A source close to the royal household tells PEOPLE they’re “impressed” by the smooth transition to King Charles’ reign despite “little hiccups”
As the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s death approaches on Sept. 8, the royal family is still adjusting to life without their matriarch.
King Charles and Queen Camilla kept his mother’s tradition of spending the late summer at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where Queen Elizabeth spent her final weeks and died last year. While a former palace staffer describes the royal residence as having a chance to “leave your crown on the gatepost and put your raincoat on,” there’s no doubt that the King, Queen and other members of the royal family visiting the estate — including Prince William and Kate Middleton — have bittersweet feeling about this return to the Scottish Highlands.
The former palace staffer tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, “When [the royals] walk into a room, I’m sure they expect [the Queen] to be there. Balmoral was her favorite place in the world, and now will be the time that they reflect on her loss.”
Related: Corgis Parade Outside Buckingham Palace in Tribute to Queen Elizabeth Ahead of First Anniversary of Her Death
While Queen Elizabeth was a steady presence in the lives of Britains throughout her 70-year reign, younger generations are skeptical of the monarchy — and King Charles and the royals are working to ensure that “the Firm” — as Queen Elizabeth’s late husband, Prince Philip, called the family — stays relevant in the U.K. and in the Commonwealth realms around the world, including Canada and Australia, where Charles is head of state.
“That will be a challenge,” says Robert Hardman, royal biographer and author of Queen of Our Times.
Moreover, fissures within the family came when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back from their royal roles in 2020.
In matters both personal and professional, “there is an enormous loss,” says a source close to the royal household, “as [the Queen] played a very important part in all of their lives. But I’m impressed at how smoothly things are moving forward given all the little hiccups that there are in the background.”
Despite the continued rift between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the rest of the royal family, King Charles rose to the royal role he waited for as the longest-serving heir apparent to the throne. While keeping many traditions, he also has put his own spin on the position, notably taking a less formal approach to engagements than his late mother.
“His ability to engage with everybody is a real plus. It has proven he is the right man for the right moment,” says royals author Ingrid Seward.
A palace source adds, “He’s always very warm with people and is curious about their lives.”
The Prince and Princess of Wales have also stepped up to promote their key causes while also balancing life as parents to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
Getting that right is key and “something they think about every day,” adds a source close to the family.
In doing so, they honor the late Queen.
“The prince was incredibly close to his grandmother,” the source continues. “She was such a big part of his life and a real supporter of his work, and I’m sure he and the princess miss her presence.”
Related: Queen Elizabeth’s Special Bond with Her Famous Corgis Will Be Immortalized in New Statue
King Charles and Queen Camilla will spend the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s death on Friday in peaceful contemplation on the Balmoral estate in Scotland. They may be at their Birkhall home or at the castle itself. A source told PEOPLE that they would be spending it “quietly and privately” — just as the late Queen used to honor her late father, King George, on her own Accession Day.
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Meanwhile, Prince William and Princess Kate are expected to lead the public tributes to Queen Elizabeth.
Traditions that will continue include the ringing of bells at Westminster Abbey — where the coronations of Queen Elizabeth and her eldest son were held — on Sept. 8 in honor of King Charles’ Accession Day, as the abbey previously announced. In another tribute, a 21-gun salute will be fired in the royal parks of London as a sign of respect on King Charles’ Accession Day, the royal family’s website stated.
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