King clocks up more days of engagements in first year than his mother

The King has clocked up more days of official engagements in his first 12 months as monarch than his mother did during her first year as Queen – but not quite as many as his grandfather George VI, new analysis shows.

Charles has undertaken engagements on 161 days since becoming King on September 8 2022, including travelling to all four nations of the UK and attending dozens of functions.

His mother, Elizabeth II, almost matches Charles, with 157 days of engagements in her first 12 months as Queen, though with a lighter workload and fewer visits.

But Charles has not quite equalled the pace set by his grandfather George VI, who managed 183 days of engagements in his first year on the throne.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The figures have been compiled by the PA news agency from issues of the Court Circular, the official record of the royal family’s daily activities.

The data shows that while some types of engagement are common to all three monarchs – a trip to Ascot races, garden parties – there are striking differences, reflecting changing times and attitudes.

Charles is recorded as having 26 official audiences with the UK prime minister since becoming King: five with Liz Truss – who resigned 48 days into his reign – and the remaining 21 with Rishi Sunak.

His mother clocked up almost the same number in the 12 months after becoming Queen in February 1952, with 27 audiences, all of them with Winston Churchill – the first of 15 prime ministers during her reign.

By contrast, George VI had just 12 prime ministerial audiences in the year following his becoming King in December 1936, seven with Stanley Baldwin and five with Neville Chamberlain.

But the Court Circular reveals he also had many official one-to-one meetings with representatives of the government, from the most senior members of the cabinet to ministers overseeing the Post Office and coal mines.

Rishi Sunak becomes new PM
The King greets Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace for his first audience as prime minister on October 25 2022 (Aaron Chown/PA)

This high level of involvement in the day-to-day politics of the country is not mirrored in the first year of his daughter’s reign, which saw just a handful of meetings with government ministers.

The same has been true of Charles’s first year, with only a small number of official audiences with politicians other than the Prime Minister, including three with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and one with the Foreign Secretary.

Another sharp contrast between George VI and his daughter and grandson is in the volume of engagements devoted to the then British empire, with George holding many audiences with dignitaries and diplomats from the UK’s colonies.

The number of British overseas territories had started to reduce by the time Elizabeth became Queen – such as India gaining independence in 1947 – meaning her first year saw far fewer colonial-related engagements.

Audiences with ambassadors from countries around the world are a common feature of the first 12 months of all three monarchs, however.

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King George VI pictured in 1951 with his grandson Prince Charles, the future King Charles III (PA)

The PA news agency has classed a day with engagements as one where the monarch is recorded as undertaking at least one official visit, meeting or function, excluding non-official events such as attending church in a private capacity.

Charles made trips to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales within eight days of becoming King and has peppered the first year of his reign with visits across the country, including York, Wrexham, Manchester, Armagh, Selkirk and St Ives.

By contrast, Elizabeth II did not make an official visit to Scotland until June 1952, four months after becoming Queen, though she travelled to the royal residence of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire in a private capacity in May.

She visited Wales in October to open the Claerwen dam in Powys, and also made trips to a few places including Dorchester and Hemel Hempstead, but had not visited Northern Ireland by the end of her first year.

George VI waited even longer to begin touring the country and did not make any major official trips until after his coronation in May 1937, five months into his reign, when he visited the naval fleet at Portsmouth.

Extended trips to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all took place in July, followed by a three-day tour of Yorkshire in October.

King Charles III coronation
Left to right: Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and King George VI on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following his coronation on May 12 1937 (PA)

By counting each official visit to a separate location as one engagement, and applying the same rule to each official meeting or audience with another person or group of people, it is likely that Charles has carried out more than 550 engagements since becoming King – close to George VI’s total of at least 570, but well ahead of Elizabeth II, who carried out just over 400.

While George did not clock up as many public visits as Charles, he undertook far more meetings and audiences than both his daughter and grandson – a reflection again of his close interest in affairs of state and politics.

The Court Circular suggests George and Elizabeth both spent extended periods of their first year out of the public eye, either carrying out engagements behind closed doors or staying at royal residences – particularly Balmoral, where they were based for much of August and September.

The pattern of Charles’s first year has been different, with shorter spells at royal residences and more frequent public appearances.

In a further contrast, Charles has made two trips abroad since becoming King: a state visit to Germany in March 2023 and a private visit to Romania in June.

Both George VI and Elizabeth II spent their first year as monarchs in the UK, with no official foreign engagements – although Elizabeth, then still a princess, was in Kenya when she became Queen on February 6 1952, rushing back home to arrive in London the following day.

Royalty – Death of King George VI – London
Elizabeth II sets foot on British soil for the first time as monarch on February 7 1952, after flying from Kenya to London (PA)

The manner in which she became Queen paralleled that in which Charles became King, with both inheriting the throne on the death of their parent, followed by a period of mourning, setting a sombre tone for the start of their reign.

George VI’s accession took place in very different circumstances, being triggered by the abdication of his older brother Edward VIII after only 11 months as monarch.

The drama surrounding Edward’s abdication – which was prompted by the refusal of the government to sanction his marriage to Wallis Simpson, a divorced woman – is likely to have encouraged a low-key start to George’s reign, with the first weeks filled mostly with private meetings.

Some of these involved the Privy Council: the body of advisers that meets regularly with the monarch to oversee the issue of royal proclamations, charters and other ceremonial matters.

Its members are mostly senior politicians, though only a few serving ministers attend each regular session.

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Former prime ministers Gordon Brown, Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron during the Accession Council ceremony at St James’s Palace in London on September 10 2022, when the King was formally proclaimed monarch (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The council has met 16 times in Charles’s first year as King, compared with 11 gatherings in the previous 12 months, perhaps reflecting the increased amount of business that accompanies the arrival of a new monarch.

This total includes the Accession Council on September 10 2022, when Charles was officially proclaimed King.

There were 15 Privy Council meetings during the first year of George VI’s reign, but 20 during that of his daughter – many of which will have looked ahead to the defining event of Elizabeth’s second year as monarch: her coronation in June 1953.