King Charles and Kate Middleton both in hospital: Who could take over for the monarch if he’s incapacitated?

On Wednesday 17 January, it was announced that both the Princess of Wales and King Charles are having health issues requiring surgeries. While the Princess of Wales can be taken care of at home, who will take care of the monarchy when the King is down?

King Charles enlarged prostate surgery
© Karwai Tang / GETTY IMAGES
King Charles enlarged prostate surgery

On 17 January, within two hours, two statements were shared by The Firm concerning surgeries of two of their most senior members: the Princess of Wales and King Charles.

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In their statement, Kensington Palace didn’t share many details about the Princess’ condition, choosing to say that she had undergone ‘abdominal surgery’. They added that the surgery was ‘planned’ and that the Princess had requested that ‘her personal medical information remains private’.

In contrast, the Palace clearly stated that the surgery the King will have is to treat an ‘enlarged prostate’. Though it is believed that the King should be back at work soon after surgery, one question remains: who would step in if he couldn’t?

Who could step in if the King is incapacitated?

When this question is asked, all heads tend to turn to the heir, Prince William. But, in the current case, there is a slight issue: Prince William has stated that he will not be working while his wife is in the hospital and in the beginning of her recovery at home.

According to the Royal Family website, if the King is incapable of carrying out his duty, he can rely on his appointed Counsellors of State. It is explained:

By law, Counsellors of State include the Sovereign's spouse and the next four people in the line of succession who are over the age of 21.

At the moment that includes, as per to Royal Family website: the Queen Consort, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice. Looking at that list, other problems arise as two are no longer working royals.

It is reported that the Palace said that there would be no need for the Counsellors of State to step in in the current case as King Charles is expected to return to duty quickly after his surgery. However, he might not: the NHS explains that recovery after Transurethral resection of the prostate (the surgery the King will have) usually has patients returning to work after 3 or 4 weeks.

The limits of a slimmed-down monarchy now in the spotlight

Since King Charles ascended the throne a lot has been said about his choice to have a slimmed-down monarchy. Talking to Express, royal commentator Richard Fitzwiliams highlighted the limits of such a monarchy. Talking about the limited number of working royals he said:

This proves that a slimmer monarchy could not function in the same way.

Indeed, back in 2022, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, of the Centre for British Politics and Government at King’s College London spoke to Mirror and also raised concerns about having a slimmed-down monarchy.

The Queen and the new King and all the rest, can’t do it all on their own.

Adding a minor but relevant example:

When people build, say a new town hall in Wigan, or a new library in Hartlepool, they would like a member of the Royal Family to open it.

There is also the fact that with a slimmed-down monarchy, the working royals have more pressure on them to attend as many functions as possible. This, in turn, can have disastrous effects. Let us not forget that royals are humans too.

What is a slimmed-down monarchy?

A slimmed-down monarchy first involves reducing the number of working royals. In September 2022, Mirror hinted that King Charles would only have 7 but now we know that he has 10, excluding the Queen Consort.

According to Mirror, the goal of a slimmed-down monarchy could be to reduce the cost of The Firm for the public.

Read more:

Kate Middleton, Princess Charlotte and Princess Anne: Can these women ensure the future of the monarchy?

Prince William and Kate Middleton: What is this rare privilege the couple is rumoured to receive?

Princess Anne: This is how the royal has become King Charles right-hand woman


Royal Family Website

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The Standard: Who are the working royals and what do they do?

Mirror: What is a slimmed-down monarchy as King Charles warned against making major changes

Express: Who runs Royal Family if King Charles can't as 'slimmer' monarchy leaves Firm barren

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