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Double blow of King Charles' and Princess Kate's health issues could expose perils for monarchy

The King's prostate treatment and the Princess of Wales's abdominal surgery mean a slimmed-down monarchy

The Prince has said he wants to 'actually bring change' when he becomes King© Getty
Faye James
Senior Editor
January 18, 2024
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The Royal Family had envisioned 2024 to be a year of recovery and positive developments following a turbulent 2023, marked by the loss of Queen Elizabeth II and the controversies stirred by the Duke of Sussex's explosive autobiography, Spare

However, recent health concerns involving key members of the monarchy have cast a shadow over these hopes.

The King's prostate treatment and the Princess of Wales's abdominal surgery have underscored the vulnerabilities of a streamlined monarchy. 

This has raised concerns about the capacity of the Royal Family to maintain its duties and public presence, especially with three of the four most senior royals temporarily stepping back from their roles.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, who were scheduled for their first joint overseas visit in two years to Rome, have had to postpone their international engagements. 

Kate Middleton walking with Queen Camilla and King Charles© Max Mumby/Indigo
With both Kate and Charles experiencing health issues this may cast a shadow for the royals

The Prince, at 41, is expected to focus on caring for his wife, 42, as she recuperates at their Windsor home, Adelaide Cottage. This development has necessitated a pause in their royal duties and travel plans.

In the past, the presence of "working" royals like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of York provided a buffer in such situations. 

WATCH: Princess Kate in hospital after undergoing abdominal surgery

However, with these members now absent from public roles, the royal support structure appears thin. The next three in the line of succession after Prince William – the Dukes of Sussex and York, and Princess Beatrice – are not currently serving in public roles. 

HELLO!'s Royal Editor Emily Nash says: "This has come as a shock at a time when most of us were expecting to see the Princess back in action with a busy schedule of engagements lined up.

"It means that neither she or William will be on public duty in the next few weeks and Kate is unlikely to be back at work before Easter. Similarly, William wants to be at her side and with their children until she's settled back at home, so a lot of diary events are being postponed.

Princess Kate will be off duty for a while© Max Mumby/Indigo
Princess Kate will be off duty for a while

"Obviously everyone wishes her well and is hoping for a speedy recovery."

This leaves the Queen as the only viable Counsellor of State available to step in while the King undergoes his medical procedure.

The Princess Royal, despite her commendable dedication and being 16th in the line of succession, is not a Counsellor of State. She previously expressed skepticism about the concept of a slimmed-down monarchy, questioning its feasibility given the family's public responsibilities.

Queen Camilla smiling on Christmas Day© Getty
Queen Camilla will need to step up

The challenge of having too few royals to fulfil these duties is further complicated by the reduced involvement of other senior members like Princess Alexandra, 87, and the Duke of Kent, 88, who, despite his age, managed 69 royal engagements in 2023. 

A careful balance is being maintained to ensure that the King and Queen, both in their mid-70s, are not overwhelmed with duties as they adapt to their new roles.

In 2023, the Queen undertook 233 public duties, ranking behind Princess Anne's 457, the King's 425, and Prince Edward's 297. 

Prince William and Kate Middleton visit Army Training Centre Pirbright© Getty
Prince William and Princess Kate are active members of the royal family

The Prince and Princess of Wales, while active, faced criticism for their lower number of engagements compared to their senior counterparts. Their commitment to being hands-on parents to their young children has been a contributing factor to this.

The absence of the Princess of Wales from public life is particularly notable. She holds a significant position as the wife and mother of future kings and has been a popular figure, often compared to her late mother-in-law, Diana, for her charisma and impact on the monarchy's public image. 

Her targeted portrayal in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's Netflix series and memoir has only increased public sympathy for her.

A recent biography by Robert Hardman sheds light on the tensions within the Royal Family, particularly the Prince of Wales's reaction to what he perceived as a "blatant attack" against his wife by his brother in the Netflix documentary. 

The book, Charles III: New King New Court, reveals the strain these controversies have placed on the family, with the King also feeling "deeply hurt" by the accusations in Spare.

As the Royal Family navigates these health challenges and internal tensions, the pressure of the past few years becomes increasingly evident. 

The road ahead in 2024 appears to be one of both recovery and adaptation, as the monarchy contends with the complexities of a slimmed-down structure and the evolving dynamics within the family.

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