Prince William’s Idea for the Future of the Monarchy Will No Doubt Garner Opposition from One Key Senior Royal

William wants to keep his father King Charles’ preferred “slimmed-down monarchy” just as lean, apparently.

Prince William
(Image credit: Getty)

King Charles has long expressed a desire for a so-called “slimmed-down monarchy”—less of the packed Buckingham Palace balconies of the Elizabeth II era, and more of a streamlined core of working royals. Even before Charles took the throne in September 2022, the monarchy began to look slimmer: his younger brother, Prince Andrew, quit life as a senior royal long before he intended to after his association with Jeffrey Epstein and own allegations of sexual assault forced his hand; additionally, Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan Markle, voluntarily stepped back from working royal duties and relocated to the United States.

King Charles at Trooping the Colour 2024

Remember the packed Buckingham Palace balcony appearances of yesteryear? Not so anymore, as seen at Trooping the Colour last month.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After the 2021 death of his father, Prince Philip, and the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, 17 months later, Charles took the throne with senior royals including Queen Camilla, the Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh (then Countess of Wessex), as well as the Duke of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and Princess Alexandra. But then, 2024: Charles and Kate were sidelined with cancer diagnoses; William was often in a caretaker role for both his wife and their three young kids; and, the final straw, Anne’s horse accident late last month, which has, too, sidelined her for an undetermined amount of time. (According to The Daily Beast—which spoke to a friend of the Princess Royal’s—Anne still has no memory of the accident which left her concussed and hospitalized for five days.)

Anne’s family—including her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, and her kids, Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall—were “deeply shaken” by her accident but supportive of her planned return to royal duty next week, with Anne’s friend adding that “nobody would bother” trying to urge Anne—the longtime hardest-working member of the royal family—to slow down.

Princess Anne

Princess Anne is apparently headed back to work imminently.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“It was a freak accident and she still has no memory of exactly what happened,” the friend said. “Her family, of course, were deeply shaken by it at the time, but when you own horses these things happen, and it seems it is a case of all’s well that ends well.”

Of Anne’s planned return to work, “She has been resting, which won’t suit her,” they said. “Anyone who knows her knows she will be itching to get back in the saddle, literally and figuratively. Her family know how much her work means to her. Nobody would bother telling her to slow down as she would probably tell them to ‘Naff off!’”

But Anne’s injury brings to light her only public criticism of her brother, the King: his insistence about a slimmed-down monarchy. The fiercely loyal Princess Royal never speaks out against the family, apparently unless she really feels strongly about something, as she does the idea of Charles’ slimmed-down—and now, quite frankly, skeletal—monarchy. Interestingly—though she would have never planned it this way—Anne’s own absence from duty only makes her argument stronger. During an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Company News around the time of Charles’ Coronation in May 2023, Anne admitted “Well, I think the ‘slimmed-down’ was said in a day when there were a few more people around,” she said, per The Mirror. “It doesn’t sound like a good idea from where I’m standing, I would say. I’m not sure what else we can do.”

About her older brother, Anne—ever the straight shooter—added, “Well, you know what you’re getting because he’s been practicing for a bit, and I don’t think he’ll change,” she said. “You know, he is committed to his own level of service, and that will remain true.”

Though she hasn’t spoken publicly about it, it can be inferred that Anne would also disagree with William’s decision—as the heir to the throne—to continue the idea of the slimmed-down monarchy into the future.

Prince William closeup

William plans to continue his father's idea of a slimmed-down monarchy into his own reign, whenever that may be.

(Image credit: Getty)

“He knows the future of the royal family is fewer, high impact, highly visible events,” a source speaking to The Daily Beast said of William. “Anne is 73, so you don’t need a crystal ball to see she will have to start doing less at some point. That plan is in place. In some ways the past few weeks have been an unanticipated dry run for the future. The monarchy didn’t grind to a halt without her.”

William’s idea of continuing on with his father’s slimmed-down plan worries longtime royal family commentator Richard Eden of The Daily Mail, who wrote that William wants to model the British royal family after processes already in place in other European monarchies, like Sweden and Denmark. Eden quoted a source as saying that “when the older members of the family retire, His Royal Highness [William] won’t be inviting anyone else to become working royals”—so forget Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, apparently. They continued, quite shockingly, “It remains to be seen if he will even want his two younger children [Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis] to be working royals.” 

Princess Anne

The Princess Royal never speaks out against the family, but she did openly disagree with Charles' idea of a smaller group of working royals, notably long before 2024 and the crises that have come along with it.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

For her part, former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond is in favor of the smaller monarchy. “I still hold to the idea that the slimmed-down royal family is indeed the right model for the future,” she said. “It’s in line with most European monarchies and is sensitive to the constant criticism that the royal family cost taxpayers too much.”

She continued that “Adding new working royals to the payroll will only exacerbate that criticism. I think the model William has experimented with is the answer—drafting in his cousins here and there [like at garden parties, as he did in May] to spice things up a bit. It makes such occasions even more special, and allows those cousins to get on with their lives as they wish, without the strictures of the royal diary. So I think the King and William are entirely right to be determined to keep the core of working royals a small, tight unit that can be accountable to the public purse.”

Everyone's got an opinion on that matter, but, as ever, what the King says goes.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.