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One year on from King Charles' coronation, there's still a lot to be thankful for

It has been an extraordinary and often difficult time for the King and his wife Camilla

Emily Nash
Emily Nash - London
Royal EditorLondon
6 May 2024
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When they stepped onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace as King and Queen for the first time a year ago today, no one could have foreseen how much life would change in the space of just 12 short months.

From a coronation to a cancer diagnosis, with all the challenges of a new reign playing out in between, it has been an extraordinary and often difficult time for the monarch and his wife.

But with King Charles now back out on public-facing duties for the first time in three months, there is a lot to be thankful for and even a few silver linings to consider.

William will choose to be known as King William V, Roya Nikkhah has shared© Getty
One year on from the coronation, there is still a lot to be thankful for

Reflecting on the King's first year since the coronation

I'm told the royal couple are not marking the day in any special way, but I suspect they may well pause to reflect on their historic crowning and all that has happened since.

The change of reign from the record-breaking tenure of Queen Elizabeth II to that of King Charles III happened more smoothly than some had expected.

Despite potential bumps in the road, such as the release of Prince Harry's memoir Spare, the King and Queen weathered the storm and ticked off a hugely successful state visit to Germany before their moment of destiny at the altar in Westminster Abbey on May 6.

When they appeared, finally crowned, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace later that day, it felt as though they had at last safely reached their destination, after a long and often turbulent journey together.

To paraphrase the late Queen's remarks at their wedding reception 18 years earlier, the King was once again "home and dry with the woman he loves".

royals on balcony at Buckingham Palace © Getty Images
The King and Queen surrounded by their blended family

Surrounded by their blended family and with tens of thousands of people crowding the Mall, their moment had come and they had plenty to look forward to.

There was the star-studded Coronation Concert and the launch of the Coronation Food Project to redistribute surplus food to those in need, which the King wrote about for The Big Issue.

There were more State Visits, to France and then to Kenya, where the monarch addressed head on the "abhorrent" treatment of people under British rule and spent private time learning more about it from some of those affected.

He went on to address COP28 in Dubai and host an incoming visit from President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon-Hee, which brought K-Pop royalty to the Palace in the form of girl band Blackpink.

The King was clearly content, and he and the Queen appeared to be enjoying their new roles, even sharing an insight into their first year after the accession in a heartwarming TV documentary.

King Charles gives a speech at Kenya state banquet© Getty
King Charles gives a speech at a state banquet in Kenya in 2023

The King's bombshell cancer diagnosis

But just a few weeks into 2024 came the bombshell news that the King had cancer, changing everything.

Engagements were put on hold and a planned visit to Canada was postponed as the monarch began treatment for the disease.

Queen Camilla stepped up – taking on additional duties while supporting her husband. Since January she has embodied the phrase "keep calm and carry on".

King Charles and Queen Camilla waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace © Chris Jackson
Charles has been counting on his wife Camilla to step up

But with the Princess of Wales suddenly facing her own cancer diagnosis and Prince William scaling back his public work to help care for her and their three young children, things started looking shaky for the monarchy.  

To counter that, courtiers kept the King as visible as possible, even if he wasn't out on walkabouts or shaking hands with countless guests on engagements.

Travelling everywhere in the State Bentley, with its vast windows and high roof, so he could wave to the crowds, and sharing images of himself reading get well cards or meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak kept him in the public eye, even if he wasn't physically mixing with members of the public.

King Charles III and Queen Camilla wave as they leave by car from Clarence House in London © Getty
The King understands the importance of the need to be seen by the public

Return to royal duties

Last week's announcement that the King is taking on more than 300 new patronages held by the late Queen brought further reassurance and cause for optimism over his recovery.

And as he returned to work beyond Palace walls, it was clear to see – and hear – how the King's personal experience has changed him.

His illness and treatment have given him a new depth of empathy for both the cancer patients and medical staff he has championed for decades as patron of Macmillan.

He's been able to raise so much awareness by sharing his diagnosis. Taking on the new Cancer Research patronage will further boost that.

King Charles holds hands with patients © Getty
The King returned to public-facing duties last month, visiting the University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre

Cancer has also made him and the Queen more relatable than ever, as they share an experience that so many families will recognise.

This was brought home during their open and honest conversations on the chemotherapy ward.

While the Queen revealed that it has been "difficult", the King shared his "shock" at being diagnosed and, poignantly, held the hands of some of those he spoke to as they chatted.

The fact that he is more tactile and openly emotional than his late mother has helped him to connect with people and the Palace are clearly embracing this different approach. 

The King is very much himself and that makes him all the more human as a result – whether he is stifling fits of giggles, getting impatient with a fountain pen or finding himself "reduced to tears" by messages from well-wishers.

King Charles greets a well-wisher
He is much more tactile than his late mother the Queen

With dates now back in his diary and plans to attend more public engagements in the coming weeks, it seems he is starting to get back to some normality, even as his treatment continues.

For the Queen, who joked last week that she has been "trying to hold him back", it will come as a huge relief.

But no one will be happier about this than the monarch himself, who I'm told has continued to pepper staff with ideas for projects and his charities, even while recuperating at his private homes – Sandringham, Highgrove and Birkhall.

Now with Camilla at his side as they take on engagements together again, the King's illness is another bump in the road they will overcome.

A year on from the Coronation it seems the show is very much back on the road.


Princess Kate wearing black and white polka dots and a hat

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