King Charles seen in public as Harry flies in to see him after cancer diagnosis

Published February 6, 2024
Britain’s King Charles and Queen Camilla leave Clarence House, the day after it was announced King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer, in London, Britain, February 6. — Reuters
Britain’s King Charles and Queen Camilla leave Clarence House, the day after it was announced King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer, in London, Britain, February 6. — Reuters

King Charles was seen in public on Tuesday for the first time since it was revealed he was suffering from a form of cancer as his estranged younger son Prince Harry flew into London to see him.

Buckingham Palace announced on Monday that Charles, 75, on the throne for less than 18 months since the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth, has been diagnosed with the disease and would postpone his public engagements to undergo treatment.

Charles smiled and waved to passers-by as he was driven the short distance from his Clarence House home in central London to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday afternoon.

The palace has said the king was remaining “wholly positive”, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier said the cancer had been caught early.

Harry, who has fallen out with his father and the rest of the royal family since he stepped down from royal duties almost four years ago, arrived in Britain to visit his father as messages of support for the monarch poured in from world leaders.

However, a royal source said there were no plans for Harry to see his elder brother, heir-to-the-throne Prince William, during his visit to Britain.

William is expected to step up to fulfil some of the monarch’s duties, along with other senior royals while Charles begins a series of out-patient treatments.

“All our thoughts are with him and his family. You know, thankfully, this has been caught early,” Sunak told BBC radio, saying he was “shocked and sad” at the news.

Despite the diagnosis, Charles is planning to continue with much of his private work as monarch, including his weekly audience with the prime minister and dealing with state papers. Sunak said he was in regular contact with the king.

“That will of course continue as normal and we’ll crack on with everything,” he said.

The cancer was discovered when Charles stayed three nights in hospital last month where he underwent a corrective procedure for a benign enlarged prostate. Beyond confirming it was not prostate cancer, the palace has not given any further details.

The royal family usually keep medical matters private, but the palace said Charles had chosen to go public as he was the patron of several cancer-related charities.

While the king will receive expert care, his diagnosis will draw attention to Britain’s rising cancer waiting times with the state-run National Health Service (NHS) which is widely regarded as being in crisis.

Survival rates for cancer in Britain lag those of other European countries for nine out of 10 of the most common types of the disease, according to an NHS Confederation report published in January.

Surprise diagnosis

The surprise diagnosis, which has dominated British media since the announcement was made, is another personal blow for Charles during his year and a half on the throne.

Early last year, Harry published his autobiography “Spare”, which contained damning revelations about his father and elder brother, while Charles has also had to contend with ongoing allegations against his brother Prince Andrew relating to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Harry, who quit royal duties in 2020, jetted back to Britain from California where he lives with his American wife Meghan and two children to see his father after Charles told him and his other immediate family of his diagnosis.

The king’s cancer revelation comes as Kate, the Princess of Wales and wife of heir William, recuperates at home after spending two weeks in hospital following planned abdominal surgery for an unspecified but non-cancerous condition.

She is not expected to return to public duties until after Easter and the absence of the senior figures will put pressure on the other working royals to perform extra engagements.

Charles has always been keen to have a more slimmed-down monarchy but with his younger brother Andrew and Harry no longer involved, all those who currently carry out royal engagements are aged over 50 apart from William and Kate, with some now in their 80s.

His sister, Princess Anne, often tops the list for being the busiest royal, followed by Charles.

“After the upheavals caused by the death of the late Queen and the controversies surrounding the Dukes of Sussex and York (Harry and Andrew), the hopes after the Coronation were for a period of calm and consolidation,” the Daily Telegraph said in an editorial.

“But illnesses cannot be predicted or avoided, not even by a man who has looked after himself so well. We, along with the rest of the nation, wish his majesty a speedy recovery.”

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