The King could be absent from public duties until at least March – as Buckingham Palace revealed that the monarch has started out-patient cancer treatment and spent last night at home in London.
The Palace dramatically announced yesterday that doctors had discovered an unspecified form of cancer during the King’s treatment for a benign prostate condition.
Charles, 75, arrived in London yesterday morning from his Sandringham estate with his wife Queen Camilla to start out-patient treatment. He then spent the evening at home in the capital, most likely at Clarence House, Sky News reports.
The Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman said this morning that the King’s ‘first pronounced absence’ could come on Commonwealth Day, which is traditionally held at Westminster Abbey on the second Monday of March.
Mr Hardman, the author of ‘Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story.’, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I would imagine we probably won’t see him at Westminster Abbey now. I’m sure there will be a statement, a message – he’ll want to engage with that.
‘It’s moments like that when an absence is noted, but the day to day running of the monarchy will not really change.’
Former royal’s communications secretary Julian Payne said the King would be ‘chomping at the bit’ to return to public engagements and will be ‘deeply frustrated’ by having to step back.
It comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said this morning that he was ‘shocked and sad’ to hear about the King’s cancer diagnosis but was ‘thankful’ it had been caught early.
Family and friends were said to be amazed by the King’s determination to carry on with ‘business as usual’. It is understood his condition has been caught very early and the prognosis is good. A family friend said: ‘He and his doctors are very, very positive.’
The King (pictured with Camilla after leaving The London Clinic on January 29) spent last night at home in London after beginning out-patient cancer treatment
It comes as it was revealed that Prince Harry would return to London to see his father in the coming days
Queen Camilla and Prince William are set to continue public events as King Charles and the Princess of Wales recover
People walk past Buckingham Palace this morning, after it was announced that King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer
The King, pictured in France last September, will continue working behind the scenes on red boxes and constitutional duties, but public duties have been paused and will be shared amongst his family
Charles has been making frequent Sunday night trips in recent months to Windsor Castle to spend time with Prince William, The Sun reported, with the father and son becoming closer.
The King informed close family by phone about his diagnosis, including estranged son Harry who will fly back from his home in California to see his father.
It is not known where the Duke of Sussex will stay when he visits the UK. Harry needs prior permission from Buckingham Palace to stay on a royal estate.
He returned the keys to Frogmore Cottage last June when the prince and his wife Meghan Markle vacated the property. His request to stay at Windsor Castle was knocked back by the Palace when he last visited the UK in September and Harry ended up staying in a hotel.
It will be the first time the pair have spent any significant time together in more than 18 months. Royal watchers were asking whether it might herald a thaw in relations.
Hugo Vickers, a royal biographer, told Sky News, that Harry’s visit could be a ‘tonic’ to Charles.
The feud in the Royal Family is ‘obviously an issue which has hung heavily over him,’ he added.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said: ‘I’m sure Harry will put aside the past right now for this serious issue. The Royal family – including the Sussexes – it’s so important that everyone is pulling in the right direction’.
Queen Camilla will be at her husband’s side throughout but has insisted on continuing with her public engagements. Other members of the Royal Family will be stepping up to stand in for the sovereign, including the Prince of Wales, who will return to duties tomorrow after his own wife’s medical issues.
While cancelling all his public engagements, Charles is insisting on carrying on with his ‘red boxes’ of paperwork and he may even conduct a small number of face-to-face private meetings.
The Mail has learnt that the King has known about his diagnosis since early last week, insisting on going to church in Norfolk on Sunday and waving warmly to well-wishers.
Camilla also stoically insisted on opening a new Maggie’s cancer care unit in London on Wednesday in the knowledge that her husband was about to have treatment.
She carefully told well-wishers at the Royal Free Hospital that he was ‘getting on, doing his best’. A source said: ‘Full credit to her. She has been marvellous.’
In a statement Buckingham Palace said last night: ‘During the King’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer.
‘His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties. Throughout this period, His Majesty will continue to undertake state business and official paperwork as usual.
‘The King is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure.
‘He remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible. His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world affected by cancer.’
