Royals Who May Be Stepping Up Amid King Charles And Kate Middleton's Illnesses

It feels like just yesterday the world was mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and now the British monarchy is embroiled in a whole new crisis that few could have seen coming. In February 2024, King Charles III announced that he was being treated for an unspecified form of cancer and would be stepping away from public duties in order to focus on receiving medical care to hopefully thwart the illness. 

Before the gravity of that news could even sink in, Buckingham Palace announced that Catherine, Princess of Wales, would be undergoing abdominal surgery, with a lengthy recovery predicted to keep her out of the public eye for several months. When she finally reappeared — after months of wild conspiracy theories surrounding her protracted absence — she too revealed that she'd been diagnosed with cancer and would likewise be pulling away from the spotlight in order to undergo treatment in private. 

Without question, the king is the highest-profile royal, while the future queen is arguably in the upper echelon when it comes to public popularity. Their absence while battling their respective diseases is already being felt and leaves a huge void when it comes to the various duties and visits that royals are expected to undertake in order to earn their keep, as it were. Who could be stepping up to fill Charles and Catherine's shoes? 

Queen Camilla will lead the charge

It's no secret that Queen Camilla has enjoyed something of a rollercoaster relationship with the British public, given that she was vilified as the "other woman" involved in the breakup of Charles' marriage to Princess Diana. However, her checkered past has largely receded, with Brits' feelings about her having thawed considerably since then. 

With her husband sidelined due to illness, the queen consort is ready to do what needs to be done, and her visibility will be heightened while she fills in for Charles. "She is proud, resilient and devoted and if it serves the king and the nation to step up and serve the nation she will do it," a source alleged to The Telegraph. The source also dismissed concerns about the stamina of the elderly royal: "She does have incredible energy, she does ballet classes once a week, she's very fit and healthy." Still, Camilla is also conscious of ensuring that her busy schedule still allows her to spend quality time with Charles during what is, understandably, a difficult time for both of them. "Of course, she's juggling," said the source. 

According to royal expert Ingrid Seward, Camilla is the perfect person for the job at hand. "Camilla is as stoic as she is forgiving," Seward told the Mirror. "Her cheerfulness and her open-hearted approach to people and events are exactly what the monarchy needs right now."

Prince William will take over some of his father's duties

With Princess Catherine undergoing chemotherapy, Prince William will be forced to walk a royal tightrope similar to Queen Camilla, taking on additional duties while also remaining extra-available to his wife and their three young children. "It is hard with Kate being ill as well, but he will step up," a royal household source told People. That said, William also shoulders an additional burden, given that he's next in line to the throne. Should Charles' illness take a tragic turn, William will be thrust into the top spot during what is, arguably, one of the most fraught periods in his life. 

Meanwhile, People pointed out that while the Prince of Wales will be filling in for his father in certain respects, Charles has reportedly drawn the line at appointing William to act on his behalf (which is allowable thanks to the Letters Patent) in matters of state involving the monarchy. "He wouldn't want to put that pressure on William," the source said of Charles' reluctance to pull that particular trigger. "He has always wanted to save his children from having that pressure too early and that will remain. Particularly as William has other priorities [with Kate]."

That's one reason why Charles will continue to receive the regular delivery of the royal red box of official documents and maintain his weekly meetings with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, despite undergoing cancer treatment.

Hardest-working royal Princess Anne is feeling the pressure to do even more

Over the years, Anne, Princess Royal, has carved out a niche as the hardest-working member of Britain's royal family, consistently logging more hours spent on official duties than any of the others. In 2023, for example, she took on 457 official engagements, handily topping the 425 undertaken by King Charles, according to The Telegraph. Given that history, it's likely she'll be called upon to do even more in 2024.

With the king and the Princess of Wales out of commission, Princess Anne's visibility is indeed expected to rise even higher than it already is. "Everyone has their own different role to play," the princess' son, Peter Phillips, told Sky News Australia. He went on to explain that his mom is one of the members of the royal family experiencing "a lot of pressure ... to take on a lot more of the responsibilities." He continued, saying, "There is definitely a short-term pressure on certain members of the family to be able to continue to be out and about and to be seen and to support organizations and conduct official engagements that need to be done."

