Unexpected role of the King

In chess, the only piece that cannot be captured is the King. If he loses, he dies. Checkmate: the king is dead. There is no coronation. No funeral, either. 

The Queen, on the other hand, can be captured. But in her prime she controls the board, sweeping all others before her. Sound familiar?

The role of the King during the game (most games, anyway) is strangely negative. Usually he squirrels himself away, trying to stay safe while his subjects mop up the opposing army. It is only in the endgame – if things go so far – that he emerges, marching up the board to avenge his lost subjects and, in the ideal scenario, winning the day with the help of one or two of the survivors.

He cannot win the game on his own. If his army is annihilated, he is helpless. The most he can hope for is a peace treaty. 

What about the other pieces? The Bishops are restricted to only half the number of squares on the board, which seems theologically sensible. No-one wants Bishops popping up everywhere in a haphazard sort of way, like ill-considered Knights. 

Rooks (you may think of them as castles, but they come from the Persian word for a chariot) shoot up and down, and from side to side, which can be dangerous. Pawns only go forwards, which I suppose is what you want from an army, but they are the only piece that can be promoted, becoming any other piece except – you guessed it – a King. Just as well.

All this may come as a disappointment to Charles III, who is crowned this coming weekend. If he plays the game, we should expect him to hide away in a castle (or behind a chariot) for quite a long time while others get on with life and try to sort the country out. 

I feel this would be a Good Thing. If he emerges prematurely from hiding and tours the board, going to summits, interfering in tricky decisions and exposing himself to harm, he could come to rather rapid grief. So could those subjects who gather round trying to protect him. 

I am not suggesting he should stay at home till all his subjects get annihilated, of course; rather adopt a moderate, laid back approach and get a good rest at the same time. 

Somewhere like Balmoral, perhaps. Or Sandringham. You can get a good game of chess in Norfolk.