King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement last night. Above: Charles was last seen waving to well-wishers as he attended a service with his wife Queen Camilla at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, on Sunday
Buckingham Palace said in a statement tonight: ‘During The King’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer’
While cancelling all his public engagements, Charles is insisting on carrying on with his ‘red boxes’ of paperwork and he may even conduct a small number of face-to-face private meetings
Charles informed close family by phone, including estranged son Harry who will fly back from his home in California to see his father
Camilla also stoically insisted on opening a new Maggie’s cancer care unit in London on Wednesday in the knowledge that her husband was about to have treatment
Well-wishers headed to Buckingham Palace tonight, after it was announced Britain’s King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer
Joe Biden and Jill Biden sent prayers to the King and said he hoped to speak to the monarch later
It is reported Meghan Markle and their two children – Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet – will not be joining Harry
The Royal Family has been rocked by a series of health scares in the last few weeks, with the Duchess of York recently announcing she has skin cancer
Kate Middleton is recovering at home from abdominal surgery following a two-week stay at private hospital The London Clinic
Former Royal’s Communications Secretary Julian Payne told Newsnight last night that the King will be ‘deeply frustrated’ by having to step back from work.
He added: ‘His work schedule is punishing and he really enjoys being out and meeting people and having the chance to speak up on causes that he cares about on representing the nation.
‘He will find that difficult. The reality of course is the machinery of state continues, the red boxes will come, the meetings with the PM will happen and the Privy Counsellors.
‘That side of things will continue but he will be itching to get back to things as quickly as he can.
‘The good thing of course is that although he is 75 he is a very fit and healthy 75-year-old.’
‘So I think he’s in as good a position as anyone can be to get through this next chapter. And he’ll be absolutely chomping at the bit to get back out as quickly as he can.’
The Sunday Times’ Royal Editor Roya Nikkhah added: ‘He won’t want to step back. If he can continue with his duties… he’s not going to want to step back if he doesn’t have to.
It’ll be about other members of the Royal Family picking up the slack while he can’t be on public duties. The Queen is 76, she is very energetic 76 but 76 nonetheless.
‘So there’s a lot of pressure on her not only doing more duties, worrying about her husband too. I think we will see her step a lot to fill that void and I’m sure we will see Prince William more doing public facing things.
‘We know the King will be frustrated but he will know he has members of the family who he trusts to the roles if needs be.’
Royal Biographer Matthew Dennison told BBC News that the country is ‘going to see something that’s a little like what we saw in the last months of the reign of the late Queen.’
He explained: ‘The Queen maintained all of the functions associated with her role as head of state, the red boxes, the prime ministerial encounters, where possible Privy Counsellor meetings – but she didn’t do as many public engagements which are that head of the nation side of being the sovereign
‘What we’re going to see is something remarkably similar that the King will continue as head of state but some of that head of the nation meeting and greeting that being a figurehead a focus of royalty, affection, unity he won’t be doing that in the short term.
‘Members of his immediate family who of course stepped up when the late queen died scaled back her public engagements will do the same in this case I think.’
He added: ‘The challenge for the Royal Family is fitting in engagements to what are often really very busy diaries which have been planned long in advance.
I would imagine we would see increased numbers of engagements from Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, possibly Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who are of course trusted members of the Royal Family too.’
Royal aides said they were carefully balancing the King’s right to privacy at a difficult and sensitive time with his role as head of state. But he hopes that by sharing the news that it will enable accurate reporting of his condition and prevent speculation on an issue that affects so many other families.
No further details of which cancer he has been diagnosed with are being shared, aside from emphasising it is not prostate cancer, which is the biggest cancer killer of men in the UK each year. It is being stressed it was found only when the king had treatment for a benign enlarged prostate.
He was admitted for surgery on January 26 and remained in the private London Clinic in central London for three days.
It was during this intervention that a ‘separate cause for concern’ was noted and subsequently diagnosed as a form of cancer.
Details of his treatment are not being disclosed at this stage. A royal aide said: ‘No further details are being shared at this stage, but His Majesty is receiving expert care and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.’
It is not known how long he will be away from public-facing duties. But a source explained: ‘The King has elected to make his diagnosis public once the schedule of treatment had begun, noting that as Prince of Wales he was patron of a number of cancer-related charities.
‘In this capacity, His Majesty has often spoken publicly in support of cancer patients, their loved ones and the wonderful health professionals who help care for them.
‘His Majesty is grateful to his medical team for their expert care and swift intervention, is wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.’
A family friend said Charles was being ‘hugely positive’, adding: ‘From what I know he is up and about as usual and he is so positive that you wouldn’t know he even had a condition. Luckily it has, as far as anyone can tell, been caught very early.
‘In terms of the treatment he is getting, the treatment for all cancers have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. The specialist ones they conduct now are incredibly sophisticated. He and his doctors are very, very positive.
