Tree-talking King Charles poses in front of a century-old oak tree for a birthday photo

Tree-talking King Charles poses in front of a century-old oak tree for a birthday photo


LONDON — For years he’s been teased for being a royal ‘tree hugger’ who communes with plants. But with a new official portrait released on his 74th birthday on Monday, Britain’s King Charles III appears to be content to embrace his reputation as a nature lover.

The image shows the new monarch leaning against an old oak tree, in creamy autumn light, on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

With the birthday snap releaseBuckingham Palace has announced that he has added to his long list of royal titles and becomes Ranger of Windsor Great Park, guiding the day-to-day stewardship of one of the oldest landed estates in the country.

What kind of monarch will King Charles III be? Different from his mom.

But the official photos released by the palace are PR with a point. And that’s not all it seems to be saying.

Charles is a lifelong ardent conservationist who has been warning about the impending threat of climate change and species extinction for decades. As a young prince, his first public speech was about the dangers of pollution.

His 2010 book “Harmony” is a 336-page manifesto on how humanity’s greatest problems are rooted in our disconnection from nature. He created foundations “to promote holistic solutions to today’s world”.

He touts the benefits of bees, homeopathic medicine, sustainable agriculture, elephant conservation and hedgerows.

How hippies, farmers and Prince Charles are preserving the ancient art of the hedge

And he admitted to holding conversations with trees.

“I like to talk to plants and trees, and I listen to them. I think it’s absolutely crucial,” he told a BBC interviewer in 2010. His followers confirmed that he often gives a leafy branch “a friendly shake to wish it luck.”

Perhaps the photo posted on Monday is his sly response: “So what?”

Years ago, some British commentators thought Charles was too New Age, too mystical, too crisp. But now some say he was ahead of his time. David Attenborough’s documentaries have shown how plants communicate. Britain, meanwhile, has become a composting, bee-friendly and green energy-promoting nation that has pledged to be “net zero” on emissions by 2050.

It is not yet clear whether Charles will, like his predecessors to the throne, claim a separate official birthday in a more temperate month.

Queen Elizabeth II’s last birthday photograph, when she turned 96, showed her wearing a dark cape, holding the reins of two of her own stunningly white ponies.

Twitter said — mostly approvingly — that she looked like Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings.” The image conveyed power, wealth, control – and a good education. It was not an old woman bent over her cane, as we will see a few months later. She was the boss.

It’s too early to know what kind of monarch Charles will be. An eco-king? Or a more subdued militant now that he is seated on the throne.

Prince Charles, once dismissed as a plant-talking eccentric, takes his environmental bona fides to COP26

Charles was a rock star at last year’s UN climate conference in Glasgow, known as COP26. But after a discussion with short-lived British Prime Minister Liz Truss, he agreed not to attend this year’s meeting in Egypt.

Some of his biographers wondered how far the new king would be able to recall his public advocacy.

Maybe this photo is Charles saying he intends to stay in the game.

King Charles III wants to look to the future. “The Crown” takes him back.

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