February 22, 2024

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King Charles: How a Centuries-Old Protocol Was Broken – A Spotlight on Buckingham Palace

King Charles: How a Centuries-Old Protocol Was Broken – A Spotlight on Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has announced that King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer, which is notable because it represents a major breach of centuries-old royal protocol.

The unofficial tradition wanted members of the royal family to keep their health problems secret, something that continued throughout Queen Elizabeth's reign, but King Charles chose to break that protocol with a palace announcement that stated he had chosen to “share his diagnosis to prevent rumours.”

This is because kings historically viewed illness as a sign of weakness. It is worth noting that the public was only told that doctors were “concerned” about Queen Elizabeth II’s health and that she “remains comfortable” just hours before her death in September 2022.

According to the international affairs editor Sky NewsDominic Waghorn King Charles' move is “rather in keeping with the times in which we live”.

Waghorn explained that there is a reason why royalty is reticent to provide details about their health problems. “Historically, that was actually a cause of weakness and that continued into the 20th century and into the 21st century with Queen Elizabeth. The King can't really do that. That's not the way he works or governs,” he added.

King Charles (Credit: Dan Kitwood/Reuters)

“The King’s grandfather, King George VI, died of lung cancer. No one knew that he had lung cancer, and some historians believe that he did not know about it, meaning that his doctors did not tell him about it. With the Queen herself, we did not know that she was suffering from movement problems until In the last days of her life, he added that the death certificate indicated that old age was the cause of her death.

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But even before Buckingham Palace's statement, the king seemed determined to change that culture and secrecy.

Below is a list of royal family members who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses according to the report Sky News.

Edward VIII

Edward VIII, brother of King George VI and uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, was king until his abdication in January 1936.

Like his brother, he was a heavy smoker and died in 1972 of throat cancer.

George VI

In 1951, King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II and grandfather of Charles, underwent surgery on part of his left lung. He never fully recovered and died a year later when it was found that he was suffering from lung cancer.

King George VI was a heavy smoker and as a result he developed peripheral vascular disease which led to him developing intermittent claudication, meaning he felt pain in his muscles from lack of oxygen.

When Charles' grandfather was diagnosed with cancer in 1951, the stigma surrounding the disease was so strong that doctors usually did not tell their patients the truth about what they had discovered – and this was the case even with the then King. In fact, according to some, the public, the royal family, doctors, and the king himself were all told that his left lung had been removed due to “structural abnormalities.”

Vasilomer Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II's mother, who died at the age of 101 in 2002, suffered from persistent ulcers in her left leg and hip problems, which made walking difficult later in life. In 1995, she underwent surgery on her right hip, and three years later on her left hip.

According to Metro.co.ukThe Queen Mother Elizabeth faced a cancer diagnosis twice in her life. Either way, the public only learned about it several years after her death, when her biographer William Shawcross revealed conversations with a former royal physician.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles at the time (Source: EPA PHOTO/GERRY PENNY)

Sir Richard Thompson told Shawcross that the queen underwent surgery to remove a colon polyp in December 1966 and spent two weeks recovering in hospital.

Then, 18 years later – at the age of 83 – she returned to London's King Edward VII Hospital for another operation to remove a tumor from one breast. The official statement simply said that he underwent tests for three days in hospital.

Queen Elizabeth

The king's mother, Queen Elizabeth II, lived a generally good healthy life, but was diagnosed with coronavirus in February 2022.

In the months before her death aged 96 in September 2022, there were concerns about her mobility after she missed the official opening of Parliament that year.

In October 2021, the Queen spent a night at King Edward VII Hospital in central London after canceling a visit to Northern Ireland – and it was not clear why she was being treated in hospital.

Buckingham Palace said he was admitted for “initial examinations” but returned to Windsor Castle the next day and “remained in good spirits.”

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles at the time (Source: EPA PHOTO/ FIONA HANSON)

It was her first night in hospital in more than eight years, most recently for a case of gastroenteritis in 2013.

But with a recent book, the culture of silence and secrecy surrounding cancer in the royal family may have extended to Charles' mother. In his biography of Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait, Gilles Bradreth mentioned that he had heard that the queen was suffering from a type of bone marrow cancer called multiple myeloma before her death at the age of 96.

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Prince Philip

Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II and father of the monarch, died at the age of 99 in April 2021.

A month ago, he had undergone “successful surgery” to treat a pre-existing heart condition.

In 2012, she missed the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, as she was hospitalized for several days due to a bladder infection.

In 2011, the Duke of Edinburgh was taken to hospital by helicopter from Sandringham due to chest pains.

He was diagnosed with coronary artery occlusion and underwent coronary artery bypass stenting.

Two years ago, Prince Philip was involved in a car accident when his car collided with another car.

He was not injured, but was examined by a doctor as a precaution.

Princess Margaret

The Queen's sister suffered several strokes in the years before her death in 2002. In 1999, she severely injured her legs in a hot bath, affecting her ability to walk.

Sarah, Duchess of York

Sarah, Duchess of York, who is married to Prince Andrew, was diagnosed with melanoma in January 2024, just six months after being treated for breast cancer. A spokesman for the Duchess, 64, said she remained in “good spirits” despite the diagnosis.

Kate, Princess of Wales

In January, the Princess of Wales underwent abdominal surgery in London and is recovering at home after a hospital stay. She has since returned to her home in Windsor, where Kensington Palace said she was “making good progress.”