Maxim Behar for the bTV special on the accession of King Charles III to the throne of Great Britain
The PR expert Maxim Behar took part in the bTV special edition of the broadcasting the coronation ceremony of Charles III. The journalist and diplomat Maxim Behar shared his observations of the ceremony, as well as his opinion on what lies ahead. Behar also shared about his personal encounters with the current king and talked more about his personality.
Host: About the new era that is beginning and the era that is gone, we will talk with our panelists in the studio – the translator Mariana Hill and the communication expert and diplomat Maxim Behar. Hello and welcome! Mr. Behar, the ceremony will be televised for the first time and the curtain will be raised to show curious details surrounding such a centuries-old tradition. How do you read this sign?
Maxim: Today's ceremony at St James's Palace, actually the place where I met the then Prince and now King Charles 19 years ago, has two very strong, symbolic messages. The first is that it is the first time the world has seen such a ceremony directly, and it is truly a grand show. This is a very interesting Saturday news that the whole of Great Britain and parts of the former British Empire, and many people who are interested in it, will be watching, and experiencing. The second message, but actually the first of importance, is the demonstration of the very good succession of power from the mother - Queen Elizabeth II to her son, who has been waiting for many years to ascend the throne and today it is happening. Continuity of power in one of the most symbolic and stable monarchies in the world - the British Monarchy - is of the utmost importance, especially now in 2022, when the world is a mess, and it is not at all known who stands where. Moreover, Great Britain itself made a very difficult and painful exit from the European Union, and it is not yet clear whether the opposite will happen.
Host: Is it possible that now with the accession of Charles to the throne, this will be reversed?
Maxim: No, I don't think that matters at all, because in the end King Charles III will continue his mother's strategy - not to get involved in the day-to-day political problems and quarrels at all. By the way, the Queen, during her lifetime, showed an extremely powerful symbol some two or three weeks before the referendum on Britain's exit from the European Union - the Queen appeared in one of her addresses wearing the colors of the European Union. It was kind of a super strong message that didn't impact at the time, but it showed her opinion in a very subtle and sophisticated way. Like a queen.
Host: Mr. Behar, can you tell us more about Charles beyond the public image. You actually communicated with Him personally. You are part of the organization for His welcoming in 2003 in Bulgaria. You can tell us more curious details what kind of person the current king of Great Britain is.
Maxim: It so happened that the then Prince Charles came to Bulgaria due to some strange confluence of circumstances. This is his second visit, the first was in 1998. Tsar Simeon, being the prime minister, invited me to go with him to London for a business forum. When I left for London, I decided that I should give Prince Charles a present. Usually, the gifts are either a jar of jam or rose oil. I sat down and wrote the first standard for business ethics in Bulgaria. I put it in a frame - one for the Tsar, one for Prince Charles, and left for London, where there was a business forum at the Bulgarian Embassy. However, Charles did not come, one of his directors came. During a short speech, I said to the Tsar, "Mr. Prime Minister, here is your standard of business ethics, I expect His Royal Highness Prince Charles to come and receive it as well. However, the lady appeared - Susan Simpson, the European director of the forum, and she said, "Prince Charles is very apologetic", and so, to get out of that situation, I gave the standard of business ethics and said to her, "Susan, give it to Prince Charles and tell him that if he does not come to Bulgaria by the end of the year, to return it to me." And so, a humorous situation, people laughed, I went home to Sofia and 3-4 days later I received an invitation from Prince Charles, which is in the office. He invited me to lunch at St. James's Palace. I went to this lunch, very long story. I had to be at the Royal Automobile Club at 7:30 to be briefed on the royal protocol with Prince Charles. When I asked how to address him, they replied, "Very simply, address him as 'Sir'". And when we started having lunch, Prince Charles also addressed me as "Sir" and I froze a bit because he addresses me that way I address him. I will tell you a story or two afterwards to show you what kind of man Prince Charles is. Very personal stories that I have never told anywhere.
Host: This is the first time we've seen this ceremony live; it's been a secret until now.
