Despite all her qualities, the late queen would never have claimed a deep interest in cultural matters. Perhaps it was all those decades of awful royal variety performances and awful movie gala premieres inflicted on her that deterred her from being closely associated with the performing arts.
Alan Bennett amusingly imagined his relationship with Queen’s Pictures surveyor Anthony Blunt, disgraced after being exposed as a Soviet spy. She seemed to attend concerts out of duty, uncomplainingly but without much commitment, and the only connection between her and the architecture that most of us remember was her distress as she walked through the ruins of part of the Windsor Castle damaged by fire in the annus horribilis of 1992.
Our new king is a very different matter. His reputation for concern with cultural and aesthetic issues is based above all on his vision of architecture, but this is only one aspect of his artistic interests. He played the cello, has a deep interest in church music and did much to elevate the reputation and stimulate interest in the works of Sir Hubert Parry, the great composer known universally for writing the Majestic Air from Jerusalem . , but unfortunately for little else. He is an accomplished amateur watercolourist and sells lithographs of his paintings to raise money for his charities.
He is remarkably cultured, and not just in the great works of English literature (his despatch to his late mother, “Let flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” was taken from Hamlet and not, like some less educated seem to think, purely of his first wife’s funeral service) and a lot of non-fiction. He and the Queen Consort (who shares many of his cultural passions and is active and very engaged in matters related to his patronages) have regularly and enthusiastically attended classical music concerts, opera and theatre, as well as as well as galleries, museums and exhibitions.
He has many patronages in the arts including the Royal Opera House, Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BBC National Orchestra of Wales. His charity, The Prince’s Foundation (now The King’s Foundation) long funded the School of Traditional Arts, which helps train people to pursue artistic practices long associated with great civilizations, including stained glass, marquetry, iconography, frescoes and sculpture.