Eerily, 72 years ago today, King George VI (Queen Elizabeth’s father and King Charles’ grandfather) died of lung cancer at just 56 years old; the public didn’t know he was ill, and his health issues were completely kept a secret.
On the eve of the anniversary of his grandfather’s death, Charles broke royal protocol and openly announced his own cancer diagnosis—though its stage and what specific type of cancer it is was not disclosed. Regardless, the public knowing at all about such a major health event is a step forward for the monarchy, and it appears we have Queen Camilla to thank for it.
The Mirror reports that Camilla urged Charles to break with royal tradition and announce his illness, which Buckingham Palace did yesterday—the same day the King began outpatient treatment. Traditionally, members of the royal family keep medical issues close to the vest as they understandably want privacy, but after seeing how speaking publicly about his enlarged prostate encouraged thousands of men to look into the matter in their own lives, Camilla likely encouraged her husband to replicate the effort when it came to his new diagnosis.
“I’m sure Camilla will have encouraged the King to break with royal tradition and be open about his diagnosis,” former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond told The Mirror. “She’s a very straightforward person, which is one of the most refreshing things about her.”
Camilla is continuing to work amidst Charles’ announcement, “and, when she’s not out on maneuvers for the Firm, she’ll be fussing over him like any other doting wife,” Bond said. “For a couple in their mid- to late seventies, news like this is a sharp and unwelcome reminder of human mortality. But they both have a big job to do, with limited years to do it. And so they may well see this as a blessing in disguise. A cancer has been detected, it is being treated, and the expectation is that the King will be back to full time duties just as soon as possible.”
The once-maligned future queen is proving to be the perfect partner for her husband, in sickness and in health. Bond said Camilla is an “invaluable weapon in his arsenal as he faces the undeniable shock of a cancer diagnosis,” adding “She has the sunniest of temperaments and her default mode is to be upbeat and cheerful. For a man who has always had a slight tendency to brood on things, that attitude could be one of the most important factors on his road to recovery. Don’t get me wrong—the Queen will, of course, be shocked and hugely concerned that the man she adores has been beset by a double whammy of health problems. But her positive attitude to life in general will undoubtedly help the King as he continues his treatment.”
Camilla is tough as nails, and even had the fortitude to open a cancer center just days ago—one of her pre-planned royal engagements—while knowing full well that her husband had just been diagnosed with the disease. “It’s worth noting that, as she has taken up the royal workload in recent days—with the King, the Prince and Princess of Wales all out of action—she must have had the underlying worry about her husband facing a new scare,” Bond said. “It was brave, but she showed no sign of cracking under the pressure.”
Once seen as wholly unsuitable for Charles—before either were married and certainly after both had married other people and carried on an extramarital affair—it turns out that Camilla is exactly the woman the royal family needs in this moment.