LONDON — After spending more than seven decades waiting to become sovereign, Britain’s King Charles has been diagnosed with a form of cancer less than 18 months since he ascended to the throne.
Buckingham Palace on Monday announced that Charles, 75, would postpone public-facing duties while he undergoes treatment but was looking forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.
Charles became monarch on the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 8, 2022, having been the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. He was crowned on May 6, 2023.
Some commentators had warned that the environmental campaigner, who was never shy to give forthright views on many issues as heir, would be a radical change, upending the stoical, dedicated style of his mother.
But instead he has quietly settled into his new role, with his busy routine creating little drama. That made the announcement of his health issues all the more of a surprise.
“I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government,” he said in his first address as king.
Supporters and detractors have always acknowledged Charles’ hard work and dedication to his duties. Royal commentators said that might be something that would have to change as he recovers from treatment.
“The man never stops. I mean when we were kids there was bags and bags and bags of work that the office just sent to him. We could barely even get to his desk to say goodnight to him,” son and heir Prince William said in a documentary to mark his 70th birthday.
While details of the royals’ health is considered a private matter, Charles has always appeared well, following a daily exercise routine to keep fit and eschewing lunch.
There was no indication that he had received the news about his cancer diagnosis when he appeared in public on Sunday to attend church with his wife Queen Camilla.
“He’s the king, he’s got to put on a show and he’s been doing it all his life,” said Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine.
Opinion polls suggest that while Charles is not as popular as his much-admired mother was, many more people hold favorable views of him than negative, although there also appears to be a wide segment of indifference — people who didn’t hold a view either way.
“I think he does a pretty wonderful job, to be honest, I’m a big fan,” said hotel manager Andy Bloomer, 38, in central London.
On the issue of his health he added: “I’m sure he is aware of how much that will connect him to other people, other families who go through that. It’s a bit of a shock.”
The one major shadow that has hung over Charles’ reign has come in the form of his younger son Prince Harry and his attacks on his family and the monarchy in his memoir and Netflix documentary with wife Meghan.
But Harry, who has barely returned to Britain since he and Meghan moved to California in 2020, is jetting back to see his father after learning of his illness, in a sign of a possible rapprochement.
As messages wishing the king well flooded in from heads of state across the world, some ordinary Britons said they had been shaken by the news.
“We loved his mum… I was born just after she came to the throne, so she was part of my life, for my whole life,” said retired architect Steve Costello, 65. “I wish him well. It’s very sad. Very sad.” — Reuters