King Charles will face many major issues as he takes over the monarchy but perhaps none as difficult as keeping the United Kingdom together as Scotland and Northern Ireland have major independence plans.

If you wanted just a tiny dash of realism instead of the overwhelming emotion around the death of Queen Elizabeth II consider this: Just four days into his monarchy Charles will be surveying what he considers his realm when he goes to Northern Ireland.

There is no mistaking the message, this land is our land. It is British land and I am its Lord Protector and owner.


King Charles may hum the same refrain in Scotland but, truth be told, there is a chance neither will be counted among the prized possessions by the next monarch if Charles lives as long as his mother.

By then everything north of Hadrian's Wall may constitute independent Scotland while a referendum on Ireland, North and South, may well have restored it as a unitary independent state.

A protester in favor of Scottish independence.

A protester in favor of Scottish independence.

He will encounter the changed world pretty quickly. In the Scottish parliament, which he is visiting right away, he will find half of the members are Scottish Nationalists incensed by their treatment on the Brexit issue by London, where their concerns about leaving the EU have been ignored. Meanwhile, in  Northern Ireland he will find Irish Republicans in power who by definition have no time for monarchies. 

At the same time, he will know the empire his mother inherited when she became Queen 70 years ago is vanishing piece by piece with Jamaica reckoned to be the next country to leave the Commonwealth.

Charles will be perpetually aware of those facts throughout his reign, indeed they will have to be among his top priorities. He will know too that Britain’s greatest ally, the United  States, has a devoted Irish American, Joe Biden, sitting in the Oval Office for at least two more years giving Ireland a priority it has not enjoyed since the peace process.

But, yet,  when he looks for the real enemies of the empire he may find them within rather than external. The onset of Brexit has been like an infectious disease in the body politic in Britain, as harmful to British democracy as Donald Trump has been to America’s great experiment.

Like Trump, Brexit was born on a mistaken presumption. Most Americans considered Trump as an afterthought in 2016, the clown who would entertain before the main act began,

Similarly with Brexit, Then Prime Minister David Cameron called a referendum on leave or stay in the European Union to get his right-wingers off his back and was astounded that the reactionary right won.

David Cameron was shocked by the Brexit results.

David Cameron was shocked by the Brexit results.

With that victory control of British politics fell to the Little Englanders and isolationists on the right who soon made it clear the fulcrum of politics had shifted dramatically to far-right rule.

Britain has been a basket case since.

Brexit passed and calls for an independent Scotland and a vote on Irish unity have been made loudly. Even the timid Welsh have shifted in that regard.

There is comparatively little Charles can do about that but the bad times are coming. It was a fitting reflection perhaps, that the last British leader Queen Elizabeth met was the utterly obnoxious Liz Truss who lies about the Good Friday Agreement every time she opens her mouth.

The Queen’s first prime minister was Winston Churchill. Prince Charles must wish the ghost of Churchill appeared to save Britain again. He faces nothing like the fate of Charles I who was beheaded on Oliver Cromwell’s orders but he does have an Everest to climb.