King Charles has put measures in place to ensure that Prince Andrew and Prince Harry cannot carry out engagements on his behalf while he is treated for an enlarged prostate next week.
As Charles will undergo a standard procedure, it is expected that he will be able to resume official duties within a matter of weeks. In the meantime, Prince Andrew or Prince Harry, who are both Counsellors of State, will not be permitted to represent the king during his absence. The role of counsellor of state is to stand in for the monarch if he is incapacitated, but because Andrew and Harry are not working royals, they will not be required to do so.
According to royal expert Dickie Arbiter, “They’ve taken the most sensible option. Only Parliament can remove them as Counsellors of State and they’ve got their hands full so the [royal] household have said only working royals can stand in for the king which is a neat and sensible solution to a potential problem.”
Arbiter continued, “Let’s not forget this is the first time Charles has been in hospital since he broke his arm in 1990 so he has had a wonderful run of health. He’s pretty fit and should bounce back quickly.”
Nonetheless, Buckingham Palace has a contingency plan in place. Should Charles be unable to return to duties for longer than hoped, Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and Anne, Princess Royal will be called upon. Charles appointed his sister, brother and sister-in-law to the list of counsellors in 2022 following the accession.
According to the Times of London “in a hitherto unnoticed statement during the second reading of the bill in the Lords on November 21 2022, Lord True, lord privy seal and leader of the Lords, said that the royal household had confirmed that in practice only working members of the royal family will be called on to act as counsellors of state.”
Today, the royal family is in the extraordinary and unprecedented position of finding itself down three key members. Kate Middleton is in a central London hospital recovering from a major operation and will be out of action until after Easter. Prince William has also canceled all official engagements for the foreseeable future in order to support his wife and take care of their three young children.
While Queen Camilla continues to carry out engagements and will be on official duties next week, there is a vast workload that has had to be shelved for the foreseeable future. A possible trip to Rome for William and Kate will be rescheduled and there is a question mark over foreign travel given the King’s condition. “This is very rare, the royals are actually five members down because there were seven if you include Harry and Andrew,” said Arbiter, who previously worked for Buckingham Palace as communications secretary to the Queen. “What has happened is unprecedented. If this had happened later in the year it would have hindered the work they do. In January, they are still basically on down time. The first we really see them is in mid-February.”
On Friday, King Charles was seen traveling to Sandringham for the first time since Buckingham Palace announced news of his planned procedure next week. The statement was issued just 90 minutes after Kensington Palace announced that Kate underwent a previously planned abdominal surgery that would keep her in the hospital for up to two weeks.
While Charles is expected to be able to resume light work duties soon after his procedure, Kate’s recovery period will be longer. “The palace is saying up to 14 days in hospital which means she is going to need time to recover at home too,” added Arbiter. “There has been some criticism of William taking time off but I think he is doing what he needs to do as a father and a husband. He’s a hands-on dad and caring husband. If there’s something urgent regarding business he’ll make himself available.”
The decision by Buckingham Palace to make details of Charles and Kate’s hospital visits public is unusual as is the detailed nature of the statements, signaling a new era of transparency around royal health matters.
“The King will have wanted to make his news public because it’s a problem with men in this country because men don’t often get checked out until it’s too late. He’s stepping up to the plate and being open and the NHS and cancer charities will be very grateful to him for doing so. He’s speaking about something private and personal and that’s a very good modern move for a modern monarch,” said Arbiter.