It’s coronation time in Britain and some of you may be getting up at 5 tomorrow morning (or earlier, depending on your time zone) to watch it live. Me, I’ll watch the highlights but I’m genuinely excited to see how the King’s passion for gardening will play out in his reign. (I’ve already written approvingly of his plant-filled coronation emblem.
I was also pretty excited to see Prince Charles in the flesh during his visit to a D.C. community garden back in 2011. In my photo above he’s inquiring about the garden’s compost bins – knowledgeably, I’m sure.
And one of my favorite gardening books is the King’s “Elements of Organic Gardening,” from which I grabbed some snapshots to illustrate this post (hoping it’s legal!).
Of course the King’s love of gardening has been widely reported, with almost 10 million results from Googling “King Charles gardener.” (Weirdly, Google suggested “Did you mean: king charles gairdner,” which I discovered refers to Charles Gairdner, a former governor of Western. Australia. Now we know!)
Since Charles became King in September there’s been a slew of reporting on the subject of his connections to gardening, like “Why King Charles is our most green-fingered monarch to date” in House and Garden U.K.
King Charles has spent a lifetime championing the environment, and as Patron of the National Gardens Scheme since 2002, he wholeheartedly supports the nation’s passion for gardens, as well as enjoying gardening as a hobby himself. His own garden at Highgrove has always been his pride and joy, and by opening its gates to the public since 1994 he has been able to showcase his achievements as well as using it as an exemplar for his organic principles.
And most reports broaden the topic to include the King’s long-established and once-ridiculed concern for the environment, especially climate change. From ABC’s “This is why Charles will be known as the the 1st climate king, experts say”:
King Charles III wants to protect the planet for future generations — a passion he highlighted during the six decades he spent as monarch-in-waiting… Now it is abundantly clear what Charles wishes to accomplish during his time as monarch, experts say.
Pertinent to gardening in particular, the ABC article goes on:
One of the “most interesting” tidbits about Charles’ history of engagement with environmental issues is the push he has made around landscapes, especially surrounding managing landscapes and the role of natural, working land has in absorbing carbon, as well as the role architecture plays in absorbing carbon, Victor said.
Charles’ gardens at Highgrove House, the estate in Gloucestershire he purchased in 1980, are a prime example of his early commitment to sustainability. The grounds feature organically maintained gardens, including a kitchen garden, formal garden and wild garden, the latter which serves as a sustainable habitat for birds and wildlife. Solar panels have also been installed, and waste from the house is filtered through a natural sewage system.
By doing this, the king has moved the conversation surrounding sustainability from focusing solely on industrial emissions to how climate change is also embedded into the landscape, Victor said.
From Gardens Illustrated Magazine’s “King Charles III, Gardener King”:
Whatever your thoughts on monarchy, King Charles III has been a hugely vocal and consistent campaigner for nature. Long before we had even heard the term “climate crisis” or “sustainability,” he was pleading for a more eco-friendly approach. When he was just 22 years old, the fresh-faced Prince of Wales addressed the Countryside in a 1970 conference to speak on what we’d now call “green issues.” He was often dismissed as a crazy eccentric who talked to his plants. But as we’ve all collectively caught up with these ideas, Great Britain’s newly minted monarch has looked prophetic.
And this week in the Washington Post:
In 2015, then-Prince Charles delivered the opening speech at COP21 in Paris, warning: “In damaging our climate we become the architects of our own destruction.” Again at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, he gave another opening speech suggesting “a vast military style campaign” against climate change.
Charles has been a dedicated environmentalist for most of his life, occasionally inviting ridicule for his ardent views on the subject.
There’s plenty more on the subject – 149 million results from Googling “King Charles climate change” and a similar number for “King Charles environment.”
But What Can He Actually DO?
A hot topic of debate is what the king, bound as he is by constitutional limits on his involvement in politics, can actually do to help Britain fight climate change. And only in researching this post did I come to realize that his actions are more restricted now than when he was a mere prince. As he said in 2018 when he turned 70:
I’m not that stupid. I do realise that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So, of course I understand entirely how that should operate. The idea somehow that I’m going to go on exactly the same way, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense. Because the two situations are completely different. Source.
Well, there goes my optimism that King Charles will be the climate change revolutionary so many of us are hoping for. Though I remain ready to be happily surprised.