The monarch, 75, received treatment for an enlarged prostate last week, spending three nights at the London Clinic private hospital
‘I think it is something he may share more on in the future if he wants to but for the moment he wants to concentrate on his treatment and the work in hand.’
Another family source insisted that he was not cancelling public engagements because of his condition or any physical frailty. They said it was simply to ‘minimise in person contact’ because of the medical risks to him while undergoing treatment.
‘Obviously it is a shock but he is really doing very well,’ they added.
A royal aide said that ‘regrettably’ a number of public engagements would have to be rearranged or postponed.
‘His Majesty would like to apologise to all those who may be disappointed or inconvenienced as a consequence,’ they added.
However it is anticipated the King will continue with his weekly audiences with the Prime Minister. Suitable arrangements will be made if doctors advise him this should not be done in person.
Rishi Sunak, who was informed of the King’s diagnosis before it was made public, said this morning that he was ‘shocked and sad’ to hear about the King’s cancer diagnosis but ‘thankfully this has been caught early’.
Mr Sunak said that everyone would be ‘hoping and praying’ for Charles to have a speedy recovery, and said that he was in ‘regular contact’ with the monarch.
On BBC Radio 5 Live this morning, the PM added: ‘Thankfully this has been caught early and now everyone will be wishing that he gets the treatment he needs and makes a full recovery. That’s what we’re all hoping and praying for.
‘I’m of course in regular contact with him and will continue to communicate with him as normal.’
Mr Sunak continued: ‘I’m in regular contact with the King and that will of course continue as normal and we’ll crack on with everything. He’ll be in our thoughts and prayers.
‘Many families around the country listening to this will be touched by the same thing and they know what it means for everyone. We’ll be willing him on and hopefully he can get through this as quick as possible.’
When pressed on whether he had spoken to Charles since his diagnosis, Mr Sunak reiterated: ‘I’m in regular contact with him and will continue to be do so.’
And when asked whether face to face meetings would continue with the monarch, he said: ‘I’m in regular contact as I always am and that will absolutely continue.’
Charles hopes to continue to undertake Privy Council meetings, but details have yet to be worked out.
Camilla will continue to have a full programme of public duties and the Mail understands that Princess Anne will carry out investitures.
Prince William hasn’t seen his father yet but has been in contact with him and is about to pick up public engagements once again following his wife’s lengthy hospital stay and recuperation for what has been described only as ‘abdominal surgery’.
Palace aides have at been pains to stress that the King will not need to appoint counsellors of state to step in.
People stand outside Buckingham Palace after it was announced King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer
World statesmen and religious leaders sent their love and support to the King and the Royal Family at this difficult time as crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace to send best wishes to His Majesty.
US President Joe Biden said last night that he is ‘concerned’ about the King and plans to call him later. He told reporters: ‘I’m concerned about him. Just heard about his diagnosis. I’ll be talking to him, God willing’.
He later tweeted: ‘Navigating a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship takes hope and absolute courage. Jill and I join the people of the United Kingdom in praying that His Majesty experiences a swift and full recovery’.
Former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee in November US elections, wrote on his Truth Social network that the king was ‘a wonderful man’ and that ‘we all pray that he has a fast and full recovery’.
Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said: ‘I am saddened to learn that King Charles is now facing a time of treatment for cancer. On behalf of the entire Catholic Community in England and Wales, I offer His Majesty our warmest wishes and assurance of steadfast prayers for his full and speedy recovery. God bless the King’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has yet to comment having just returned from Kyiv.
Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, said: ‘I am saddened to have heard about His Majesty The King’s diagnosis. I know that the Jewish communities of Great Britain and the Commonwealth will join me in wishing him a Refuah Sheleima – a complete and swift recovery’.
As the King’s cancer shocked Britain, the Commonwealth and the world, it also emerged:
The world is wishing the King well after he revealed his cancer.
The King also apologised for having to postpone his upcoming engagements.
A spokesman added: ‘Regrettably, a number of the King’s forthcoming public engagements will have to be rearranged or postponed.
‘His Majesty would like to apologise to all those who may be disappointed or inconvenienced as a consequence.’
Announcing that Prince Harry will come and see his father, a source close to the Duke said: ‘The duke did speak with his father about his diagnosis.
‘He will be traveling to UK to see His Majesty in the coming days.’
All of the King’s siblings, the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Duke of Edinburgh were told personally by Charles, royal aides said.
The recent diagnosis means the King is unlikely to be at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 11, which is usually attended by senior members of the royal family.
