Maxim Behar: Can Charles III visit Bulgaria as king?September, 2022
Host: On September 8th, the last journey of Queen Elizabeth II began. Our next guest is one of the few people who have met the current King Charles III. With him we will discuss the topics "What will change now?", "Is Charles prepared to be king?" and "Should we be concerned about these changes in the monarchy here in Bulgaria?".
Maxim: Many things are changing. First, I think King Charles will be a more modern king. Although in Britain the royal institution is not an executive institution, he is ultimately a very important figure. For as long as we all remember Queen Elizabeth, she was much out of politics, someone who never took a position, even after those post-war years when she became Queen at a very young age. I think Charles has some more modern views and will make the monarchy itself a bit more modern and a bit more politically driven. Naturally, he cannot take sides, but we cannot fail to realize that monarchies are now a little outdated. They no longer have that importance, that imperial setting that they had years ago. All these monarchies also do a little more modern business. You know, in Belgium the monarch abdicated in favor of his son, in Spain too, so that younger people could take over and actually make the monarchy guarantee a state succession rather than a political one. At the same time, to be a stimulus and motivator for the development of a society. But this is happening in Great Britain, of course, we will follow through the first manifestations of King Charles III.
Host: A lot of changes are happening - all the symbols on which was the face of the queen. Should King Charles be the next monarch? Shouldn't he also have abdicated in favor of his sons, so that Britain could again have such a long reign as the queen's?
Maxim: I think it was the logical development of events, since he is 73 years old. Looking at his mother and father, I think he has another 30 years on the royal throne. It seems to me that the shock of the British themselves would have been much greater if they had seen William as king and his father standing aside and remaining the Prince of Wales. Queen Elizabeth was the only legitimate heir to the throne. Now there is also no choice, because the change of this tradition and the change of monarchical laws and canons in general would have caused a great disruption. Britain has had enough cataclysms, it left the European Union, all these things happened with Boris Johnson, at the moment there is a prime minister without a government. Once the period of mourning is over, King Charles must appoint a government, as it cannot be appointed without his signature. There are enough problems to create one more. You all saw how Charles suddenly changed in that one week. Did the people around him who consult him, change him. Everyone saw his extraordinary gesture during the signing of the proclamation, when they had placed an inkstand with pens, and he asked that they be removed, reached into his inner pocket, took out his pen, and signed the proclamation with his pen. Like Biden did, like Trump did and everybody does. It was a very strong symbol that he has his own life and knew what he was doing in his own way.
Host: Is it possible that these changes will have a domino effect to other changes, namely, to separate a country from the Commonwealth? There was already such a request, such rumors are heard. Will this not change the monarchy in general?
Maxim: I wouldn't call it a domino effect. There may be changes. There is a very strong movement in Scotland to separate from the United Kingdom so that they can remain in the European Union. There are very strong voices in Scotland that they would like to be a member of the EU and therefore should leave. It could have happened with Queen Elizabeth, it could have happened with King Charles. Everything depends on the situation in the world, as we see at the moment - total chaos. We'll see how things change. And not only the war in Ukraine, although it reflects very strongly on Europe. Personally, I deeply dream of Britain returning to the European Union. It can happen. Maybe after 2-3-4-5 years there will be a referendum again. If you have seen the movie "Brexit" it is very clearly shown that actually my business, the Public Relations business, has won this whole fight.
Host: King Charles has come twice officially, you have met, you know him personally. Do you think he would come again and what does that mean?
Maxim: Already as a king, it seems to me a bit more difficult for him to visit to Bulgaria, but I do not rule it out. The Tsar, who is related to the royal family, would play a big role in this. All the times I spoke to the then Prince Charles, he always referred to him as "my cousin". The Tsar always called him either "the prince" or "my cousin". I don't know if things can change that much. If King Charles comes to Bulgaria, he will come as a very high-ranking person, as head of state, it will be very official. While his second visit in March 2003 was extremely businesslike and pragmatic. He arrived with a whole plane of British businessmen who liked Bulgaria very much.
Host: Who started this whole thing? Why did the prince come here in 2003?
