The health of two important royals raises questions. Is the well-oiled machinery of the British royal family now coming to a standstill? Or does the crisis even offer an opportunity?
It’s a nightmare for supporters of the British royals: King Charles (75) is suffering from cancer. The British had just breathed a sigh of relief when it became known that their monarch had to undergo surgery – but only because of a benign disease. He waved to onlookers as he went to church on Sunday at his Sandringham country estate in eastern England. Everything was fine, it seemed.
But the impression was deceptive: During the procedure on the prostate, cancer was discovered elsewhere. Charles will remain out of the public eye and receive treatment until further notice. The palace said he was “completely positive about his treatment.”
But less than a year after the coronation of Charles III. The future of the Royals seems more uncertain than it has been for a long time. Princess Kate (42) is also continuing to recover from surgery.
There is already speculation about a possible abdication
The royals had just really gotten used to it after the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the quarrels surrounding Prince Harry (39) and his wife Duchess Meghan (42) as well as the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew (63). The reduced royal family – consisting of the royal and heir to the throne couple at the top, as well as Charles’s two siblings, Princess Anne (73) and Prince Edward (59) and his wife Duchess Sophie (59) – appeared dynamic, efficient and largely free of scandals. They constantly visited charities, awarded medals, traveled the world and gave speeches.
But now, with Charles and Kate’s illnesses, half of these couples are no longer at the top. This is a great loss, says constitutional expert Craig Prescott from the University of Bangor in an interview with the German Press Agency, adding: “That was always the risk of a slimmer monarchy.”
There is already speculation that the king could possibly abdicate like Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II recently did – or that his son William could take over the official duties permanently as regent. But at this point it seems like it’s still a long way off. “He will not abdicate if he can continue to fulfill his duties,” said the Sunday Times royal reporter Roya Nikkhah on BBC television after the diagnosis became known. According to reports, there are also no plans to temporarily carry out official business by representatives from the royal family, so-called Counselors of State.
His mother once said: “I have to be seen to be believed.” This will be impossible for Charles in the coming time. The palace said the king will not attend any public appointments during therapy. This will be difficult for him, his former press secretary Julian Payne told the BBC. “He will be eager to get back to things as quickly as possible.”
British Prime Minister: Cancer was detected early
But the monarch wants to continue working in the background. He wants to continue to receive the red boxes in which important documents and information are presented to him, sign laws, and the weekly audience with the Prime Minister will also continue to take place.
But how long the king’s outpatient treatment will last and whether it will be successful is uncertain. According to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the disease was discovered early. This should give hope for better chances of recovery. But apart from the fact that it is not prostate cancer, no further details are known about the diagnosis or treatment.
One thing is certain: the longer Charles disappears from the scene, the faster the spiral of speculation will turn. Aside from attending church services on Maundy Thursday, the King’s “Trooping the Color” birthday parade in June plays an important role in the royal calendar.
“It would be absolutely remarkable if the king did not attend his own birthday parade,” said constitutional expert Prescott. He also recalled that a parliamentary election is likely to take place this year. The exact date is still unclear. The king would have to approve the dissolution of parliament and later appoint a new prime minister. Plans for travel to Canada and other Commonwealth countries could also be disrupted.
Concerned about Princess Kate’s health
For the other royals, especially Queen Camilla (76) and Prince William, his absence is likely to mean significantly more tasks, at least temporarily. The 41-year-old heir to the throne recently took some time off to be there for his children while Kate recovers from abdominal surgery. He should now take on tasks again and should shoulder more responsibility in the future.
Princess Kate’s illness means a double burden for William. Kate had been treated at the private London Clinic almost at the same time as the King. Unlike Charles, almost nothing has been made public about her illness – except that it is not cancer. But the length of her hospital stay fueled speculation that it couldn’t have been an entirely uncomplicated procedure.
New approach to health questions
For many Britons, the fact that the palace went public with the king’s diagnosis was a surprising departure from Buckingham Palace’s previous policy. Until now, diagnoses and medical procedures have been strictly private. In addition, there was the famous “stiff upper lip” rule, according to which the royals should grit their teeth in every situation and carry on.
Charles broke with this tradition with his prostate procedure. And his stated goal of encouraging other men to take preventive measures seemed to be working: many men found out more about prostate diseases. The number of hits on the website of the British health service NHS skyrocketed. This is said to have encouraged him to make his cancer diagnosis public.
And then there is also hope that the bad news will at least restore harmony in the Royal Family. Prince Harry wanted to travel to support his father. This gives rise to hope for reconciliation between the prodigal son and his father.
I am an author and journalist who has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. I currently work as a news editor at a major news website, and my focus is on covering the latest trends in entertainment. I also write occasional pieces for other outlets, and have authored two books about the entertainment industry.