order; an excited crowd hoping the couple will pause in front of them, shake hands and say a few words. The pressure.
‘They looked effortlessly regal’
I remember watching the Coronation and thinking they look exhausted, yet it was an immaculate show. They were beautifully dressed and walked the long distance through the Abbey to their positions, sometimes allowed to sit, but standing for an inordinate amount of time.
It’s common knowledge that the King, after years of riding horses, has a bad back. How does he manage to remain so upright for so long? I too rode horses and am familiar with the constant twinges of agony from bouncing up and down and (occasionally) falling off. Could I do it? No.
Their trip to Paris said everything about the huge effort this now elderly couple have put into the job. They looked effortlessly regal.
One began to wonder if the French might be regretting their casting aside of the monarchy and the splendid picture it presents.
Camilla appeared to have become younger. ‘Yes,’ everybody said, ‘she has so much help: maids to dress her, make-up artists and, no doubt, a hairdresser constantly on call.’ But, no, we read. She’d decided to leave all that fuss aside and do her hair and make-up herself. And that blue dress! She’s wise enough to know what suits her best.
As for him, he too appears younger. And while his pronunciation could have done with improvement, it must have required a lot of courage to deliver a speech in the Palace of Versailles in both French and English.
‘He has moments of grumpiness and she smoothes things over’
One thing noticeable during that long, warm and diplomatic speech was the many references to his ‘femme’. It’s the love and understanding they clearly have for one another that makes the King and Queen so admirable.
He has moments of grumpiness and she smooths things over; when she looks too exhausted to carry on, he holds her up. They must be relieved that they can put all the ‘scandals’ behind them. I doubt anyone now thinks they were anything other than made for each other. That, I’m sure, will sustain them as they age and carry on.
I hope only one thing: that they have enough private time together where they can just flop onto the sofa, relax and ease away their aches and pains. We are lucky to be led by a couple who had to wait a long time for the leading role, but whose great love story should give pleasure to us all. It’s never too late.