THE passing of the Iron Duke, cantankerous war hero and devoted consort of the most famous woman on the planet, leaves a gaping hole on our national stage.
Can Prince Charles fill the gap? Indeed, a question murmured quietly for several decades, can the monarchy survive King Charles III?
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After Saturday’s sublime display of sun-drenched pageantry and genuine public grief, watched by millions worldwide, it is hard to imagine the House of Windsor in decline.
But Queen Elizabeth is almost 95 and her reign as our much-loved monarch is inevitably drawing to a close.
Three dangers lie ahead for an institution that has withstood every possible threat over centuries of war and peace — and one huge asset.
The first risk is from a statue-toppling woke generation with a rackety view of history and a raw hatred of Britain’s imperial past — a role inseparable from the Kings and Queens of England.
The second is the sort of unforeseen but inevitable catastrophe that has rocked royalty down the ages — including the death of Princess Diana and the Epstein scandal engulfing Prince Andrew.
Third, there is the real and immediate danger of further bombshell revelations by Harry and Meghan on prime-time coast-to-coast American television.
The huge asset in this list is Kate Middleton.
The willow-slim mother-of-three has emerged as the monarchy’s increasingly self-confident new “strength and stay”.
Her husband William has grown visibly into the role as stalwart heir to the throne.
But it will almost certainly be due to the diplomatic efforts of the Duchess of Cambridge if the breach between Harry and William is to be healed.
The first promising move in that direction came after Saturday’s funeral, with the Duchess bringing the two feuding brothers together.
Rehearsed, perhaps, but a precious beginning.
The two men were joined by Prince Charles on the walk back to the Castle and for a couple of hours afterwards at the reception.
We don’t know what was said but finding a way to welcome Harry, Meghan and their children back into the royal fold would be a spectacular triumph for all involved. There is a lot of repair work to be done.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have let it be known that they have evidence of private palace conversations and are ready to use it.
They have already ripped aside the curtain of mystique that has protected the House of Windsor for generations to reveal a family at war.
If Meghan’s friends are right, there is plenty more dirty washing to be aired in public.
The Royal Family has surely learned from the searing confessions of Diana and Charles and the flesh-crawling Newsnight grilling of Prince Andrew that TV interviews are reputational suicide.
Prince Harry’s commercial value has soared in the USA, but his UK reputation is at rock bottom.
The Royal Family has learned to live with scandals that go with unearned wealth and unimaginable privilege.
Netflix’s often fictional The Crown series has turned the House of Windsor into a global soap opera.
Uniquely, the Queen rides above it all, personally unscathed, her own reputation enhanced.
Can the Prince of Wales, now 72, learn her secrets of silence and endurance?
Can he then hold it all together until William ascends the throne with Queen Kate at his side?
Charles has steadily risen in public esteem since the collapse of his marriage to Diana and her tragic death in a Paris car crash.
The public broadly accepts Camilla as his wife and future Queen.
His impressive tribute last week to his dead father moved the nation. But behind his affable smile, Charles is a man with a temper and a tendency to speak — and write — his mind.
He might be 80 before ascending the throne, a long time waiting in the wings.
If he is to fill that huge gap left by his father — and even more so one day by his mother — he must remember that silence is his saviour.