King Charles III has had an unusually protracted apprenticeship. He is only now, at the venerable age of 73, ascending to the throne—an elevation made possible under melancholy circumstances thanks to the death of his 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a strange fate to prepare all your life for a role you don’t get to perform until the eighth decade of that life. Yet, despite his undeniable maturity, Charles is unable or unwilling to perform many simple tasks that almost all his subjects who are above the age of 5 manage for themselves: Squeezing toothpaste on his toothbrush is one example. Charles has his valets take care of this arduous task, using a crested silver dispenser made especially for the job. He is similarly servant-dependent for almost all of the most menial daily activities.

As a Guardian article from 2002 documented, Charles has lived an extraordinarily pampered life:

The prince often changes his clothes five times a day. The discarded outfits, including £2,000 bespoke suits and handmade Turnbull and Asser shirts, are left strewn across the floor for one of the valets to pick up. It is then their job to make sure the clothes are washed and returned to the correct place in his mahogany wardrobes.

You can get a sense of just how spoiled Charles III is by watching a video of the newly minted monarch signing an oath at the Ascension Council and then haughtily gesturing to a servant to clear the desk.

It’s part of the perversity of the monarchy that Charles is both very old and very young at the same time. In his body, he’s a senior citizen king, but in his attitude, he remains a willful child. To be sure, this sort of narcissistic arrogance is not confined to blue-blooded aristocrats. There are plenty of people who have Charles’s wealth without his pedigree or title. They are as likely as Charles III to be as fussed over by servants at their beck and call.

But Charles isn’t a run-of-the-mill plutocrat—though that would be bad enough. He’s a public servant of a sort, a constitutional officer in what is supposed to be a democracy. When I visited the United Kingdom over the summer, I was struck by the fact that it was a nation in great social distress. Almost everyone I met was suffering under strain from runaway inflation. The country’s infrastructure was unable to deal with a heat wave, causing an estimated 1,200-plus excess deaths. The public transit system was a disgrace—especially compared with those of European counterparts like France or Finland. A wave of wildcat strikes won applause from a public sick of the status quo. It seems strange that such a society will now have as its head of state a coddled, eccentric popinjay like Charles III.

The United Kingdom has a constitutional monarchy, a strange by-product of the two revolutions of the 17th century that left the nation with a Parliament that was legislatively supreme but also kings who embodied the state. The paradox of a constitutional monarchy is that the sovereign is supposed to be both a servant and a ruler. “Service” is the great byword for those who defend the monarchy. Elizabeth II has been much eulogized for devoting her nearly century-long life to serving her country. But no less than Charles III, Elizabeth II was in her daily life used to being served hand and foot. The question then is: Who is the servant?

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