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Get ready for King Charles III: New family portraits show the future of the royal family

Unbeknownst to the world, Queen Elizabeth II’s heavy cold over the 2016 Christmas holidays — when she failed to appear for Christmas Day services at Sandringham — was “quite grave,” Vanity Fair reports.
While the 92-year-old queen recovered and today enjoys “robust health,” the episode put Buckingham Palace on notice about stepping up preparations for the inevitable: When the beloved, long-reigning monarch dies, and the more-than 1,000-year-old British crown passes to her son Prince Charles.
So, get ready for King Charles III.
That’s been the message inherent in shifts in power and royal duties, and in public engagements and enhanced efforts at image branding that have taken place over the past two years.
That also was the message conveyed in official family portraits released Tuesday by Prince Charles’ Clarence House. The photos essentially show the new leaders of the British royal family, with Charles as the future head of the House of Windsor and king of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Two new photographs of The Prince of Wales and his family have been released to celebrate HRH’s 70th birthday.
The photos were taken by Chris Jackson in the garden of Clarence House. pic.twitter.com/A2LTJDTdvE
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) November 13, 2018

Unlike many other royal family portraits of the past 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip were not present.
Instead, the photos present Charles, seated next to his future queen consort, Camilla. His sons, William and Harry, stand with their duchess wives, Catherine and Meghan. William’s children and heirs, George and Charlotte, are held by their grandparents, while baby Louis cradles in the arms of his mother Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Charles’ fourth grandchild is on the way: The American-born Meghan Markle is expecting her first child this spring.
The photos were timed for Charles’ 70th birthday, for which there will be a big bash Wednesday night at Buckingham Palace, hosted by his mother.
Royal fans have dissected these new photos for various subtexts. There’s lots to dissect, including the way that newlyweds Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are their usually PDA selves, and how George sits easily on Charles’ lap  — a rebuke to reports that the 5-year-old rarely sees his grandfather because Charles, William and Kate have a frosty relationship.
What’s also notable is that the photos weren’t shot in some formal, gilded palace salon. Instead, the family arranged itself in a garden, around a plain wooden bench. William and Harry aren’t wearing ties, and one of the photos captures a candid moment of the entire clan, all cracking up at something the photographer is doing to get everyone to smile.

The Prince of Wales with his family in the garden of Clarence House.
The photo was taken by @ChrisJack_Getty to mark The Prince’s 70th birthday. pic.twitter.com/L7mnUY6nD7
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) November 13, 2018

The message of both photos, and of recent efforts at rebranding Charles’ formerly priggish image, is that he, his sons and daughters-in-law will bring a modern, open and friendly approach to being royals in the 21st century. Moreover, the photos, with everyone in color-coordinated outfits of blue, convey a sense of unity behind Charles, an assurance to Britons that they have a functioning monarchy, even if the monarchy’s purpose is mostly symbolic.
“As the United Kingdom lurches toward Brexit and relations with the European Union fray, the royal family’s soft power may be Britain’s trump card,” writes Vanity Fair writer James Reginato in a new profile of Charles. “They charm, they command respect; they impart a sense of stability and continuity.”
The transition from Elizabeth II to Charles III already is underway, according to royal watchers. The Prince of Wales has become the “proxy head of state” for his mother, according to Vanity Fair.
“As we approach the end of 2018, a more accurate description of his role is ‘Shadow King,’ as it is he, not Her Majesty, who is now doing most of the ‘heavy lifting’ for the monarchy at home and abroad,” wrote author Robert Jobson, in a column for the Daily Mail.
All this — giving Charles more power, modernizing the monarchy to make it more relatable to British citizens — is taking place with the queen’s blessing, according to Jobson and others. While Elizabeth has no intention of retiring, she still reveres the monarchy and wants to ensure a smooth transition after she’s gone, Jobson added.
Meanwhile, Charles’ children and his adorable grandchildren regularly garner positive global press for “The Firm.” Some 2 billion people around the world tuned in to watch Meghan and Harry’s May 19 wedding, and their baby news “is a global preoccupation,” Vanity Fair added.
The Prince of Wales has been preparing to become king since he was 3 years old, when his mother ascended to the throne in 1952. The Vanity Fair story depicts Charles as incredibly hard-working, dedicated to causes and nonprofits that have benefited a large segment of the British population and finally at ease in his role as king-in-waiting. He especially enjoys “walkabouts” during royal visits, when he can mingle with regular people.

Thank you for all your birthday wishes for The Prince of Wales 
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