Charles takes the helm of a royal family that has been rocked by a series of recent upheavals. In 2020, his younger son, Prince Harry, and Harry’s biracial American-actress wife, Meghan, moved to California and announced they would “step back” from royal duties, an indication that all wasn’t well within the royal family. In 2021, they gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they accused the royal family of racist treatment.
Given the historical ties between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, Americans have long followed the ups and downs of the monarchy with fascination, tuning in to watch weddings and shows such as The Crown. There may be a generational divide here too: Young people are less likely to have any fondness for Queen Elizabeth’s steadying role for her nation after World War II, but they’ve read a lot about Meghan’s travails and studied British colonialism.
During the height of the British Empire, the royal family reigned over more territories and people than any other monarchy in history, and in many of those places, some see the queen’s death as an opportunity to confront the past more fully and strip away the final remains of colonialism.
“You can look at the monarchy from the point of view of high tea and nice outfits and charity,” says Alice Mugo, a 34-year-old lawyer in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, a former British colony. “But there’s also the ugly side, and for you to ignore the ugly side is dishonest.”