Charles III’s cancer opens a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom

As the longest-serving heir to the throne in history, he was able to think carefully about what he wanted his reign to be like. He waited for 73 years to do his life’s work. But when not even the first anniversary of his coronation has passed, Charles III has been forced to take a step back. He always refused to be just a transitional monarch. He wanted to leave his mark. However, cancer has forced the king – who is now 75 years old – to cancel his public agenda.

They do not want to talk about a constitutional crisis and at all times a message of tranquility is transmitted. In fact, the protocol has not even been activated to call the “state councillors”, those authorized to act in the monarch’s place if he or she is temporarily unable to perform his or her duties due to illness or absence abroad. But it is obvious that there is concern and the Press already explains the steps that should be taken if the worst scenario is reached.

With everything, Carlos III will continue to assume his duties as Head of State for the moment, including his weekly hearings with the “premier”, Rishi Sunak, who yesterday specified that the tumor “has been detected in time.” «Our thoughts are with him and his family. He will now receive the treatment he needs to fully recover. That is what we all hope and pray for. Of course, I am in regular contact with him and will continue to communicate with him as normal,” he told BBC Radio 5.

Buckingham palace He has not detailed what type of cancer he suffers from, what treatment he is receiving or when their incorporation into public events could be planned. These are key to guaranteeing the continuity of the institution. For the person in charge of a parliamentary Monarchy, the signatures that he impregnates in the documents that he turns into law are as important as the agenda that he brings to the people. Elizabeth II already said it, “You have to be seen to be believed.”

Yesterday Charles III left his official residence of Clarence House, in London, to move to his country house in Sandringham, in the English county of Norfolk, which allowed his first image to be captured since the Royal House announced his illness on Monday. The monarch greeted excitedly through the window accompanied by his wife Camila, who he saw with a serious face.

Cancer is not uncharted territory for the Royal Family. Although he always wanted to keep it a secret. When the grandfather of Charles III, King George VI underwent cancer surgery in 1951, the people were told almost nothing about their condition. He died five months later, making his daughter Queen Elizabeth II at just 25 years old. After seven decades of the Elizabethan era, the sovereign died in September 2022 at the age of 96. Her death certificate indicated “old age” as the cause. But Gyles Brandretha family friend, later recounted in a biography that he had been suffering from a form of bone marrow cancer.

When Buckingham Palace announced last month that Carlos III had been diagnosed with a benign enlargement of the prostate, seemed to mark a new stage for an institution until now not known for its transparency. His desire was to share details of his condition to encourage other men experiencing the same symptoms to seek medical advice.

Now we are experiencing a very different situation that has even activated protocols to inform a series of world leaders. The official statement has been more opaque. By clarifying only that it is not prostate cancer, you open Pandora’s box to all kinds of speculation. The British are worried. Many have come to Buckingham’s doors to leave flowers and messages wishing him a speedy recovery.

There are constitutional mechanisms that would be activated if there comes a point where Charles III cannot fulfill his duties. The “state councillors” – currently Camilla (wife), Prince William (heir), Prince Edward and Princess Anne (siblings of the monarch) – can act on his behalf, but only temporarily, and not for all acts. They could not appoint a prime minister or dissolve Parliament.

Another option would be a regency that would allow Charles III to transfer his powers as monarch to his heir, the Prince of Wales, although he would remain head of state. And it is a reversible process so he could later recover his agenda when he recovered.

The last resort would be abdication. But it is not even considered a possibility. The abdication of the late Queen’s uncle Edward VIII in 1936 sparked a major constitutional crisis and the Royal Family has never forgotten its devastating impact. Like her mother, Isabel II, when Charles III acceded to the throne, he also committed to serving the people for life. It must be taken into account that the British monarchy is also a priestly monarchy, as was evident in the May coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, when the king underwent a consecration ritual similar to that undergone by a priest. No matter how much a priest stops being active, he is a priest until he dies.

At the moment, it is other members of the Royal Family who have intensified their agenda to cover the monarch. The main objective is to avoid the empty throne image. Princess Anneone of the most active of “The Firm”, was at a ceremony at Windsor Castle yesterday and then visited a community center in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.

However, all the attention now falls on the Prince of Wales, William. The heir to the throne, 41, will reappear this Wednesday at an investiture at Windsor Castle before attending the London Air Ambulance annual fundraising gala, which will take place in London tonight. It will be his reappearance after more than a month without a public agenda to take care of his wife, Catalina, who may not be able to resume her duties until after Easter after undergoing non-cancerous “abdominal surgery” from which they still do not have any. details revealed. The situation, without a doubt, is more than exceptional. The head of state is out of the picture and Catalina – who has become one of the pillars of the institution – is also on sick leave.

The fact that prince harry arrived in London yesterday, less than 24 hours after the news was communicated to him, denotes that it is not a minor matter. The Duke of Sussex, who has no relationship with his family since cutting ties with the Palace to settle in Los Angeles, met with his father at Clarence House before he traveled to his country house. As happened with the coronation in May last year, Harry has traveled alone to the United Kingdom, without the company of his wife, Meghan, or his two children.

The last time he was in London was last September at an event with an NGO, but he did not meet with his people. Many hope that circumstances will now help a reconciliation with the possibility that Harry, as grandson and son of the king and brother of the future monarch, return to the institution in which he once appeared as one of the most popular figures. However, at the time of going to press, there were no plans to meet with his brother, the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne, on whom, now more than ever, all eyes are focused.