The British royal family started the year in an unexpected way - by opening up about their unfortunate ill health.
The Princess of Wales and King Charles have revealed their recent health struggles as Kate underwent planned abdominal surgery in January and it came to light earlier this week that His Majesty has been diagnosed with a form of cancer.
From Lady Louise Windsor and princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, to family members related by marriage (think Mike Tindall and Meghan Markle), members of the British and European royal families have suffered from various conditions – both mental and physical.
Many of the royals have managed to overcome their health battles and have raised awareness for causes in the process. Let's take a look at when the royals have spoken about their health…
Princess Kate's health issues
Princess Kate was admitted to The London Clinic for planned abdominal surgery earlier this year. Now, the royal is recovering from her Windsor-based home with Prince William and their three children - Adelaide Cottage.
William is only taking on small public engagements so he can care for Kate and their children and aides have said the couple will not travel overseas in the coming months.
King Charles' health issues
King Charles underwent treatment for an enlarged prostate in January at The London Clinic where his daughter-in-law underwent abdominal surgery. However, it was announced earlier this week that the King has been diagnosed with a form of cancer. His Majesty's cancer was diagnosed during his prostate procedure, with tests identifying cancer.
The statement from Buckingham Palace read: "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."
It continued: "The King is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.
Prince Harry, 39, flew to the UK less than 24 hours after the announcement about the King’s health reached the nation and was pictured at London's Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon following his brief reunion with his father.
Meghan Markle's health issues
"I used to have debilitating migraines (hospitalised for them), and acupuncture and Eastern medicine absolutely changed my life," Meghan told The Chalkboard. "Migraine-free living is a game-changer and I have been a longtime believer in acupuncture."
Princess Beatrice's health struggle
The late Queen's granddaughter was identified as having dyslexia at the age of seven. She received specialist help and support from the Helen Arkell Centre throughout school and went on to become the charity's patron in 2013. "I would not have been able to achieve my academic results without the support I received from the Centre," said Beatrice, who passed eight GCSEs, three A levels and graduated with a 2:1 in History and the History of Ideas from Goldsmiths College, London.
Speaking in a podcast for charity to mark Dyslexia Week, Beatrice recalled: "I remember one of my earliest memories was sitting in front of a Beatrix Potter book and the illustrations were so beautiful but the words meant nothing. I was put into specialist classes and I remember the teacher looking at me and saying, 'Why do you keep looking at me, the words are not written on my face.'"
Beatrice added: "Being diagnosed with dyslexia was the greatest thing that ever happened to me because it allowed me to become part of this community of people that really are championing young people's education and making sure that we protect our young people in school and in life… Once you're out of school life, that's when a dyslexic can really excel. When you go into a workplace your ability to think differently allows you to be more creative, it allows you to approach problems slightly differently and allows you to be a little bit more flexible."
Princess Eugenie's health condition
Princess Eugenie has been very open about her scoliosis diagnosis. At the age of 12, she was told she would have to have life-changing surgery to fix the curvature of her spine. Two metal rods were inserted along her back and two 1.5-inch screws were fixed to her neck during the eight-hour procedure. Eugenie spent three days in intensive care, followed by a week on a ward and six days in a wheelchair before she was able to walk again.
Eugenie proudly showed off her scars on her wedding day in October 2018, choosing to wear a gown that had an open back. In a recording for her wedding dress exhibition, she explained: "I had always wanted a low back, part of it was showing my scar and I believe scars tell a story about your past and your future and it's a way of getting rid of a taboo. We started getting a lot of letters from people who were happy that I had stood up and showed my scar, and people with scoliosis, letters from girls that are going through the same thing, and I definitely was very touched by everyone's support."
Speaking previously to The Telegraph, Eugenie, 33, also said: "There are so many emotions and worries that go thundering through your head. Will I be able to play sports, or will I look the same, or will I miss a lot of school and be behind? I remember being angry about not being able to run and play."
Sarah Ferguson recently spoke about her admiration for Eugenie's decision to proudly showcase her surgery scars in her beautiful open-back dress on her wedding day in 2018. "I was so proud of Eugenie in her wedding dress, showing her scar with such courage and boldness," Sarah said. "I do a lot of work for the British Heart Foundation and I often meet young children who are worried about surgery, or who have scars from their surgery, and I always tell them about my daughter and her scars. I think it helps them not to be frightened."
Lady Louise Windsor's health issues
The Duchess of Edinburgh has openly spoken about how her daughter Louise, 20, had sight problems as a child. Louise, who was born premature, used to suffer from strabismus, a condition whereby a person cannot align both eyes simultaneously.
"Premature babies can often have squints because the eyes are the last thing in the baby package to really be finalised," Sophie told The Sunday Express. "Her squint was quite profound when she was tiny and it takes time to correct it. You've got to make sure one eye doesn't become more dominant than the other but she's fine now – her eyesight is perfect."
