On Monday evening, Buckingham Palace suddenly announced that King Charles III had been diagnosed with cancer, less than 18 months after the start of his reign. He is undergoing outpatient treatment in London.
The British monarch’s diagnosis sparked an outpouring of sympathy from world leaders, with President Biden saying he was praying for “a rapid and complete recovery,» and the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, calling himself “shocked and sad” by the news. “He will just be in our thoughts and prayers,” Mr Sunak said. told BBC radio Tuesday. “Many families across the country listening to this will have been affected by the same thing. »
Here’s what you need to know about the king’s condition and its implications for the British monarchy.
What do we know about the king’s diagnosis?
Not a lot. Buckingham Palace said on Monday evening that “a form of cancer” had been diagnosed, but I didn’t specify what kindand asked reporters not to try to contact anyone involved in Charles’ care.
The palace said doctors had identified “an area of concern” while treating Charles, 75, last month for an enlarged prostate. They confirmed the cancer – but not prostate cancer – with subsequent tests.
Charles, the statement added, began a regular treatment program on Monday and “remains fully positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning fully to public duties as soon as possible.”
That the palace has not publicly identified the form of cancer is not a surprise; The British royal family tends to be extremely private about health matters. Three weeks ago, when the planned treatment for Charles’ prostate was made public, the announcement was seen as a break with tradition.
The palace said the king, who supported several cancer charities as Prince of Wales, had chosen to share his diagnosis “to prevent speculation and in the hope that it might help the public understand all those who, in the world, are affected by cancer”.
What are the normal duties of the king, and who will perform them from now on?
On the advice of his doctors, Charles will temporarily step back from his public engagements, which typically include speeches, visits to charities he supports, community projects and trips abroad.
But the king will continue to exercise his duties as leader of Great Britain. largely ceremonial head of state. This involves meeting Mr Sunak every week and tackling a daily problem. “red box” of official documentssuch as signing routine government documents and receiving letters of credence from new ambassadors to Britain.
Queen Camilla will conduct a full schedule of official engagements during her husband’s treatment, the palace said, and Prince William, heir to the throne, is expected to resume public engagements this week. William, 41, had suspended his public duties for a few weeks because his wife, Catherine, was hospitalized in January for an abdominal operation. She is currently recovering at home.
Officials said there were no plans to appoint state counselors to replace King Charles – a procedure that could indicate the sovereign was unable to carry out his duties due to illness.
What happens if Charles becomes unable to perform his duties?
If the king is temporarily unable to exercise his duties as head of state due to illness or travel abroad, state councilors are appointed to carry out these functions.
Some fundamental constitutional actions still require the king to help formalize them, including the dissolution of Parliament to pave the way for new elections; appoint new members to the House of Lords, the unelected upper house of Parliament; and appoint a prime minister.
If Charles became incapable, he could remain king but with a “regent” fully assuming the functions of sovereign. The regent would be next in the line of succession: Prince William.
Below the 1937 law which governs the procedure, the king himself would not make the decision. Instead, a group including Queen Camilla and some of the most senior officials in the British state, including the head of the English judiciary and the Speaker of the House of Commons, sign a declaration of incapacitysupported by medical evidence.
William would then take a series of formal oaths, including “to be faithful and bear true allegiance to King Charles III, his heirs and successors according to law”, before beginning his new duties.
If the king later recovered, the regency could end with a declaration of “cessation of incapacity”.