Maxim: The world is changing. Everything is transparent. How could a coronation ceremony in one of the most stable countries in the world be a secret. This is absurd. And again, this is a wonderful opportunity for the world to see that continuity. The members of this Privy Council are characterized as "public figures" - politicians, important personalities, artists, people who influence public opinion. So, all these people who are signing up are saying "We guarantee that what Queen Elizabeth had as a public demeanor, as a policy, as guidelines and messages will be continued by her son King Charles III." Extremely well done, even purely from a visual standpoint as a script. Everything is very well arranged. Congratulations! Long live the King! Great Britain has a new head of state.
Host: Mr. Behar, what do you think about the exchange of banknotes and more?
Maxim: As a pragmatist, I'm not too sure it's worth all the expense. With all due respect to the monarchy, especially the modern monarchy, but if a few billion have to be invested to replace seals, flags, post boxes and everything else, because that's an awful lot of symbols that have been in Britain for 70 years and not only there. I'm not sure something better couldn't be done with that money. However, in the end, it also depends on the new king. I'm not too sure he would agree to such an expense, maybe something more universal should be done that represents the monarchical institution in Britain and doesn't require replacements. If the new king is alive and well, of course, but this is a huge expense in a time of crisis.
Maxim: Yes, Britain has a new king. Long live the new King. The world has a new serious player on the political stage – King Charles, head of state of Great Britain and at the same time head of state of the British Commonwealth. Countries in which, if I am not mistaken, there are 3 billion people. King Charles is a good man, I’ve said this so many times. I will tell you a story which shows what the prince was then, and the king is now. I have many stories with him, because during all our meetings together there was always something to hang on to. I myself am quite an extroverted person and I behave very freely in such meetings. One day one of his assistants from St. James called my office, perhaps shortly before he married Camilla. She told me "Mr. Behar, His Royal Highness wants to know...", I no longer remember the specific case, and after three minutes she called me again. This went on 5-6 times. And at that moment I said to her "Look, if His Royal Highness wants to tell me something, he can call me" and hung up the phone. After that, I wondered what kind of person I am, how is it possible, but I had 20 people on my head, projects, clients. There is one letter in my office, of the many correspondences I have had with Prince Charles. A single letter sits on the reception desk in my office, and it reads as follows: "Dear Maxim, I hope you will forgive me for not having the opportunity to speak to you in person, but I have asked my friend Bill Drysdale to contact you and tell you in detail about this project I want you to participate in.” I sunk to the ground in shame. I put this letter in the office. You can imagine that there is no one in Bulgaria who would write such a letter. I wouldn't write it. "Forgive me" is a great phrase and shows where this person stands. He always stood high, always looked at the world from above, but at the same time exudes kindness and the possibility of dialogue with everyone. I told Mariana about this other story when I met him at the then Sheraton Hotel, he came from a meeting with President Parvanov and went through the back entrance. He asked me to show him where he could wash his hands. We immediately pointed him to a toilet. After he came out, he asked me if this was the same hotel, he was in 4 years ago. And I answered him "Yes, it's the same hotel". Then he replied, "I recognized it by the towels!"
Host: Will this humanity now disappear because of the protocol?
Maxim: No, quite the opposite. He will show even more affection for the people he meets, show even more humanity, because after all, he had a lot of conflicting writings around him. It seems to me that all these things will be forgotten. This is THE King.
Maxim: Can I respond to Mrs. Hlebarova, who joined about an hour ago, and mentioned the attempts to invite the queen to Bulgaria. Yes, I did try a lot. This is one of my unfulfilled dreams and I found a letter that I sent to your team last night, sent by the Queen's private secretary, in which he told me that, very regretfully, Queen Elizabeth is not planning a trip to Bulgaria, but has accepted the invitation with great interest. Tsar Simeon gave me a lot of strength and inspiration to try. And when I spoke to Charles and told him "I want to invite your mother to Bulgaria", he turned and said, "You should write to Her Majesty and maybe she will accept this invitation". We failed, but many attempts were made. We hope that King Charles III will come to Bulgaria for the third time, and we will work for that. This will be a great symbol for Bulgarian-British relations.