Signs King Charles' cancer is more serious than the Palace is telling us.

British monarchs have a habit of ruling until they die, regardless of their state of health. But with Buckingham Palace announcing King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer, where does that leave him and the monarchy? 

Those are the questions being mulled upon, following the news on Tuesday.

Charles, 75, spent three nights in hospital last month after undergoing a corrective procedure for an enlarged prostate when a separate issue was discovered and identified by further tests as cancer.

The Palace did not share what cancer Charles has but ruled out prostate cancer. It has also not been confirmed what stage the cancer is. 

Given the King had recently stepped back from public-facing duties, his aides had no option but to be open with the world about the diagnosis — up to a point. 

Watch: a look back at King Charles' Christmas message. Post continues below.

Video via Buckingham Palace.

For centuries British rulers have abided by a stiff-upper-lip mentality.

In the statement, the Palace said Charles "remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible".

Do we read this at face value and view the prognosis in the same positive light it's being presented in, or is it valid to worry about it being more serious? History favours the latter.


First, there's the case of King George III.

He ascended to the throne at 22 and was King of Great Britain until he died in 1820 at 81. In the last decade of his reign, he was deemed mentally unfit to rule. His eldest son was given more power during this decade but didn't officially become the monarch until his father's death.

Throughout King George III's final years, the palace was quiet on his condition. 

As for King George VI, his lung cancer diagnosis in 1951 was withheld from not only the public but even the King himself.

He was told the surgery he needed to have was to fix "structural abnormalities" in his lungs, rather than removing a carcinoma. Five months after the surgery, the 56-year-old King died in his sleep following health complications. 

His wife, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, similarly dealt with her cancer in private. 

In 1966, she had a tumour removed from her colon. At the time, royal aides had said only that she had undergone abdominal surgery to remove an obstruction. In 1984, she had another operation, to remove a tumour from her breast. The official line then was that she had been in hospital for "tests". 

Listen to this topic being discussed on Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky. Post continues after audio.

A similar pattern emerged with the late Queen Elizabeth II.


Dr Douglas Glass who was one of the Queen's medical aids, said there had been concerns for her health for several months in the run-up to September 2022.

At this point, the only major update Buckingham Palace had provided about the state of the Queen's health was that she was simply experiencing "discomfort".

The Queen was certainly not well when she appointed the then British Prime Minister Liz Truss in September 2022. Just days later the Queen was placed under medical supervision and passed away, carrying out royal duties right up to her death. 

Mamamia's Executive Editor and resident 'royal expert' Holly Wainwright explains this further on The Quicky, noting that it's unlikely Prince William will ascend the throne any earlier than tradition. 

"What is more likely to happen is that King Charles would remain King throughout his life - no matter what. It's the way the British monarchy works, it's the way Queen Elizabeth II worked. This is a role ordained from you by God, and you don't get to give it up, even if you can't really do it," Holly notes.

"Being the King or Queen is who you are, it's a state of being and a job. This is in contrast to what we've seen in Denmark with Queen Margrethe II stepping down and saying, 'It's time to hand it over'. The British aren't in the business of handing it over." 

Importantly on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told BBC News that Charles' cancer was "caught early".

Sunak said: "Like everyone else, we're shocked and sad, and just all our thoughts are with him and his family. Thankfully, this has been caught early and now everyone will be wishing him, that he gets the treatment that he needs and makes a full recovery. That's what we're all hoping and praying for."


It's welcomed news to hear that the King's cancer was caught early, and therefore could be at a stage where the prognosis is far more positive. 

What is interesting though is the fact it wasn't Buckingham Palace that noted this in its official statement. 

British communications expert Steve Double, said the decision to disclose the diagnosis was "entirely sensible", although it "won't dampen down speculation about the form of cancer and at what stage it is at".

He suspects Buckingham Palace will continue, at least for some time, not to disclose that. Holly agrees. 

"It's interesting because certainly there would have been a decision as to whether to share this information. Charles is supposed to be quite keen to run a more transparent ship than the older days. But I do not think they would be sharing this information if it were a minor issue," she notes.

"The fact they've specified it's not prostate cancer is interesting, because it kind of opens up the speculation a little bit more. Prince Harry also clearly wants to be with his dad at this time, that could also be seen as another piece of evidence that this is a relatively serious issue - that Harry is already on a plane."

Charles became King just 17 months ago. He was last seen on Wednesday and appeared to be in good spirits, waving to the crowds as he drove off to the airport to head to Sandringham. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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