Maxim: The story is very familiar. A few months earlier, the Tsar, who was prime minister at the time, called me, and I was the chairman of the Bulgarian Forum of Business Leaders. He called me and told me that he was going to have a meeting at the Bulgarian Embassy, where the prince would also be present, and he invited me. I went to London, to the Bulgarian Embassy. We were a delegation of maybe 30-40 Bulgarian businessmen. I know we traveled on Monday morning and all weekend I was thinking about what present should I give to Prince Charles. And then I decided to write the first standard for business ethics in Bulgaria. On Sunday I called a Scottish friend of mine - Gilbert McCall, who lived and still lives opposite the BBLF office. I wrote the standard, he proofread it, I put it in a frame I found somewhere at home, we made two copies, and on Monday morning we left for London. At this forum, however, Prince Charles did not come anyway for one reason or another. I had a short speech, the Tsar was next to me on the stage. I said to him 'Mr. Prime Minister, here is your standard for business ethics, the other one was for Prince Charles, but he is not here'. And suddenly a lady with a big hat and a small bag raised her hand and said, "Excuse me, I'm his European Director of the Business Leaders Forum, I can get it on his behalf". She came on stage, and to get out of this situation, I had to make a joke. I also said "Susan, here is this standard, give it to Prince Charles and tell him that if he doesn't come to Bulgaria in a few months, to return it to me". Everyone laughed and I forgot about this story. A few days later, after I had already returned to Sofia, I received an invitation from the prince. He was inviting me to lunch at St. James's, the same palace from which he had been formally proclaimed king a few days ago. And so, I went to London. I checked into a very cheap hotel because most hotels in London are insanely expensive. The owner was a Pakistani and there were 3-4 rooms in the hotel. He saw me in the morning dressing up formally and asked me if I had a date. I told him that I was going to see Prince Charles. I'm sure he doesn't believe it to this day, he looked at me very suspiciously. I'm sure he said "He, in such a hotel for £40?!". And so, we had a very good lunch, I handed him this standard of business ethics, we talked a lot. Finally, when I told him "Your Royal Highness, you should consider your visit to Bulgaria, it will help Bulgarian business a lot, your cousin is the Prime Minister.” And already, when he was sending me off at the end, he told me "I would consider a trip to Bulgaria". We talked for more than two hours with him during that lunch. I can't remember if there was a time limit, but I do remember that at 7:30 I had to be at the Royal Automobile Club for an instruction briefing. But the Royal Automobile Club, which was founded in 500-600 ago, has nothing to do with cars. There were some people there who swimming in a pool, were reading "The Times", and I was standing in a small room where they instructed me how to behave, how to eat, how to address him. I was told to address him as "Sir" or "Your Royal Highness". I used the address 'Sir', however, and he addressed me that way too, and I was terribly worried throughout lunch that we both had the same address. That was the protocol. And when I returned to Bulgaria, I forgot about this lunch again. One day Ian Suter, who was then the British Ambassador in Bulgaria, called me and invited me for coffee. And I decided there was something going on. I went and we went into the garden. He told me “He's coming! He's coming next month!". At first, I didn't even understand who it was about. Of course, the official invitation was from President Georgi Parvanov, because he is the head of state, and Charles is number 2 in Great Britain. President Parvanov had a meeting with him, then we went to dinner. There were five of us at this dinner. Me, the prince, the president and the two ambassadors. I have a story. Before the official part, when his team came, the so-called advanced team, they asked me what my wish was. I said to them, “Look, this standard of business ethics I want Prince Charles to give to several companies, part of the Business Leaders' Forum. They said they would pull out a list of British companies. Then, slightly impolitely, I replied, "To the British companies, he can also deliver this standard in London. I want Bulgarian companies". We did this official event, he presented these awards, and we went to the next hall of the Sheraton, where there were stands of Bulgarian companies that produce quality Bulgarian goods for export. We pass between them, and I have an exact picture of him turning to me asking me what I expect from him now. And I said to him "Your Highness, there are 90 companies inside waiting for you and wanting to be photographed with you" and he exclaimed "Oh my God!". Then I told him “You'll make it, I'm sure. You have had greater obstacles." There were a lot of pictures, a lot of videos, but the most important result was really these British businessmen who came on the same plane with him. I'm sure everyone remembers the British property buying boom in Bulgaria. They weren't French, they weren't Dutch, they weren't German...
Host: And on that line of thought… what do we say to those people who stay at home and switch the channels and don't care. They haven't seen the queen, she hasn't come here, they don't really care.
Maxim: This is happening in the world. This is interesting news. One of the few that is not a catastrophe, a murder, an accident, a theft, a lie, a war. This is world news, if you don't like it, change the channel. We can't help but pay attention to something interesting happening in the world. I think we are not overdosing because it happens once every 70 years. A big event. All these memories are a good thing and if British businessmen, as I know quite a few, happily married to Bulgarian women, look at these memories that we talk about, I am sure that their hearts flutter and they say to themselves "It was very nice that Prince Charles came to Bulgaria twice". When I told him at St. James's Palace that I really wanted to see him, he replied, “Look, I have a problem with the protocol. It is not proper for a member of the royal family to go anywhere twice in less than 5 years. Moreover, Bulgaria is not part of the Commonwealth". I am sure that the presence of the Tsar greatly influenced this. Again, this is part of Bulgarian history. Historical events are happening in the world right now. One of them is the death of the Queen and the accession to the throne of the new King of Great Britain. The more opinions, the more points of view, the better for the viewers, listeners, and readers themselves, because they will be enriched by it.