Anne's aides, who already have their hands full handling a highly active royal with an aversion to idleness, are no doubt also feeling that extra pressure. "I make their lives more difficult in terms of the logistics, I'm afraid, but if I'm going to be in London, I don't want to be hanging about," Anne once revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair.

Prince Edward will step into the spotlight

The youngest of Queen Elizabeth II's four children, Prince Edward may seem to be one of the less visible royals; in fact, when he has made headlines over the years, it's often been under unflattering circumstances, such as quitting the Royal Marines (and majorly ticking off his mom) or his ill-conceived foray into show business. Expect his profile to rise considerably, however, as Buckingham Palace takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to fulfilling royal engagements while King Charles and Princess Catherine are out of commission.

As The Telegraph reported, Edward is being positioned to be the family's new "leading man" and has taken on an expanded roster of what is, to be fair, an already impressive workload. In early March, he took on eight engagements over the course of just three days — within three different regions of England. "Eight engagements?" a member of his staff told The Daily Telegraph. "I think that's probably below his average." That's not boasting. In 2023, he handled 297 royal engagements — placing him third among all royals, behind only the king and Princess Anne. 

Taking on even more is certainly not out of character for the Duke of Edinburgh, an aide told The Daily Telegraph. "He's been doing this his whole life," the source explained. "It's about service to the institution. The same thing he did for his mother, it's now for his brother."

This could be Sophie's time to shine

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, shares her husband's work ethic. She finished 2023 as the fifth-busiest member of the royal family, with 219 engagements that year, according to The Telegraph. Stepping it up a bit would not only represent an opportunity to further serve the royal family but would also raise the public profiles of both her and her husband, Prince Edward. "If there is a bit more of a spotlight on them [the Edinburghs], they're pleased if it gives their causes more attention," an aide told The Telegraph.

That said, both the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are very much aware of the supporting roles they play within the grand scheme of The Firm — and not only are they fine with it, they've actually thrived in their roles as B-list royals. "They very particularly think about, 'Where are the gaps? Which bits of the country haven't had a visit recently?' and then they make sure they fill in," a source explained to The Telegraph.

What most people may not realize, however, is how much of a driving force Sophie is in the couple's endeavors. "She wears the trousers," someone who reportedly knows the couple divulged. "He makes the tea."

Princess Beatrice is reportedly raring to go

At age 34, Princess Beatrice is the oldest of the two children shared by Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, who still holds the title of Duchess of York. While Fergie is no longer a working royal, any plans to enlist her to step in were kiboshed by her own recent diagnoses, with skin cancer discovered weeks after she underwent breast cancer surgery. According to the Daily Mail, however, Beatrice is in consideration to be bumped up to working royal status. 

As Britain's OK! magazine reported, Beatrice had been quietly increasing her presence during the weeks that the Princess of Wales was out of the limelight — which apparently had not gone unnoticed by Buckingham Palace. "Both the King and William have seen how well Beatrice has stepped up in recent weeks and that's why they are happy to push her to the front and represent the family in public," a source told the outlet.

According to that source, Beatrice's eagerness to take on royal engagements has been appreciated — and she's certainly demonstrated a knack for it. "Although the move is currently being seen as a temporary unofficial role to help plug the gaps while Charles and Kate recover, it could become more permanent in the future," the source teased.

Princess Eugenie would have to overcome her reluctance

Is Princess Eugenie pitching in to cover the gaps that have resulted from the unexpected absence of both King Charles and Princess Catherine? As the Daily Mail noted, she recently paid a visit to a school, where she read a book about elephants to the youngsters, on behalf of Elephant Family, the conservation charity established by Mark Shand, late brother of Queen Camilla, whose unexpected death was among the recent tragedies that shook the royal family. "It was so important to be here because I have worked with the Elephant Family for so many years now and they are a charity so close to my heart, close to my family's heart," Eugenie said.

While appearances such as that would indicate she shares her sister's willingness to be bumped up to working-royal status, that is reportedly not the case. "Eugenie ... is not as keen to take on that kind of responsibility as she despises being under a microscope and wants to focus on what's dear to her," a friend of both princesses alleged to the Royal Observer. "Eugenie is quite happy to take a back seat," the source added. "She's quite content with championing her [Anti-Slavery] Collective charity and other worthy causes, but when it comes to stepping in for more senior members of the royal family in more of an official capacity is where she draws the line."

