The photo that reveals the big problem facing the Royal Family

MANDATORY CREDIT: Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023. 


These photographs shall not be used after 0001hrs January 1, 2024, without prior, written permission from Royal Communications. After that date further licensing terms will be available. The portrait should be used only in the context of Their Majesties' Coronation. The photograph is provided to you strictly on condition that you will make no charge for the supply, release or publication of it and that these conditions and restrictions will apply (and that you will pass these on) to any organisation to whom you supply it. There shall be no commercial use whatsoever of the photograph (including by way of example only) any use in merchandising, advertising or any other non-news editorial use. The photograph must not be digitally enhanced, manipulated or modified in any manner or form. 

King Charles III and Queen Camilla are pictured with members of the working royal family: (left to right) the Duke of Kent, the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Gloucester, Vice Admiral Sir Tim 
Laurence, the Princess Royal, King Charles III, Queen Camilla, the Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Edinburgh, Princess Alexandra, the Hon. Lady Ogilvy, the Duke of Edinburgh. Picture date: Monday May 8, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Coronation. Photo credit should read: Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023/PA Wire
Charles and the rest of the working royals, after the coronation on 6 May. (Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023)

An official portrait has been released by Buckingham Palace of the senior, working members of the Royal Family to mark King Charles's coronation.

It shows the Duke of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Anne and her husband Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – physically supporting 86-year-old Princess Alexandra – standing alongside the newly crowned King and Queen.

In short, it displays the long-touted 'slimmed-down monarchy' that both Charles is understood to be keen on, and many European royal families have also worked towards.

TOPSHOT - Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales, Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales, Britain's Princess Charlotte of Wales and Britain's Prince Louis of Wales arrive at Westminster Abbey in central London on May 6, 2023, ahead of the coronations of Britain's King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort. - The set-piece coronation is the first in Britain in 70 years, and only the second in history to be televised. Charles will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned at the central London church since King William I in 1066. Outside the UK, he is also king of 14 other Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Camilla, his second wife, will be crowned queen alongside him, and be known as Queen Camilla after the ceremony. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Louis and Charlotte with their parents during the coronation service. (Getty Images)

However, something about the issue caught the attention of many social media users: the average age of those pictured.

One royal correspondent, Charlie Proctor, wrote that it was "worrying" that "seven of the 11 working royals in this photo are aged 70+".

Of the four who are not, the Prince and Princess of Wales are in their forties and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are in their late fifties.

All the other working royals are significantly older and despite their best efforts are unlikely to have the energy to undertake engagements that someone in their middle age would.

Since Harry, Meghan and Prince Andrew stepped back, the pool of royal adults of general working age has been cut down by a third and, of the first 10 in the line of succession, only four are over 18.

Images: Getty Images and Misan Harriman instagram

To complicate matters further for King Charles and his slimmed down monarchy, the Waleses do not appear to want to increase their workload. As The Telegraph has reported, William and Kate "are fiercely protective of their family time, driving their children to school every day and minimising the amount of time they spend apart from them".

It is perhaps unsurprising, given Kate's long-term work in early years development and her – relatively – normal upbringing that she and her husband are said to be hands-on parents.

The appearance of the Wales children over the weekend – and Prince Louis, in particular, taking part in his first official royal engagement on 8 May – displayed the issue at the other end of the age spectrum: they are too young to often make public appearances or to be expected to shoulder the burden of representing the Royal Family as national symbols with any regularity.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 06: Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales attend the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 2023 in London, England. The Coronation of Charles III and his wife, Camilla, as King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the other Commonwealth realms takes place at Westminster Abbey today. Charles acceded to the throne on 8 September 2022, upon the death of his mother, Elizabeth II. (Photo by Yui Mok  - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Louis, aged five, yawns during the coronation, and had to take a short break from the lengthy service. (Getty Images)

Their "fiercely protective" parents are unlikely to want their young children to carry that weight either.

Even before Prince Harry's memoir Spare was released and explored in detail the personal cost to his childhood and adolescence growing up in a public role, both he and his brother had remarked upon the difficulty of having to put on a "game face" and work in the aftermath of their mothers death in 1997, comforting mourners and taking part in their mother's funeral procession.

In 2017, Harry said of walking behind his mother's coffin when he was 12 that no "child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances".

William said the same year that he initially found it confusing why the public were grieving, saying in a documentary: "You didn't even know her, why and how are you so upset?"

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 1997: Prince William, Prince of Wales, with his sons Princes William and Harry looking at floral tributes left at Kensington Palace following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in September, 1997.  (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Charles, William and Harry inspecting tributes left to Diana after her death in 1997. (Getty Images)

While Diana's death may be an extreme example, that both of the brothers know the pressure of the public eye personally from their own childhoods makes it more likely their protective instincts will be well set when it comes to their own children.

Charles then faces a conundrum, with the majority of working royals both too old to practically be expected to do an extensive schedule of engagements and to engage and bring back into the fold the younger generation of the public, many of whom are either ambivalent or actively hostile towards the monarchy.

Omid Scobie – Yahoo UK’s royal executive editor – suggested in November that Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie would be well poised to take on some engagements on behalf of their uncle the King – although he reported that there had been pushback from the palace on this suggestion.

Britain's Prince Louis of Wales tries his hand at archery while taking part in the Big Help Out, during a visit to the 3rd Upton Scouts Hut in Slough, west of London on May 8, 2023, where the family joined volunteers helping to renovate and improve the building. - People across Britain were on Monday asked to do their duty as the celebrations for King Charles III's coronation drew to a close with a massive volunteering drive. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Louis - a fan favourite - undertook his first royal engagement on 8 May aged only five. (Getty Images)

Equally, Lady Louise Windsor, 19, could – as Proctor suggested – pick up some of the slack. This wouldn't be for some time, however, as she is currently studying at the University of St. Andrews.

Charles cannot magic younger major royals out of thin air, nor can he make the Prince and Princess of Wales less dedicated to their family.

This may mean that he has no choice but to widen the net of working royals to include some part-timers like Beatrice and Eugenie or even the well-liked Zara and Mike Tindall – who, although they don't have titles, do have a well-established public brand.

If the King doesn't, in the course of time the monarchy won't just be slim, it will become increasingly emaciated.

Watch: Charles and Camilla's friends 'aghast' the King hasn't put arms around Harry and William