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  • Manuela El-Bacha

Secrecy in the Royal Family

It is no news that the British royal family values discreteness when it comes to personal matters, therefore only bringing to the public eye situations that have extreme significance. They found themselves in this situation when reporting that King Charles III, who inherited the throne on September 8th, 2022, was diagnosed with cancer. 

The cancer was found while the King was doing other medical procedures. It was already well-known by the public that the Head of State found himself cautious about his health. At first, on January 17th, 2024, Buckingham Palace announced that the King would go to a hospital to undergo a “corrective procedure” for a benign enlarged prostate. He was visited by doctors at his residence in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and then spent three nights at the London Clinique, a private healthcare organization, until being discharged on January 29th. Nevertheless, the palace announced that while the King was undergoing routine medical care a matter of concern was discovered, and further testing revealed a form of cancer.

The Palace does not communicate or announce private matters from the royal family, and this time was no different– it did not specify where the cancer was located, what treatments the King would undergo, or any other additional information. According to CNN, a royal source solely affirmed that the cancer is not located in the prostate and withheld any additional information.  When a condition may have an impact on public duties, the palace finds itself in the position to announce it, which is why it released the statement about the King's cancer.

Other than the King's health, the population is quite concerned about who will succeed to the throne, in the worst-case scenario. Just a few hours before the King's cancer diagnosis, Prince William announced that he would be returning to royal engagements after taking an absence to be with his wife while she recovered from abdominal surgery. William and his father have regular communication, a source close to the Prince of Wales has revealed. Following that week's statements, the Prince has already attended engagements as the royal figure's representative. 

The fact that there were only 14 working royals in recent years, which was already a very small number, became much more concerning when Prince Andrew was forced to step down due to his amicable relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and Prince Harry and his wife Duchess Meghan decided to officially cut ties with the family. Currently, 11 members of the clan participate in royal tasks; it is important to mention that over half of them are older than 70. 

What is most worrying are the lines that the Palace is not willing to cross. The king of England's diagnosis of cancer left an eerie suspense to the citizens of the country as there is no indication of the severity of it. The public has multiple perspectives and fractured announcements where royal members state that the king is "doing well" when their actions seem to indicate the opposite. Naturally, the situation is delicate so the most care should be taken before bringing it to the public's eye. It's more than comprehensible that the Palace adopted a more private policy, but the apparent absence of information is an irresponsible act upon the British. 

On February 8th, at an event in Salisbury Cathedral, Queen Camilla spoke about her husband's situation in a very serene manner. According to the King’s ex-mistress, Charles is "doing extremely well under the circumstances". So, we might as well believe that the King’s health is improving.  That would be right if mixed signs would stop coming ahead of the public. 

Henry Charles Albert David, son of the now-ill King, traveled from the United States to British territory to visit his father. After the decision to step down as senior royals in January 2020, the former prince and his wife Meghan, former Duchess of Sussex, were seen very few times in the presence of the royal family, even when they were in the United Kingdom. The former prince placed fifth in the line of the throne, and is still in a frustrating situation with his family– a situation so delicate that he came to the point of publishing a book where he exposes the royals. In his book, Prince Harry presents topics of great urgency, such as racism, and accuses members of his family of incentivizing them. A day after arriving in London, numerous British media sites reported that Prince Harry seemed to be returning home to the United States. After years of disconnection, the brief meeting between him and his father has raised rumors of a quick and unexpected reconciliation. The sick father, who might be dealing with worse circumstances than it may seem, is the only factor that could justify it. 

That is exactly what it all comes down to: the King doing extremely well according to his wife, but simultaneously his distant son decides to visit his father. The Palace gives no further information other than that doctors found cancerous cells. We do not know exactly when the cancer was found, where it is located, what treatments are encouraged, and even less what treatments the King is willing to go through. It is understandable that the Palace values privacy when topics are from the royal personal life, but when this same topic may be a significant threat to the Monarch's life the population has the right to know. Certain details should not be shared, but the gravity of the situation, which is the bare minimum, should.

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