May 13, 2017


Is there a crown in Charles's future? 'King Charles III' looks into the crystal ball. (Peter Marks,  February 16, 2017, Washington Post)

It just so happens that, to further tantalize a Shakespeare Theatre Company audience, the crisis enveloping the Crown and its subjects is a constitutional one, provoked by the idiosyncratic man who's about to wear it. Bartlett's premise is that Charles, awaiting investiture after the death of Elizabeth II, startles the Labour government by asserting the king's prerogative to oppose a new law that restricts freedom of the press (occasioned by the actual phone-tapping scandal that convulsed the nation a few years ago). A separate, and more personal, dilemma envelops Prince Harry, played expertly by ginger-haired Harry Smith, as he tries to come to terms with his own pointless position in the pecking order.

A classical theater in the nation's capital proves to be the optimal location for Bartlett's handiwork, because the play is a seriocomedy revolving around process and legality. The confrontation between Parliament and Buckingham Palace plays out as an entertaining study of the challenge of maintaining a constitutional monarchy in the modern world. A figure like Charles, whom we all imagine to have been champing at the bit all these years as he waited for mum to depart the scene, seems the right sort of personality to upend a government's expectations for royal docility. When Charles takes his principled stand and makes an enemy of the prime minister (a superb Ian Merrill Peakes), the playwright has the opportunity to explore the question of what relevance there is today for a ruler who is not a ruler, who must make his mark not by command, but by intellectual stealth and the fine print in official texts.

...and why the Founders made the Executive more powerful than the King.

There's a strange sort of tension inherent in the British lack of a constitution.  On the one hand, the King could presumably step in and stop any government action that violated the "constitutional" order.  On the other, he may retain that power only by not ever having exercised it.  We'll see....

Posted by at May 13, 2017 6:34 AM