It is understood he will continue to receive red boxes and process state documents during treatment and there are no plans to appoint Counsellors of State.
It is understood details of the King’s diary are still being worked on and it is not yet known when a full programme of engagements will begin.
The palace said the Queen will continue with a full programme of public duties.
Other working members of the royal family could undertake additional duties on behalf of the King but it is understood planning for future state visits will continue where possible.
When he was discharged from hospital last Monday, the King appeared steady on his feet as he walked out of the London Clinic in Marylebone with Queen Camilla by his side
Reacting to the news, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: ‘Wishing His Majesty a full and speedy recovery. I have no doubt he’ll be back to full strength in no time and I know the whole country will be wishing him well’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: ‘On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish His Majesty all the very best for his recovery. We look forward to seeing him back to swift full health’
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps wished Charles the best for a full recovery and said: ‘As a cancer survivor, I know how impactful his decision to hare his news will be’
US President Joe Biden was left shocked by the announcement and said he will be contacting Charles
While former US President Donald Trump also sent his well-wishes calling His Majesty a ‘wonderful man’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered his best wishes. He tweeted: ‘I, like Canadians across the country and people around the world, am thinking of His Majesty King Charles III as he undergoes treatment for cancer’
It is also understood that Charles will continue to be available for Privy Council meetings, but details of how they will take place are still being worked through.
It is expected that alternative arrangements will be made for his weekly audience with the Prime Minister should doctors advise him to minimise any in-person contact.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered his best wishes.
He tweeted: ‘I, like Canadians across the country and people around the world, am thinking of His Majesty King Charles III as he undergoes treatment for cancer.
‘We’re sending him our very best wishes – and hoping for a fast and full recovery.’
Canada is one of the 14 Commonwealth realms where the King is head of state.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: ‘On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish His Majesty all the very best for his recovery.
‘We look forward to seeing him back to swift full health.’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs: ‘I know the whole House will wish to join me in expressing our sympathies with His Majesty the King following the news announcement this evening.
‘Our thoughts are, of course, with His Majesty and his family, and we’d all wish to send him our very best wishes for the successful treatment and a speedy recovery following tonight’s news.’
The diagnosis is also likely to be professionally devastating for Charles, who was the longest-serving heir to the throne in British history before he became King on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, on September 8 2022.
Since then he has hit the ground running with three state visits overseas, hosting two incoming state visits to the UK and undertaking hundreds of public engagements each year, taking on a punishing official workload well into his 70s.
Aides have said he has relished the challenge and is hugely enjoying his royal role.
The King’s diagnosis will pose serious questions for the working of the monarchy, with fewer working members of the royal family and the Princess of Wales out of action due to what has only been described as ‘abdominal surgery’ until after Easter.
The Prince of Wales, who is heir to the throne, had cleared his diary to be by his wife’s side and keep life as normal as possible for their three children.
Kensington Palace announced yesterday, however, that he would resume public duties this week by conducting an investiture on Wednesday at Windsor Castle, followed by a gala fundraising event for the London Air Ambulance in the evening.
While Queen Elizabeth suffered episodic periods of ill-health over the years and underwent surgery on a number of occasions, including on her knee and cataracts, there was no major health crisis of this magnitude until the very last months of her historic 70-year reign.
That, however, would have a serious knock-on effect on the family life of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
They moved to Windsor 18-months ago in order to allow their children to enjoy a more carefree childhood, outside of the royal bubble, until absolutely necessary.
Prince George, ten, who is second in line to the throne, Princess Charlotte, eight, and five-year-old Prince Louis all attend a local school, Lambrook, and have settled in well at their new home, Adelaide Cottage.
William and Kate’s team are still based at Kensington Palace in London, their official residence, and travel up to Windsor for meetings.
Questions will inevitably be asked how practicable it will be for them to do so now.
The King has largely enjoyed very good health throughout his life, apart from suffering from a cripplingly bad back.
The first sign that anything was amiss with his health came on January 17 when Buckingham Palace made a surprise announcement that the King had ‘sought treatment’ for an enlarged prostate.
The palace added that His Majesty’s condition was ‘benign’ and that he would attend hospital the following week for a corrective procedure.
They said he was personally keen to share details of his diagnosis to encourage other men who may be experiencing symptoms to get themselves check.
The NHS subsequently reported an encouraging spike in people seeking more information on their website.
His Majesty, who was in Scotland at the time, travelled back down to Sandringham afterwards and then on to London the night before his surgery.
