Rumi Verjee, a British businessman, philanthropist and member of the House of Lords whose relationship with the new monarch goes back 40 years, says King Charles III will be a different ruler than his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Speaking to CTV News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Omar Sachedina, Verjee said he has been “fortunate” to meet the King “many times.” Verjee was in Westminster Hall on Monday as the King addressed members of both Houses of Parliament for the first time.
“It’s such a historic occasion to see a change in the monarchy,” Verjee said. “I actually felt for him to have this huge weight of history.”
While Verjee acknowledges the King has had “many years to prepare” to step into the role of Sovereign, he said there’s still a lot of pressure when the time finally comes.
“Just like the Queen’s passing, we knew it was going to happen, but actually it’s still a shock when it happens. And I think for him he’s been preparing for so many years — it’s still a huge shock,” Verjee said.
Verjee added that the King’s mother has just died, meaning he has to take on these new responsibilities during a time of personal sadness and grief.
“I’ve lost a mother and I know how I felt at that time. I couldn’t imagine having to face the cameras and face the public,” he said.
Having known the King for years, Verjee said he is a “very sensitive and emotional man.” He added the King has “huge boots to fill,” and knows it.
“Imagine being in this job and you can’t say what you think, you can’t show what you feel and that you have to be completely above everything,” Verjee said. “I think that’s going to be the toughest job for him.”
Verjee said the Queen was “really good” at hiding her emotions and “never slipped up” as to let others know what she was thinking. The King is not like that, he said.
“At the end of the day, he is a monarch, but he’s also a human being,” he said.
However, Verjee said the King will be just as committed to the responsibilities of being Sovereign as the Queen was.
“(The Queen) was just incredibly dedicated to the job that she inherited and was given, and I think King Charles has the same… sense of public duty,” Verjee said in an interview on Tuesday.
THE FATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH AND THE MONARCHY
Despite being a sensitive man, Verjee said the King is also dogmatic when it comes to issues he cares about, such as the environment and combating climate change.
“He’s been talking about the environment for years and years and years, and people laughed at him,” he said.
“I think now, particularly with his new role, people are seeing that this is a man who has strong views, will stick to them if he believes that they’re right and it’s extraordinary.”
While there has been a lot of discussion about the King “modernizing” the monarchy, there has been no definition of what that modernization would look like. Verjee said doing so will be “difficult” but thinks the King “will achieve” it.
“I think he will be a modernizer,” Verjee said. “He’ll face lots of challenges like the Queen, but when you think about it, he’s been prepared for this job for years and years.”
He says the King is a “great listener” and considers the thoughts of others in his work.
“He’s very attuned to the opinion of the public,” Verjee said. “I think that the biggest benefit we have with the monarchy is that they can take a much longer term view than politicians can.”
“He will think 10, 20, 30 years ahead, which is a great asset to us as a country.”
Verjee describes the King as “highly knowledgeable and highly caring” – someone who is keenly aware of current global issues.
“It’s scary when you actually go and meet him. You realize this is a guy who has so much wisdom and so much knowledge and he’s seen so many people, and yet you have to give your opinion,” Verjee explained. “And he values that opinion, which is also great too.”
When it comes to Commonwealth Nations looking to drop the British monarch as their head of state, Verjee said those are “more political issues” the King won’t really be a part of.
“I think he’ll have sympathy or empathy with what has gone on in history, and I think he’s shown that they’re tough issues, but I think these are more political issues of today. And I think that’s again going to be a very tough thing for King Charles to not… put his views across, but he can’t put those across publicly,” he said.
MEETING KING CHARLES III
While he can’t recall their exact first meeting, Verjee said he met the King “very early on,” when Verjee was around the age of 25.
“I’ve been fortunate to sit next to him at a dinner for quite a few occasions. He’s a very kind, caring person,” he said.
Verjee recalled one dinner at Clarence House sitting next to the then prince. Protocol dictates that members of the Royal Family must first talk to the person on the right during the first course, then the person sitting beside them on the left for the second course.
However, the present King went against the rule when he noticed a problem with Verjee’s dish.
“The food arrived and on the plate was pork. And he says to me, ‘Rumi, did they not ask you what you want? And I said, ‘No’. And he was so polite and then I just (pushed) it aside on… the plate and ate the rest of the dish,” Verjee explained. He does not eat pork due to religious reasons.
“But these are the sorts of things he notices — this attention to detail and care… not many people would have noticed… (he’s) highly aware of culture and faith.”
When it comes to his reign, Verjee said the King will be looking to cement his own legacy – a part from that of his mother’s.
“Knowing him as a man, I think he’ll be looking to see what difference he can make. Because he doesn’t want to be just this figurehead; he wants to leave the world a better place,” he said.