King Charles III has been told he has cancer and has begun treatment in London.
The shocking news comes a week after the 75-year-old British queen left the hospital after another surgery to treat an enlarged prostate.
This is what we know.
How did they find the cancer?
Last month, Charles’ health problems began when Buckingham Palace said on January 17 that the King would go to the hospital for a “corrective procedure” for a benign enlarged prostate.
After showing signs and getting checked out at his home in Birkhall, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, he was given a diagnosis.
After three nights at the private hospital near Regent’s Park, he was released from the London Clinic on January 29 and was said to be “doing well” at the time. He was let go hours after Catherine, Princess of Wales, left the same place where she had been sleeping after a successful surgery on her abdomen.
But while the King was getting that treatment, the palace said on Monday that there was another issue that needed attention. Tests later found “a form of cancer.”
Health experts say it’s not unusual for a lot of people with cancer to be identified while they are getting imaging or medical care for something else.
“You’re going in for one thing, but then you do additional testing — either as part of a general evaluation or influenced by certain symptoms or signs or blood tests that trigger a procedure or imaging — which then leads to the diagnosis of cancer in a different organ system,” said Dr. Anil Rustgi, director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who was not involved in Charles’ care.
According to Cleveland Clinic, in most cases, metastatic cancer is not curable. However, treatment can slow growth and ease many of the associated symptoms. It’s possible to live for several years with some types of cancer, even after it has metastasized. Some types of metastatic cancer are potentially curable, including melanoma and colon cancer.
What don’t we know?
The palace has also not said how bad the cancer is or how quickly it was found, nor has it said what kind of treatment the king may be getting. CNN was told by a royal source that it wasn’t prostate cancer, but they didn’t say anything else.
People outside of the royal family rarely talk about their specific medical problems. From the palace’s point of view, they have the right to some medical privacy even though they work for the government. That was the case when the first report of a big prostate came in. But Charles chose to tell others about his diagnosis because he wanted to encourage other guys who might be having symptoms to see a doctor.
When a condition could affect public tasks, things are different. From that point on, the palace had to say what was going on, which is why a statement was made Monday night.
How is King Charles doing?
King Charles was seen for the first time since Sunday, when he got out of the hospital. He seemed happy as he waved to people on their way to St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, for a Sunday morning service with Queen Camilla by his side.
After that, he went back to London and started outpatient treatment. On Tuesday, he left the city.
The King’s doctors have told him to put off public appearances while he gets treatment. However, he will still be doing state business and official paperwork, the palace said.
He “remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible,” it added.
That means he’ll probably keep getting his daily red boxes of government papers, which he can use to keep going through state papers at home.
The King will likely meet with the prime minister again in person on February 21, according to the UK’s PA news agency.
The meeting between Charles and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took place over the phone on Wednesday, according to the PA.
CNN has learned that the King will still be able to do official tasks like attend Privy Council meetings. But the specifics of how that will happen are still being worked out.
Tuesday, after his son, Prince Harry, and daughter, Princess Beatrice, paid him a visit, the King went to Sandringham House, the royal family’s private country retreat in Norfolk, eastern England.
The King told Grenada on Wednesday that it had been 50 years since it became independent.
Who is in charge of the family now?
The first time Prince William has been seen in public since his wife Catherine had surgery last month was on Wednesday. It’s not clear what the surgery was for, but on January 17, a royal source told CNN that the 42-year-old’s illness wasn’t cancerous.
The news that William would be going on more royal duties came just hours before the King was told he had cancer. Someone who is close to the Prince of Wales says that William talks to his father often.
William’s first public performance was at Windsor Castle to lead an investiture show. He is a patron of the London Air Ambulance Charity, and later on Wednesday he went to a charity gala for the charity. There he met crew members, supporters of the charity, and past patients.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you, also, for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days,” the Prince of Wales said in a speech at the Gala dinner. “It means a great deal to us all.”
Footage from the event showed William shaking hands with Tom Cruise and the people who work for the air ambulance. “Tom, if you wouldn’t mind not borrowing either of the new helicopters for the next ‘Mission Impossible’, it would be appreciated,” William joked in his speech.
Before, the Prince of Wales took some time off to help his family while his wife continued to heal at their home in Windsor. Kensington Palace said before that the princess probably wouldn’t be able to go back to work until after Easter, so she will need to rest for a few months. Last week, a royal source told CNN that the princess’s return to work will depend on what doctors say when the time comes.
In the past few weeks, Queen Camilla has been busy with a lot of public tasks, and that is likely to continue. At the same time, other family members who work are continuing to do public appearances, and CNN has learned that they could also take on extra tasks for Charles if required.
In the past few years, “the Firm” has tried to change its image to keep up with the times, so fewer “working royals” are seen by the public. Working royals are the only ones who can do engagements for the King. They shared the 2,710 trips and events that happened last year.
King Charles, Queen Camilla, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the Waleses, the Sussexes, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent were all due to be in that group. Before Prince Harry and Meghan quit, Andrew had to step down because of his link with the late child molester Jeffrey Epstein. Eleven people from the clan now do royal tasks. More than half of them are over 70 years old.
Harry went back to the UK on Tuesday to see his dad after being told he had cancer. The duke, who stopped being a prince in 2020, sped across the Atlantic from California to see the King. He is thought to have not seen the King since May, when he was crowned.
What could happen if the King becomes too ill to work?
While everything coming from the palace is looking good, there are legal protections in place in case the King is suddenly unable to do his job. During that time, “counsellors of state” can be asked to help him.
With something called a “letters patent,” the monarch can name two advisers to work for them and help run the country. They would be able to sign papers, go to Privy Council meetings, and receive new diplomats, but they wouldn’t be able to do some of the most important constitutional tasks, like picking the Prime Minister. CNN has learned that there are no plans to hire any mentors at this time.
Princes William, Harry, and Andrew, as well as Princess Beatrice, are on the list of royals who can step in. In 2022, the King added his brothers, Princess Anne and Prince Edward, to this group of family members. It’s not likely that the Dukes of Sussex or York would be asked to step up if this choice was used in the next few weeks or months, since they are no longer working royals.
A regent can take over the King’s powers if he is totally unable to do what the Constitution says he must do and the state can no longer work properly. The next person in line to the throne, according to the Regency Act of 1937, is Prince William.
To make that happen, there must be medical proof “that the Sovereign is by reason of infirmity of mind or body incapable for the time being of performing the royal functions” or “is for some definite cause not available for the performance of those functions.”
A group of four people must agree with the facts by a majority vote. The Queen, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice of England, and the Master of the Rolls make up that group. In writing, they would have to say what they decided and say if and when the King is ready to return to his tasks. Until then, Prince William would speak for him.
What is the current line of succession?
The line of succession has not changed even though the number of working royals has changed over the past few years.
Prince William, the King’s older son, is the first person to claim the British throne. His three children come after him: Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5.
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