King Charles III has been diagnosed with a form of cancer and is suspending his public engagements to undergo treatment, casting a shadow over a busy reign that began barely 18 months ago.
The announcement, made by Buckingham Palace on Monday evening, came a week after the 75-year-old sovereign was discharged from a London hospital, following a procedure to treat an enlarged prostate.
The palace did not disclose what form of cancer Charles has, but a palace official said it was not prostate cancer. Doctors detected the cancer during that procedure, and the king began treatment on Monday.
“During the king’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted,” the palace said in a four-paragraph statement. “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.”
Palace officials said the king would continue to carry out other duties, including his weekly meeting with the prime minister, as well as the daily pile of paperwork he works through as Britain’s head of state.
The palace said Charles “remains wholly positive about his treatment” and looked forward to returning to public engagements. He returned to London from his country residence, Sandringham, to begin treatment as an outpatient, palace officials said.
Charles, who ascended to the throne in September 2022 after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, has generally been in good health. As a child, he suffered from recurring tonsillitis, but as an adult, he enjoyed vigorous sports like hiking, polo and skiing.
His disclosure of the prostate treatment, and now of his cancer diagnosis, is unusual for the royal family, whose members often reveal little about their health. After the queen’s death at 96 years old, the palace issued her death certificate, which listed her cause of death simply as “old age.”
Still, palace officials on Monday also made clear that they would not issue regular updates on the king’s condition, and they asked reporters not to attempt to contact those involved in his treatment.
Charles’s diagnosis comes as Catherine, the Princess of Wales, spent almost two weeks in the hospital after undergoing abdominal surgery, and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, said that she had been diagnosed with melanoma.
The palace said in its statement that the king had 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 king’s younger son, Prince Harry, has been in touch with his father and planned to travel to Britain in the coming days to visit him, according to the BBC. Harry has been largely estranged from the royal family since he and his wife, Meghan, announced they were withdrawing from official duties and moved to California.
Palace officials said Queen Camilla would continue to carry out a full program of official engagements during her husband’s treatment. She was a frequent visitor during his hospitalization for prostate treatment at the London Clinic.
Charles’s illness caps a period of troubling health news for the royal family. Catherine, the wife of Prince William, was hospitalized for almost two weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery. She was released last week, but Kensington Palace has released few details about her recovery.
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and ex-wife of the king’s younger brother, Prince Andrew, said recently that she had been diagnosed with melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer. It was her second cancer diagnosis within a year. Ms. Ferguson, 64, had spoken publicly about her decision to undergo a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery last year after a breast cancer diagnosis in the summer.
The news of the king’s illness brought an outpouring of well wishes from British leaders and other public figures.
“Wishing His Majesty a full and speedy recovery,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted on social media. “I have no doubt that he’ll be back to full strength in no time and I know the whole country will be wishing him well.”
Michelle O’Neill, the Irish nationalist leader just named as first minister of Northern Ireland’s government, wrote on X, “I am very sorry to hear of King Charles illness and I want to wish him well for his treatment and a full and speedy recovery.”
In his time on the throne, Charles has been both a figure of continuity for the House of Windsor and a more politically engaged sovereign than his mother was.
Last year, he played host at Windsor Castle to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, moments after she signed a Northern Ireland trade agreement with Mr. Sunak. The timing drew criticism, since it appeared to give a royal imprimatur to the deal — in what some considered an improper intervention by the monarch in politics.
In December, the king addressed the opening ceremony of the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, listing a litany of climate-related natural disasters that had afflicted the world in the last year; wildfires in Canada; floods in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh; cyclones in the Pacific; and a drought in East Africa.
“We are taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits, and into dangerous uncharted territory,” Charles said. “Our choice now is a starker and darker one: How dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world?”
The king also made two highly successful state visits to Europe, addressing the German Parliament in serviceable German, and drawing excited crowds during a walkabout with President Emmanuel Macron of France.