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British young adults are hoping for change as King Charles brings forth a new era


Queen Elizabeth II has been laid to rest at St. George's Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle. The official national period of mourning is over. And the focus now shifts to King Charles III and to what many younger Brits hope is a new era that brings change.

BEN BAKER: Hi. My name's Ben Baker (ph). I'm from Surrey, which is in the home counties. And I'm 23 years old.

ATIYA CHAUDHRY: Hi. My name's Atiya Chaudhry (ph). I'm 22. And I'm from Hampshire.

MADDIE BAKER: Hi. I'm Maddie Baker (ph). And I'm from Kingston.

MARTIN: I talked with these three young people over the weekend. They all recently graduated with master's degrees from City, University of London, each of them looking for their first jobs - an eye toward their country's future and their own. So much of the city was shut down, even the parks. So the easiest place for us to meet was at our hotel near Buckingham Palace. They were all feeling reflective. But they were watching all the memorials and ceremonies with a certain emotional distance.

B BAKER: I think younger generations have a lot more apathy towards the monarchy. I don't think that there's the same reverence. And I personally think that, maybe in the next 20, 30 years, there's no doubt going to be other countries that the queen and now Charles is head of state of - there will be moves there to have a referendum on whether they should have a monarchy and that the queen and now king should be head of state.

MARTIN: Other members of the commonwealth?

B BAKER: Commonwealth. It's a conversation that the U.K. can't avoid because the monarchy will probably be in retreat globally after the passing of the queen. And I think that that will start a conversation in the U.K. about whether we should be doing similar things.

MARTIN: Atiya, you have thoughts?

CHAUDHRY: I grew up in an immigrant household. And my family are from Bangladesh, which is a former British colony. So my perspective of the crown is very different. And I never, like, growing up, understood why we had, like, a royal family. I think what's kind of baffling is that a lot of people expect the same reaction regarding the queen's death from everyone. And they want everyone to kind of have that respect. So I don't know about the future of where I want the monarchy to go. But I definitely want them to take more accountability for the history, because I don't think you can separate that from the crown.

MARTIN: You're talking about the history of colonialism, the exploitation of resources, quelling rebellions, in particular in Bangladesh. Can you tell me why your family ended up leaving?

CHAUDHRY: I think - see, a lot of people don't realize is an impact of colonialism is that when the British were in these countries, they were kind of telling everyone, come to England - there's a better life there - because they wanted the labor. So even now in Bangladesh, like, my relatives that are still there, they think coming to England will improve their life so much, that they'll come here and everything will suddenly become better. But then coming here as an immigrant is so hard. And they don't understand that because they still have this fantasy in their head that life is better here for them, but it's really not.

MARTIN: Maddie, how do you think about the long-term prospects of the monarchy?

M BAKER: Well, actually, I'd say that I agree in a lot of ways with what has just been said. I think that there's so many historical things that need to be taken into account. I do have a kind of - a bit of a soft spot for the queen in particular. And the idea of the monarchy is not really the same to me as the queen. And so, yeah, that institution, I don't have that same attachment. So that slightly - it feels like I'm kind of going to a clean slate. But I think that it's really important that they adjust to now. And for young people, I think that it's really important that they kind of have that olive branch and try and reach out, things like trying to improve relations with Prince Harry and Meghan. I think that would be a really good way to bring more young people on side and kind of make sure that they are, you know, adjusting into the century that we are in. We are not, you know, in the 19th century. It's not the British Empire. It's a different era. And I think they need to make sure that they're adjusting to that.

MARTIN: What are the issues that are most important to you? What's worrying you as a young person in the U.K. right now?

B BAKER: In general?

MARTIN: Yeah, in general.

B BAKER: I think climate change has to be near the top. I think most young people would say that. I think a lot of young people worry about not having the same opportunities to earn and get on the property ladder, as their parents and grandparents would have had. And I think a lot of younger people want a more inclusive, fair society, because I think a lot of people see that we're not going to have exactly the same opportunities as our parents, grandparents had it.

MARTIN: Atiya?

CHAUDHRY: I would say, right now, probably the cost of living crisis. I feel like there's this, like...

MARTIN: Inflation's really high?

CHAUDHRY: ...Crippling fear that makes me feel paralyzed. Like, how am I just going to live? I feel like a baby that's come out of an egg and, like, the sun's too bright. And that sun is, like, the cost of living. That's been hard to deal with.

MARTIN: Yeah. Maddie?

M BAKER: I would kind of agree about the economic and political situation at the moment. I think there's so many political challenges that are going on, with the war in Ukraine, energy prices, domestic issues. I think all of that coming together, it makes quite a bleak picture for a young person, you know? It's, like, really hard with job opportunities, finding full-time work for a lot of people. And I think it's - yeah - kind of hard to be hopeful at the moment with stuff like that.

MARTIN: Which means King Charles has work to do if he wants to win over a younger generation.

CHAUDHRY: Personally, for me, I don't think there's anything about him that kind of appeals to me as a person. I don't know. Does that sound too harsh?


CHAUDHRY: I'm just like, I don't think he cares for someone like me, which means that I don't care for someone like him.

MARTIN: Atiya Chaudhry, Maddie Baker and Ben Baker - no relation - all recent graduates from the journalism master's program at City, University of London.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAKENOBU'S "FIGHT TO MAKE IT UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.