Prince William stepping up following Charles’ cancer diagnosis: returns to royal duties weeks after Kate’s hospitalization

People across the UK are still grappling with this week’s shock news that King Charles III, England’s recently-coronated monarch, was diagnosed with an unspecified cancer.

There are still many questions about the king’s health, but in light of the news the eyes of the world have been turning to Prince William, Charles’ son and heir.

Today, William returned to royal duties after a weeks-long absence regarding his wife’s own health scare, raising questions about to what extent the Princes of Wales will fill in for his father.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 07: Prince William, The Prince Of Wales smiles as he attends London’s Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner, where he will meet crew members, former patients and supporters, before delivering a short speech on February 07, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

William returning to royal duties

Prince William, 41, is resuming public duties after a particularly difficult few weeks for his family. On January 16, his wife Kate, Princess of Wales, was hospitalized for abdominal surgery and has since been recovering.

William had cleared his schedule to look after his wife, who is expected to return to royal life after Easter. But after a three week absence, William returned to royal duties today, performing an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle and appearing at a charity event this evening for the London Air Ambulance.

These are routine duties for a working royal, but have new significance in light of Charles’ cancer diagnosis.

The statement from Buckingham Palace said that Charles would “continue to undertake state business and official paperwork as usual,” but was advised to “postpone public duties for treatment.”

While Charles will continue perform his formal constitutional functions and there are no plans to appoint Counsellors of State to act on his behalf, It has been widely expected that William — next in line for the throne — will step up and take on extra duties as his father undergoes treatment.

READ MORE: Prince Harry rushes to London to be by his father’s side, day after King Charles’ cancer diagnosis

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“It is hard with Kate being ill as well, but he will step up,” a source close to the royal family told People, adding that “William will do his best, but the King will want to carry on with his duties as best he can.”

But the extent to which Prince of Wales will fill in for his father remains to be seen.

Lee Thompson, spokesperson for William and Kate, told the Washington Post that William “may step in for His Majesty” but “nothing is scheduled currently,” adding that the offices of Charles and William were “in constant communication, and should the need arise appropriate arrangements will be made.”

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – JULY 03: King Charles III during his visit to Kinneil House during the British Royal Family’s Royal Week in Scotland on July 3, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The British Royal family will carry out traditional engagements in Scotland until Thursday. This includes the presentation of the Honours of Scotland to King Charles III and Queen Camilla at a National Service of Thanksgiving on July 05. (Photo by Andrew Milligan – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Williams’ return to royal duties is also complicated by his wife’s health problems, and some sources indicate that, with the king’s blessing, he’s only returning in a limited capacity as he continues to care for Kate.

“The Prince has always made clear that his priority is to support his wife and family for the time being – and he did not put a timescale on that,” a source told the Daily Mail. “He will make a return to duties on Wednesday but you should not expect to see him again for a bit after that.”

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“The King adores Catherine and thinks she is doing a wonderful job. He understands that family comes first.”

READ MORE: Prince William & Kate Middleton issued serious warning – just days after the princess returns home after surgery

And while the focus is on William, he’s not the only royal who can fill in for the king if need be. Senior royals including Princess Anne and Queen Camilla are also expected to assume some of Charles’ public-facing duties.

(Don’t expect the exiled Prince Harry to become more involved: after a brief visit to see his father in London, he returned to California — reportedly without meeting with William, indicating that longstanding tensions remain within the family. And one of Charles’ first acts as monarch was reportedly to remove Harry as a counsellor of state, along with the disgraced Prince Andrew.)

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 13: (L-R) Prince Harry, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge arrive at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference at Lancaster House on February 13, 2014 in London, England. It is hoped that following discussions at the conference, nations will sign a declaration that will commit them to a range of goals to combat the poaching that is threatening animals such as tigers, elephants and rhinos. (Photo by John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty images)

William’s future

Buckingham Palace did not specify what kind of cancer Charles has nor what stage it was found in, so the extent of his health problems is not known to the public yet. Coronated in May, he is the oldest person to accede the throne in British history.

While many questions remain, the news about Charles’ health has people speculating on what the future of the British royalty might look like with William as its figurehead.

BBC royal correspondent Sean Coughlan wrote that William “can show his own version of royalty.” “If Prince William has to step up and take on more royal duties, it will be a chance to see how differently he might do things in future.”

(Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

“It must feel to Prince William that the responsibilities lying ahead of him are closer than ever,” Coughlan wrote, a reminder of “how his own role will change, not least in the short term, as he takes on more engagements while the King recuperates.”

“I think he’ll be feeling very serious about his life,” former royal correspondent Jennie Bond told OK!. “This is not a time in which he wanted to take on extra responsibilities, and it’s not a time when he wanted, really, to contemplate the fact that one day in the very foreseeable future he is going to be a monarch.”

We continue to wish King Charles a full and speedy recover, and our thoughts are with his family who are stepping up in his absence from public duties.

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