King Charles III, who just days ago underwent a procedure to treat his enlarged prostate, has been diagnosed with cancer, Buckingham Palace announced on Monday.
Prince Harry was said to be racing back to the U.K. from his home in California to be by his father’s side.
In a statement, the palace said: “During the king’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer.
“His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties. Throughout this period, His Majesty will continue to undertake state business and official paperwork as usual.
“The king is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure. He remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.
“His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer.”
The palace advised journalists that the diagnosis was not prostate cancer, as some might have assumed, and said that he had returned to London from his country home of Sandringham to commence treatment as an out-patient.
Charles’ new health scare comes a little over 24 hours after hopes for his recovery were raised when he was photographed looking cheerful while attending church on Sunday morning.
That the cancer was found not because it was symptomatic but because Charles was undergoing treatment at the London Clinic for a benign enlarged prostate will raise hopes that it has been caught early.
He was discharged a week ago from the private London hospital where he spent three nights after receiving treatment for his prostate.
The decision by Charles to publicly say he has cancer in real time represents a huge break with protocol.
There is a not inconsiderable history of cancer in the family.
Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (the mother of Queen Elizabeth II), was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 66, and 18 years later diagnosed with breast cancer. Her health was kept private at the time, but it was one of the first modern cases of cancer in the family that was subsequently acknowledged.
She underwent surgery to remove the tumours, and lived to the age of 101, dying in 2002— the same year her daughter Princess Margaret passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer.
King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth, was also a known cancer patient.
He had a malignant tumor removed in 1951, a fact that was not widely disclosed until his death a year later.
Amid these documented cases, there’s been a plethora of speculative cases as well, such as King Edward VI, who died prematurely at the age of 15 in 1553. While his death was officially attributed to tuberculosis, historians and medical professionals alike have theorized that a form of cancer killed him.
Queen Elizabeth II is understood to have had bone cancer, and it is thought to have been a contributing factor to her deteriorating health in later years, however her cause of death was officially given as old age.
Worrying about Charles’ health will be a new experience for many, with the king often assumed to have benefited from his healthy and abstemious lifestyle. However, as one friend previously told The Daily Beast: “Charles is an older man. He was 73 when his mother died, so even if he lives to 100 he is not even close to half of his mother’s reign [70 years]. I’m afraid the prostate problems are an unwelcome reminder of those simple facts.”
Charles will now reluctantly be forced to accept a slowing down of his schedule, having spent the 16 months since Queen Elizabeth’s death in a dizzying blur of activity.
Charles, often described as a workaholic by his family, undertook 516 public engagements last year, including 94 abroad.
Monday’s announcement is the latest development in a few weeks of unprecedented royal medical drama, with Kate Middleton having been admitted to hospital for abdominal surgery and Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife, announcing she has skin cancer.