The Duchess of Gloucester may be waiting in the wings

Birgitte, the Duchess of Gloucester, is the wife of Prince Richard, a first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II. While she may not be a familiar face to many, she is among the official working royals who could escalate the pace of their royal engagements in light of the king and princess' cancer diagnoses. While Richard tied with Prince William when it came to productivity in 2023 by taking on 172 engagements, Birgitte was less busy, with 69 royal engagements.

That said, the duchess has been ramping it up as of late. That was clear in a late March 2024 Instagram post from the royal family's official account, which shared images of the Duchess of Gloucester visiting the Dental Institute, based at London's Kings College Hospital — under the auspices of her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Army Dental Corps. "Her Royal Highness toured the Rainbow Suite, which provides a dental trauma service to children as well as dental and facial trauma treatment to adults," reads the caption accompanying the photos. "The Duchess met staff and patients before unveiling a plaque marking the centenary of the Dental Hospital and School, which opened in 1923, and formally marked its 100th year in 2023."

Time will tell whether Brigitte continues to embody the title given her by The Week — "the hard-working royal you've never heard of" — or gains newfound fame as she pitches in to increase her slate of royal engagements.

The Duke and Duchess of Kent are unlikely to take on further royal engagements

The Duke of Kent, a first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II, and his wife, Katharine, Duchess of Kent, had long carried out royal engagements on behalf of the monarch. Due to the duke's hereditary ties to the queen and her progeny, both are among Britain's few legitimate working royals. Under normal circumstances, it would be logical to assume that they'd both escalate their activities to bolster the Firm's forces while King Charles and Princess Catherine are in treatment. However, there's one key factor indicating that would be highly unlikely to happen: their ages. 

The duke celebrated his 88th birthday in October 2023, while the duchess turned 91 in February 2024, making her the oldest living royal. In fact, the couple — whose history of helping out Her Majesty by taking on royal engagements goes back a half-century — has actually been scaling back their regal responsibilities in recent years. The duke even missed several scheduled events in 2023, reportedly because of what was described to Town & Country as "episodic mobility issues." Long story short: Don't expect to see these two filling in for Charles and Catherine a whole lot.

Will Prince Harry be brought in to pinch-hit?

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his wife Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, were working royals — until they weren't, stepping away from their duties with the Firm in what proved to be a scandal-ridden, scorched-earth split from the royal family. The icy divide between Harry and his brother Prince William has shown no signs of thawing, but King Charles' cancer diagnosis may have been a catalyst for potentially starting to heal the rift between Harry and his dad. That said, how likely is it that Harry will return to the fold and resume taking on royal engagements in the United Kingdom? Remember, he, his wife, and their two kids now live in sunny California.

Harry's return appears to be a matter of much speculation. Grant Harrold, who spent seven years as Charles' butler, believes that Harry will rise to the occasion if necessary. "Harry is a counsellor of state, so he is still a very senior member of the royal family, and if the time comes, he would step up if he needs to," Harrold told the New York Post

Meanwhile, an unattributed report from Australia's Herald Sun claimed that Harry is ready to lend a hand — but his father won't allow it. "Harry has told the king he will step in and help, if he wants him to, but there is no way after everything that has happened between them that his majesty can allow him back in," claimed a palace aide (via

Prince Andrew is reportedly 'super happy' to step up — but is he just too toxic?

As Queen Elizabeth II's third child, Prince Andrew would have typically been taking on a hefty array of royal engagements while Charles and Catherine were sidelined. However, as everybody knows, his scandalous association with convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein forced the queen to revoke his working-royal status and banish him from participating in any more public engagements.  

However, Andrew surprisingly emerged from his exile in early March to attend a memorial service for King Constantine of Greece, where he was seen grinning as he led the procession alongside ex-wife Sarah Ferguson. While it still seems wildly unlikely that the disgraced Duke of York will be enlisted to cut ribbons or read to schoolchildren, it was surprising that he wasn't barred from the service entirely — let alone allowed to appear front and center.

However, a purported friend of the prince indicated that he'd be more than willing to step in. "Andrew would have been super happy," a source told Page Six of his return to the royal limelight. "He loves all of this pomp. He may not be a working royal, but he's always believed that he is a valid and important member of the royal family, and nothing has changed."