How UK royals will step up
Ainhoa explores ripple effect of King Charles' diagnosis
Hi Royal Clubbers,
It hasn't even been 24 hours since Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles has cancer and has started a regular schedule of treatment.
But there's been so much to say about his diagnosis and what this all means not just for the King, but for other members of the royal family too. Did you catch my fellow Royal Clubber Emily's reaction when the news broke?
Charles, 75, is feeling "very positive" about his treatment and we know that doctors caught the cancer early. A known workaholic, the monarch is quietly carrying on, dealing with his red boxes which contain his state business and official papers. He's also expected to hold his weekly audience with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his monthly meetings with the Privy Council, which can be done remotely if need be.
But no matter how you mask it, Charles has been advised by doctors to cancel his public-facing engagements, and there's no doubt his diagnosis has had a ripple effect on other royals.
He always advocated for a slimmed-down monarchy and with only two of the senior working royals under the age of 50 (Prince William and Princess Kate, who is out of action until Easter due to her post-surgery recovery), a lot of pressure falls on the shoulders of other members of The Firm.
We're sure the royal family will rally together to support Charles. It's what they do best in times of crises – have each other's back, and in this particular moment of time, provide a sense of stability and continuity when health scares are rocking the royal family.
The Prince of Wales
As next-in-line to the throne, Prince William is expected to shoulder more responsibilities. His situation is a bit more complicated though, given that he himself took a break from royal duties to care for his wife Kate following her abdominal surgery last month, and to help look after their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.
But William, 41, is returning to work this week. He'll carry out an investiture at Windsor Castle on Wednesday – which is one of his regular duties – and also attend the London Air Ambulance annual fundraising evening gala in central London in his role as patron of the charity.
His return to the spotlight will be seen as an attempt to signal stability, but we know that given his nuclear family's own health problems, it won't be an easy ride for William.
He will likely step up and carry out duties on behalf of his father, as well as keep his own royal diary. Upcoming events in which he could play a key role include the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on 11 March, and the 80th anniversary of D-Day in June.
Charles and Camilla were also expected to make long-haul trips this year – to Canada in May and to Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October. Depending on Charles' treatment and recovery, William may have to deputise for his father, who is head of the Commonwealth, just like Charles did for his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Charles' devoted wife Camilla has been holding the royal fort for the past few weeks already, continuing with her public appearances while the King underwent a procedure for an enlarged prostrate last month, and William temporarily stepped back to care for Kate.
Like her stepson, Camilla will resume her full programme of public engagements, and may undertake additional duties on behalf of her husband if she is required to.
Acting as an unshakeable pillar of support is something Camilla has always excelled at. In his first speech as monarch in September 2022, Charles said: "I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla. In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort. I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much."
Indeed, Camilla is often hailed as Charles' "rock". As her sister Annabel Elliot so succinctly put it in Robert Hardman's BBC documentary, Charles III: The Coronation Year: "They're yin and yang, really, they really are polar opposites, but I think it works brilliantly. She is his rock and I can't actually emphasise that enough. She's somebody who is completely loyal."
The Princess Royal
Princess Anne consistently tops the annual list of hardest-working royals. In 2023, she carried out 457 engagements, and it's not uncommon for Anne to have more than three engagements per day. This week alone, it's business as usual for the King's sister. She is travelling all around the country meeting people and charities; you can find out more about her schedule in Danielle's royal diary of the week.
So despite her brother's diagnosis, I imagine Anne will live up to her gung-ho attitude and keep calm and carry on.
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh
Prince Edward and Sophie have shared more of the family's spotlight ever since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit their jobs as working royals in 2020.
Yes, the absence of Harry and Meghan, and Prince Andrew, from the royal family's agenda has carved a space for Edward and Sophie to shine, but as Sophie quite rightly put it in a previous interview with The Telegraph: "What did people think we were doing beforehand?"
For the past 20-odd years she's been working hard, so much so that the late Queen Elizabeth II considered her one of her "favourites". Sophie is patron of over 70 organisations and charities and her bio on the royal family's website reads: "A full-time working member of the Royal Family, The Duchess of Edinburgh splits her time between her work on behalf of The King across the UK and Commonwealth and support for a large number of her own charities and organisations."
Likewise, Edward divides his time and energy on his own causes and that of the King.
Sophie has always been pegged as the royal family's "unsung heroine" or "secret weapon". But her voice is attracting more listeners, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw even more from the couple in the coming months. I imagine Charles views his brother and sister-in-law as key players in his slimmed-down monarchy.
Other royal family members
Prince Harry has now arrived in London to visit his father after a flurry of activity at Heathrow airport this morning.
Despite their strained relationship over the years, we know that there is hope for a reconciliation, and nothing gives new perspective like health concerns. Safe to say though, Harry will not be returning to his royal day job, so his father's diagnosis will not signal a return for him into the royal circuit. I think he's simply heading to the UK for a short trip to spend quality time with his dad.
Other royals who may be stepping up to the plate though are Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, who are ninth and eleventh in line to the throne, respectively. I would personally love to see more of the York sisters. They always bring genuine passion to their causes – did you catch my interview with one of Beatrice's dyslexia patronages, who reiterated just how devoted and down-to-earth the Princess is?
What happens if Charles really can't fulfil his duties as sovereign?
Buckingham Palace has already said that there is no need to appoint Counsellors of State. This only happens in the event of a monarch being unable to fulfil their duties as sovereign on a temporary basis, because of sickness for example. In which case, two or more Counsellors of State can be appointed to act in their place.
Those who can currently stand in for Charles include Queen Camilla and the four most senior adults in the line of succession over the age of 21 – Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew, and Princess Beatrice.
In light of Andrew and Harry no longer being working royals, in 2022, the King asked Parliament to add his youngest brother Prince Edward and his sister Princess Anne as extra Counsellors of State so they can deputise for him if need be, and the addition was fast-tracked into law.
Andrew and Harry were not removed from the list, however, only working members of the royal family can be called upon to act as Counsellors of State, so it is highly unlikely that we will see either of them stepping back into the royal limelight.
To emphasise, the palace hasn't indicated that such a move to appoint Counsellors of State is needed at this moment in time.
Don't miss Emily Nash every Wednesday
Emily's newsletters are exclusively for our paid subscribers, so if you are currently a free subscriber, we would be honoured if you considered upgrading to paid where you will join thousands of likeminded royal fans in our ever-growing community. This week, she'll be bringing you the latest on Charles' health from those who know him best.