Sophie, who is patron of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and global ambassador for Vision 2020, has also touchingly said: "I have seen sight being restored and I can promise you there are few things more rewarding in this world than seeing someone step from the dark into the light." Her daughter Louise had surgery to correct her eyes in 2014.
Mike Tindall's family history
Mike's dad Philip sadly suffers from Parkinson's, and in an interview with Good Morning Britain, the retired rugby star opened up about his dad's battle. Raising awareness of the condition for the charity Cure Parkinson's, Mike said: "It's a nightmare disease...there are over 40 different symptoms of what Parkinson's can look like, the research that has come out [says] how many people feel that they are drunk, people can suddenly freeze in the middle of the street and you might upset somebody walking behind you... they just don't get it. They don't understand that that could be part of it so that's the difficult part of it."
Mike added: "I was probably very blasé at the start when he got diagnosed in 2003. He didn't really show signs, it was just a small tremor in one of his arms. He has this tremor for maybe a couple of years, eighteen months before that, but being a typical bloke he probably didn't address the issue early enough because the sooner you get on the drugs, the slower the progression is going to be. He was good for a long period of time, ten years or so, but especially in the last year, but the last five years, you have seen it catch up on him."
Princess Diana's ill-health
Prince William and Prince Harry's mum sadly suffered with bulimia in her younger years. Her former royal chef Darren McGrady has previously spoken to HELLO! about Princess Diana's eating disorder, admitting he suspected "something wasn't right".
"I have never talked about the food I prepared for her, the silly things she'd ask for, and I'd never want to and never will, I don't think it's right," said Darren. "But you know the aiding and abetting the bulimia… I was making dishes for the Princess. I always questioned why on earth she wanted all of this food, any of this food, but there was nothing I could do. I was there as a chef, my job was to cook and to prepare food. I wasn't a psychologist, or a doctor, who could say you shouldn't be eating all of this. I knew something wasn't right but I didn't know or understand what bulimia was."
The chef reflected on Diana's healthier years after she overcame her eating disorder, saying: "By the time I moved to Kensington Palace, the Princess had already confronted the bulimia and talked about it in the hope that other people would do. She got her life back on track. She was working out at the gym every day, looking the best she ever did. She had changed, she was now a healthy eater."
Princess Diana first revealed she had suffered from bulimia in Andrew Morton's book Diana: Her True Story in 1992, and spoke about the disorder again in 1995 during her interview with Panorama. When asked if he was proud of his mother for sharing her story, Prince William told Channel 4: "Absolutely. These things are illnesses and they need to be treated. Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health."
Princess Charlene of Monaco's health troubles
Princess Charlene of Monaco spent much of 2021 in South Africa due to an ear, nose, and throat infection. She reportedly underwent surgery in mid-May 2021, before a second operation in June, and a "final" surgery in October.
Her husband Prince Albert confirmed in late October that she would be heading home to Monaco and their two children soon. Princess Charlene opened up about the ill health that has plagued her. "My state of health is still fragile, and I don't want to go too fast," the royal told Monaco Matin. "The road has been long, difficult and so painful. Today I feel calmer."
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden's health issues
The future queen of Sweden suffered from anorexia as a teenager. The mother-of-two admitted that she realised she had an eating disorder shortly before she was due to attend Sweden's Uppsala University. Fortunately for Victoria, her parents King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia were quick to intervene and encouraged their daughter to take some time off before she started her undergraduate degree.
"I needed time to sort things out and get my balance back again. I needed to get to know myself, discover where my limits were, not constantly push myself too much," she explained.
While Victoria faced tremendous challenges during her treatment for anorexia, it also led to a life-changing encounter. The royal bumped into her now-husband Prince Daniel, who at the time was a personal trainer, while at the gym for one of her doctor-ordered training sessions.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway's lung disease
In 2018, the Norwegian royal family announced that Princess Mette-Marit was suffering from a rare chronic lung disease – an unusual form of fibrosis that causes a person's lungs to become scarred and makes breathing increasingly difficult. Mette-Marit said in a statement: "For a number of years, I have had health challenges on a regular basis, and now we know more about what these are."
The Crown Princess remained optimistic and said: "Although such a diagnosis will limit my life at times, I'm glad that the disease has been discovered so early. My goal is still to work and participate in the official programme as much as possible."
She added: "The Crown Prince and I are choosing to make this public now partly because in future there will be a need to plan periods of time without an official programme to accommodate treatment and when the disease is more active."
Mette-Marit has kept her spirits up and just five days after the announcement was made, she attended a gala evening looking radiant in a floral dress. Her doctor, Professor Kristian Bjøro of Oslo University Hospital, said that her lung condition has been monitored by the hospital for a number of years, with the disease having progressed slowly.