He was admitted to The London Clinic in Marylebone, central London, on January 26 with his wife, Queen Camilla, by his side.
Buckingham Palace said he wanted to thank everyone for their good wishes and was delighted to learn that his diagnosis was having a positive impact on public health awareness.
He was finally released on Monday last week after three nights in hospital and said to be ‘doing well’.
He initially resided at Clarence House, his London residence, in order to be close to his doctors, before returning to Sandringham with his wife.
Queen Camilla has continued to undertake public engagements, telling members of the l public that her husband was ‘doing fine’ and looking forwards to getting back to work.
The 75-year-old monarch left the London Clinic last monday with Queen Camilla by his side
Last Tuesday she told well-wishers he was ‘getting on’ and ‘doing his best’, adding: ‘Thank goodness!’
One in every three men over the age of 50 will have symptoms of an enlarged prostate, which include needing to visit the toilet more frequently, with more urgency, and difficulty emptying the bladder.
An enlarged prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, does not usually pose a serious threat to health, and it is not cancer.
But patients may need to have several tests for the condition to rule out the possibility they have another illness with similar symptoms, such as prostate cancer.
Surgery is usually only recommended for moderate to severe symptoms that have not responded to medicine.
Following yesterday’s news, former Prime Minister and Mail columnist Boris Johnson wrote on X: ‘The whole country will be rooting for the King today. Best wishes to Charles III for a full and speedy recovery.’
Liz Truss, Mr Sunak’s short-lived predecessor as PM, said: ‘Sending every best wish to His Majesty The King and the Royal Family as he undergoes his treatment for cancer. He will be in our thoughts and prayers. God Save The King!’
Vedant Patel, a spokesman for the US State Department, said it is ‘incredibly sad news’ and added: ‘I’m very sorry for the King and his family’.
He told a briefing of reporters that the Biden administration’s thoughts are with the King and the Royal Family.
Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, wished the King a ‘full and swift recovery’ following his cancer diagnosis.
The King waved to a large crowd of wellwishers when he left the London Clinic last Monday
The King was visited by Queen Camilla four times when he was in hospital
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he said: ‘I’m saddened to hear the news that HM King Charles III is facing further health challenges.
‘My thoughts and those of people across Wales will be with him and his family this evening.
‘I send my very best wishes as he starts treatment for a full and swift recovery. Gwellhad buan.’
Northern Ireland’s new republican First Minister Michelle O’Neill wished the King a full and speedy recovery.
‘I am very sorry to hear of King Charles’ illness and I want to wish him well for his treatment, and a full and speedy recovery,’ she posted on X.
Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said she was praying for the King.
‘I would like to wish His Majesty, King Charles all the the very best for his treatment,’ she said.
‘I, like many people throughout Northern Ireland, will keep him and his family in my prayers.’
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said: ‘This is bound to be a profoundly unsettling piece of news at a time when symbols of stability and dependability are so vital for our well-being.
‘In addition to the deep shared concern for King Charles at a personal level, we may well reflect on the importance of such symbols in giving us a focus for our life together as a family of national communities in the UK, a life together that goes beyond partisan rhetoric and mutual suspicion.’
Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis said: ‘I am saddened to have heard about His Majesty The King’s diagnosis.
‘I know that the Jewish communities of Great Britain and the Commonwealth will join me in wishing him a Refuah Sheleima – a complete and swift recovery.’
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins wrote on X: ‘My thoughts are with King Charles and the whole Royal Family.
‘His decision to share his diagnosis to assist public understanding for all those affected by cancer is commendable.
‘Wishing His Majesty the very best and look forward to seeing him resume his public duties.’
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who received treatment for kidney cancer in 2021, said: ‘One in two of us will develop cancer during our lives, but millions more are affected when someone they love is diagnosed with cancer.
King Charles III and Queen Camilla attend the Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 4, 2024
‘Sending best wishes to His Majesty for his treatment and to his family as they support him throughout.’
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, said: ‘I am saddened to learn that King Charles is now facing a time of treatment for cancer.
‘On behalf of the entire Catholic Community in England and Wales, I offer His Majesty our warmest wishes and assurance of steadfast prayers for his full and speedy recovery. God bless the King.’
A statement from Macmillan Cancer Support said everyone at the charity was sending their best wishes.
The statement on X said: ‘Our thoughts are with His Majesty the King and his family. We are sending our best wishes at what we know must be an incredibly challenging time.
The King has been a long-standing supporter of Macmillan, becoming patron of the charity in 1997.