King Charles told politicians in Cardiff on Friday that Wales “could not have been closer to my mother’s heart”, adding that his son William, the new Prince of Wales, had a “deep love” for the country.
The king spoke at the Senedd, the Welsh assembly, after attending a service of prayer and reflection at Llandaff Cathedral in the Welsh capital on the final stop of his tour of each of the British nations, a public show of commitment to the union in the week following his mother’s death .
Earlier this week he received condolences and met politicians in the Scottish Parliament and at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.
On Friday, thousands gathered in the Welsh capital to greet their new monarch, waving flags along the King’s route. Sam Warnock, from the South Wales town of Bridgend, said she was there with her 11-year-old daughter Zaria, who was draped in a Welsh flag, to experience a unique moment.
“I’ve kept her out of school because it’s history,” she said. “It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her and something she can tell her children and grandchildren about. It’s the least you can do.”
The new king has spent most of his adult life as the Prince of Wales, but he was criticized by some, including nationalists, for announcing he had bestowed the title on his son without consulting the Senedd.
The Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, a republican, said this week there was a “legitimate discussion” about the post’s future, although he stressed this was not the week to have it. Polls conducted for ITV in 2018 showed the majority – 57 per cent – in favor of William taking over from his father, with 22 per cent in favor of abolishing the title.
Queuing to enter the castle, Colonel Mike Snook said he was determined the role would continue.
“It’s a debate that’s being had in the mainstream,” he said, a reference to a vocal minority for Welsh independence. “I think the vast majority of people in Wales have absolutely no doubt about the matter and it is absolutely right and proper that Prince William should immediately succeed Charles as Prince of Wales.”
The republican alternative to the monarchy would mean politicians “who most of us don’t think are particularly high quality are elevated to a status they don’t deserve”, he added.
However, several hundred anti-monarchy campaigners turned out to greet the new king, their bids drowning out cheers in some parts of the crowd, with some whistling the Welsh national anthem. Posters had messages in both English and Welsh, including the slogan “Not my king, not my prince”.
“The new king announced a new Prince of Wales without consulting the people of Wales, so we felt compelled to organize something on the day of his visit to Wales,” said protest leader Bethan Sayed, a former Senedd member who had represented the Nationalist Party. Plaid Cymru.
“We will hopefully host more events in terms of coronations and inaugurations because we don’t believe that anyone should be born into a place of privilege to rule over us.”
The 1969 inauguration of Charles as Prince of Wales was met with street parties, but also a rise in nationalism, including bomb plots.
Will Hayward, author of a new book about the country’s feelings about independence — Independent nation: Should Wales leave the UK? — pointed out that much had changed since then, including Wales becoming a polity “in its own right” and with far greater status for the Welsh language.
“There is not a Welsh view of this,” he added. “It’s nuanced and it probably depends on your own feelings about Welshness and your attitude to the devolution debate.”