The health of Kate Middleton and King Charles III and three other major challenges facing the British royal family


Sean Coughlan

The royal family faced a difficult start to the year, filled with uncertainty about the health of some of its members and a wave of rumors and speculation.

But what can they do to return to normality? And what challenges must they face?


Social media users do not know how to deal with an information vacuum. In WhatsApp, Facebook and TikTok groups, speculation about the Princess of Wales is omnipresent.

Recovering from planned abdominal surgery, she has yet to appear in public in 2024. And the explanation for her absence was reiterated by royal officials this week:

“Kensington Palace made clear in January the timelines for the princess’s recovery. We said we would only provide significant updates. That guidance remains.”

The positive side for the royal family is that the interest indicates that the British care about them. Indifference would be worse. And I foresee a big change when the situation becomes clearer, what will happen, and people are reassured.

Some long-term questions may arise from there, however, about what a mature relationship with royalty should be like. You shouldn’t expect perfection from anyone. We all have our weaknesses, but this also means more transparency at Buckingham Palace.


One of the unknowns surrounding the royal family is King Charles’ type of cancer – Getty Images

Everyone has the right to privacy, but for public figures, especially those who receive public salaries, there is a fine line between privacy and secrecy.

Part of the royals’ current problem is the accumulation of unknowns: Catherine’s illness, King Charles’ type of cancer and the “personal matter” that prevented Prince William from continuing at his godfather’s funeral.

It’s an ever-growing cloud of uncertainty that only fuels online speculation. This is what happens when the available information is only enough to generate more questions and not to generate answers.

There is a bigger question about secrecy in a modern monarchy. Some mystery is needed to maintain the mystique. But this can also feel like concealment.

Historians complain about the excessive secrecy surrounding archival documents. Should the royal family be willing to answer questions about their work? It seems strange that, in 2024, they will make official visits and trips and not have to give explanations about their steps.


The absence of a leader is a great difficulty for any institution. The king is undergoing treatment for cancer and therefore, understandably, does not participate in public events. His health has to be the priority for him and his family.

But the pressure to be visible remains. There is a long-standing royal saying that “a monarchy has to be seen to be believed.”

It is a reflection of how periods of unpopularity in the British monarchy were often associated with being out of the public eye, such as when Queen Victoria, mourning the loss of King Albert, withdrew from public life.

Prince Andrew walks at the head of the group called the British monarchy’s reserve team – Getty Images

We can expect more virtual appearances from the king, such as video messages and speeches or social media posts, just as he was recently seen reading letters with well wishes.

There may also be more interventions, such as declaring support for Ukraine. His team will try to keep him in the headlines even if he doesn’t appear or participate in public events.

It is also worth remembering that, in the case of King Charles, opinion polls indicate that the majority of people believed that the information about his health condition was disclosed to the right extent. Just 13% expected more details, according to the YouGov poll.


Prince Andrew is back on the front pages this week, which usually spells trouble for the royals.

On the way to the funeral of King Constantine of Greece, he led the monarchy’s “reserve team” and was accused by newspapers of hogging the spotlight too enthusiastically.

It is also to be expected that he will return to the headlines next month with the Netflix film about the interview he gave to the BBC news program Newsnight in 2019. If there were a museum of problematic interviews, the interview would be the centerpiece of the exhibition.

All the questions about Jeffrey Epstein, Virginia Giuffre and Woking will come back to haunt the royals. Andrew became the boomerang of bad news.

For very different reasons, Prince Harry is another long-unresolved point of tension for the royals. There was never a proper resolution about his role in the family. Since Harry moved to the United States, the talk has been that there is no such thing as “half in, half out of royalty.” But he remains almost like a rival court, a prince beyond the sea, a restless prince.

The royal family needs to be a unifying force, which is difficult in such a polarized era, and even more so when it appears to be a family in internal conflict.

Although, on the more positive side, this is why some say that being a dysfunctional family is the only thing that brings royalty closer to the people.


The absence of the new generation was visible this week, without William and Kate – Getty Images

The problem with royalty lies in its youth – or, to be more precise, its lack of youth. This was made even more painfully visible this week, without William or Catherine, as the royals gathered for the funeral in Windsor. They looked older and more fragile. Not to mention paler.

What makes the problem worse is the lack of appeal to younger Britons, a message highlighted by several opinion polls. There is clearly a great difficulty in not appearing and sounding anachronistic. How could the monarchy find a lighter, more fun touch?

Winning over younger people is complicated for a royal machine that still focuses on traditional TV news and newspaper front pages, which are increasingly less likely to reach this audience.

And if the era of deference is over, how should a modern monarchy communicate with the people?

After a bad winter, the royals must be eager for some spring sunshine.

This text was originally published here.

Source: Folha

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