Prince Charles' Popularity Has Taken A Nosedive. Here's Why

Poor Prince Charles. His mother, Queen Elizabeth, took the throne as a young woman and has likely been the U.K.'s reigning monarch for longer than most of her subjects have been alive. Charles, on the other hand, is no longer young. In fact, even his sons are entering their middle years. And yet, still he waits.

While we've no doubt Charles is genuinely very fond of and close to his royal mum, the fact is, as long as she sits on the throne, he will never get to occupy it. What's more, there may be more than a few Britons who'd like to see the crown pass him by entirely and go directly to Prince William. So why no love for Charles? According to YouGov's latest poll, he ranks as only the 7th-most popular royal with an approval rating of just 45%. In comparison, the queen holds the top spot, with a 76% approval rating, with William close behind and Kate Middleton bringing up the third spot. (Down at the bottom, in order, are Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and Prince Andrew.) Well, the roots of Prince Charles' unpopularity go back for a few decades, although recent events haven't really helped him out much.

Prince Charles' popularity plummeted due to his marital troubles

Prince Charles was once quite a popular member of the royal family, and possibly never more so than at the time of his fairytale wedding to Lady Diana Spencer. Okay, so maybe he's not exactly the spitting image of a Disney prince, but he still looked quite dashing in his military uniform, and as far as we know, that lovely young girl in the super-poofy dress really was completely enamored of her Prince Charming. Cue the ominous music and segue into "had we but known..."

To be fair to Charles, his marriage to the much-younger Diana was more or less an arranged one, or at least one deemed to be suitable for a future king (via US Weekly). Even so, unhappy marriages often have a tendency to get ugly, and theirs was no exception. What was exceptional — and very unfortunate for all parties involved — was how it played out in front of a global audience. As the fairytale turned into a kitchen sink drama, it soon became clear who the people's choice for villain was: none other than Prince Not-So-Charming After All. As Newsweek reports, historic polling data shows that 82% of U.K. residents polled in 1991 felt Charles would make a good king. By 1996, the year he and Diana finalized their split, fully half of his future subjects had changed their mind, leaving him with an approval rating of just 41%

This is what's contributing to a revival in anti-Charles sentiment

Over the past quarter-century, Charles' reputation has never really recovered. Sure, most have come to accept his marriage to Camilla, and he's managed to keep himself relatively scandal-free. Well, there's that "cash for honors" thing — according to The Guardian, Charles has been accused of making nice with shady characters in exchange for large donations to his Prince's Foundation charity. Still, as far as scandals go, it's nowhere near in the same league as his brother Andrew's shenanigans. Whether or not people have revised their opinion of Charles solely on the basis of this, it's hard to say, but there are a few other factors contributing to his recent drop in popularity.

For one thing, as Newsweek says, there are the shots Prince Harry will periodically lob from his Montecito mansion where he complains about how Charles cut him off without a penny — well, it's possible these complaints may lose Charles a few popularity points with the American audience. What's really harming him, though, is the TV series "The Crown," which is rehashing the bad old days of his breakup with Diana for an audience too young to remember when it happened. Polling numbers seem to bear out the "Crown" effect: in June of 2020, there were still 38% of the population who felt that Charles would make a good king. After season four of the Netflix series dropped in November, these numbers dropped by 6%.

It's possible Prince Charles could see his popularity revive once he takes the throne

Whether or not the majority of people in Great Britain would like to see Prince Charles take the throne, the British monarchy has never been in the business of playing to popular opinion or letting opinion polls determine matters of succession. Whether Queen Elizabeth does choose to abdicate (perhaps in time for her own 100th birthday) or retains her crown for the rest of her life, it's more than likely that Charles will be the next monarch and William will have to wait for his turn.

As royal watcher Richard Fitzwilliams told the Express, he fully expects to see Charles' popularity shoot was up once he does take the throne. After all, he points out, Charles has been very visible standing in for the queen, supporting various charities, and working as an environmental activist, and once he's king, he's expected to continue in this role. Fitzwilliams suspects that ageism may be at the root of Charles' mediocre poll numbers, saying "It's very much the case, probably, that he's near 72 and when someone has been in that position, it's very easy to take what they do for granted." Once he's king, though, he'll no longer be the boy who waited (and waited, and waited), but he'll be the man in charge, and it's likely that over the next 20 years or so, he will age into the same sort of beloved, iconic, nation's grandfather-type figure as his father, the late Prince Philip.